Resume rules: Avoid common mistakes and stand out [video]

Posted March 31, 2017 by


College Recruiter spoke with Joanne Meehl, President and primary Job Coach & Career Consultant at Joanne Meehl Career Services.  Joanne is part of College Recruiter’s Panel of Experts, which is made up of professionals around the country with top notch advice for recruiters and HR professionals, or for entry level job seekers. Here, Joanne shares her insight into resume rules that help college students and grads avoid mistakes and stand out to the applicant tracking systems.

Watch our discussion here, or read the takeaways in the blog post below. This is Part 2 of 2 of Joanne’s resume tips. Last week she shared some solid rules for writing a resume that stands out, and explains why it’s important to tailor your resume for each job.

What are common mistakes that college students and grads make when writing their resume? 

  1. Don’t use your mom’s or dad’s resume format. It has to be technically friendly because a machine—an applicant tracking system that is—has to read it. Don’t assume a pdf is okay. Don’t assume any graphics are okay. “The last thing you want to do,” Joanne says, “is apply, apply, apply everywhere and get no response because you’re sending out the wrong format. Do whatever the ad says to do.
  2. Scrap the objective. Joanne says she’s shunned objectives for 10 years. It’s not required. Period.
  3. Don’t waste space saying you’ll provide resumes upon request. Of course you will, so there is no need to write it.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, don’t think you’re done after submitting your resume. Joanne coaches her clients that submitting their resume is just the beginning “Oh no no no! This is where you’ve just started,” she says. You need to “lobby” your way into the company. Find someone on the inside you can talk with. Look up employees on LinkedIn. Let them know you’ve applied and invite them to have a cup of coffee. That way, your name and face becomes known.

How are candidates supposed to stand out to an applicant tracking system (ATS)? 

  1. Use a text format or .doc format. According to Joanne, about 80% of companies use an ATS called Taleo. Taleo is very strict and “unsympathetic.” Like other ATSs, Taleo looks for key words on resumes that recruiters program into the system. You might think of a machine as unnecessarily unfriendly, but to recruiters, they are necessary. Recruiters use these tools because they receive far more resumes than they can possible keep up with. To identify good key words that will stand out to the ATS, Joanne suggests going to the company website to “see what words and terminology they use.” Also, she adds, “look up people on LinkedIn who work there, and see they say about the company.” Don’t just copy what they say if it doesn’t reflect your skills. You still need to be honest. Instead, Joanne says you should ask whether each word is true to you and use those words. For example, if you’re an analytical person, and they’re asking for someone who is analytical, use every version of the word. Use “analytics”, “analyze”, “analytics”, etc. because you don’t know how the recruiters have programmed their ATS.
  2. Make sure it’s easy to read, and avoid using any tricks. “Every once in a while,” adds Joanne, “you hear about tricks that people do to hide words” in their resume documents. Systems are now trained to spot the tricks and reject your resume. You can’t game the system, and if you try to, recruiters see that as dishonest. And dishonesty is not a trait they want in their company.

Joanne Meehl career consultantAbout Joanne Meehl, MS, IJCDC, CPPA: Joanne talks directly with hiring managers, internal and external recruiters, and HR directors about what they want. She listens, and makes it her business to get the latest, right from the source. She then translates this knowledge into guidance for my clients, including entry-level job seekers. Learn more about Joanne’s career consulting services at

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