How to Turn Around a Failing Resume

by Andrew Fennell

Resume Writing Tips

If your job search isn’t going the way that you planned, with applications going unresponded and no interviews in sight, then your resume is likely the root cause of the problem.

Your resume is your number one marketing tool in your job search and it’s all recruiters have to make an initial judgement on your suitability for their vacancy.

If your resume doesn’t instantly communicate the value of hiring you to an employer, then it’s not going to be successful in winning interviews for you. The way to communicate your value is through relevant content, a clear structure and professional language.

If your resume is killing your career prospects, then take a look at some of the actions you can take to turn it around and start landing more job interviews today.

Research Your Market

One of the biggest and most common mistakes that candidates make when writing their resume is not including the qualities that their target employers are looking for.

Most candidates start writing their resume by listing all of their skills and knowledge that they think are valuable and then focus their resume around them. However, unless you’ve researched your target employers and their candidate requirements fully, then you won’t actually know what they want to see on your resume.

So to start your resume overhaul, take the following actions:

i) Look at the last five to ten job adverts you responded to and make a note of the candidate requirements that are appearing most frequently in terms of skills, experience and knowledge. It may look something like this for example:

  • Sales experience
  • Cold calling
  • Working to targets
  • Mobile phone product knowledge
  • Complaint handling

ii) Compare your resume to the list of in-demand candidate requirements you have just made and find which skills are missing from your resume.

iii) Add the requirements you are missing to your resume where possible, drawing on your own experience and qualifications. Remember, you don’t just have to rely on direct work experience – you can include voluntary work, education, freelancing and transferable skills so be as creative as you need to.

iv) If you are hiding any of the in-demand skills at the bottom of your resume, make them more prominent by adding them to your profile or recent roles. This way employers will instantly be able to see that you are a good fit for the role, as soon as they open your resume.

By researching what requirements your target employers really want to see, and adding them strategically to your resume, you will be in a much better position to create a positive first impression and show your true value.

Check Your Formatting

Another common reason for a resume to fail is bad formatting. Recruiters and hiring managers tend to be busy people, so if they cannot digest the information on your resume quickly, they may miss important facts or even be discouraged from reading altogether.

Take a look at your resume and assess whether it is easy to skim-read and extract the key points you are trying to communicate.

Your resume should be structured in a way that clearly defines sections and breaks information up for ease of reading. Key mistakes to avoid are large chunks of unbroken text and poorly laid out sections.

Ideally you should lay your resume out with big bold headings for each section; starting with your name and contact details at the top (taking up as little space as possible). Then follow with your profile, work experience in reverse chronological order and then education, with an option for interests at the end.

Roles should start with bold titles and a brief overview sentence, followed by bullet pointed responsibilities and key achievements.

As you can see, this type of structure will make your resume easy to read and give you a much greater chance of having it read properly by employers.

Be sure to use a simple clean font throughout your resume; avoid using anything too elaborate as it could make reading difficult.

Remove Buzzwords and Clichés

Candidates often fill their resumes with clichés and buzzwords in an attempt to appear more professional, but usually they have the reverse effect.

If you are not familiar with clichés and buzzwords, take a look at the list below to see some commonly used examples.

  • Hard-working
  • Dynamic
  • Results driven
  • Team player
  • Strong communicator

You’ve probably seen these phrases on resume samples found online or may even have some in your own resume.

The problem with these type of cliché phrases is that they are very generic and don’t actually tell the reader much about you. Instead of using clichés, you should focus on communicating hard facts about yourself such as industry experience, software knowledge, languages spoken, achievements, etc.

Another problem with buzzwords is that they can often amount to hollow claims if not backed up with evidence. Instead of writing that you are a Team Player, give examples of your contribution to team efforts and show the results you achieved personally and as part of the team – this way you will demonstrate that you are a team player without having to actually write the phrase itself.

Show Your Impact

Employers want to hire people who are going to make a positive impact on their organization. Whilst it’s great to showcase your skills, it’s even better to show how those skills could benefit potential new employers.

When listing your role responsibilities, be sure to mention the end result of your actions where possible to show the impact you made.

For example, instead of just writing,

“Running regular employee appraisal sessions.”


“Running regular employee appraisal sessions to identify weaknesses, build improvement plans and strengthen team performance.”

By showing the results of your actions, you are demonstrating the potential value you could bring to a new employer and showing a greater understanding of your field.

If you are struggling in your current job search, a quick upgrade of your resume can really turn your prospects around. Using the actionable points above, you should be able to make some big improvements to your resume and really boost your chances of landing job interviews.

Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter and founder of London CV writing service StandOut CV.

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