It doesn’t matter your age, industry, or experience – resume mistakes can happen to anyone. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients from all over the world, and this is the truth. It’s easy to have a little slip, tiny error, or grammar mishap that changes the way your potential employer sees you. And in such a competitive market, that’s the last thing you want.
From years of writing coaching, editing, and working as an assistant in my university’s Admissions Office, I’ve seen countless mistakes, uh-ohs, and no-nos on people’s resumes. And sometimes learning what makes a good resume isn’t enough. You have to learn what not to include, too.
1. Don’t label your resume with anything other than your name.
You don’t need to explain what the document is by saying “Marisa’s Resume” or “Resume” at the top. Anyone you give this to should know (and if they for some reason don’t, the information on the paper will let them know.
2. Don’t put your career objective.
I’ll be honest, this is something I’ve always done with my education resume, simply because I thought it was neccessary. The truth is, if you’re applying for a position, that objective is implied. Don’t waste precious space putting something that’s already understood by both parties.
3. Don’t add photographs or physical details.
Not only is this unnecessary (and a little strange!) but it can unintentionally lead to discrimination. Your physical attributes should have no marker on whether or not you’re hired for the job, and frankly, are unnecessary to have on the document.
3. Don’t put personal data (besides your contact info).
All you really need is an email or phone number. Don’t put a home address! Not only can this be a privacy concern, but if your resume happened to get into the wrong hands, you don’t want identifying/location information open to the public. Alternatively, opt for a simple city and state.
4. Don’t add unrelated work experience.
If your work doesn’t pertain to the job you’re applying for, don’t add it. That being said, if you’re struggling to find relevant experience (ex: if you’re new to the industry, etc.) then think about the skills you’ve learned at a position that might be useful to a new job—then be prepared to explain how/why that position is related to what you’re applying for.
5. Don’t summarize each work experience with a big paragraph.
If you have to talk specifically about an experience, try to be brief. You resume is a one-sheet about you; you can’t possibly fit everything on it. (And do you really need to explain the job, or will someone in the industry already know? Ask yourself that question.)
Always summarize what’s relevant enough so that the HR person/employer knows, but leave enough room so that you can speak to specifics in person/during an interview.
6. Don’t put your high school education.
If you have a college degree, it’s implied that you went to, and graduated from high school. You don’t need to include it.
7. Don’t embellish your past position/position title.
If an employer is serious about you, he or she may (and often will) look into your past experiences and call references, companies, etc. If you’ve embellished something in your past, or changed a position title to make yourself sound better, this can be detrimental.
8. Don’t send or submit without proofreading.
If you want to be taken seriously, you need a polished resume. Make sure you send it off to someone you trust or better yet, an editor, to be absolutely sure there are no grammatical, spelling, or tense mistakes.
9. Don’t add the soft skills.
If you just dabbled with Photoshop, for example, putting it on your resume as a skill would not be a smart choice. Make sure, first of all, that your’e only adding skills that are relevant to the job. Secondly, add skills that you’ve mastered, not ones you’re just learning. (You can always speak to what you’re learning in the interview—that will make them sound like an added bonus to what you can already do!)
10. Don’t add your references. (*Optional)
This is something I’m still toying with, as I’ve researched and seen people fall on either side of the spectrum. To have references readily available on your resume can be a benefit. However, if you are running out of space, or going into more than one double-sided page, I would advise you to remove them, as the employer/HR person can always contact you directly if they need the information.
11. Don’t use company-specific language or titles.
This is a big one! (And one that I never really thought of until I got serious about my resume.) Sometimes companies use names/titles/concepts that are not universal (Ex: At Thought Catalog, we used ‘Producer,’ which may or may not be similar to another company’s editorial/content production role.) Just keep this in mind when you go to apply—titles, acronyms, terms, etc. may not be universal, and this can be confusing!
12. Don’t use distracting graphics, fonts, or stylized sections.
Having fun and personality in your resume isn’t bad by any means! But when you have items that are distracting more than they’re adding, that’s when you have a problem. To be professional, you probably shouldn’t have any graphics, save for a logo or business emblem. As for fun fonts—make sure they are readable (if you even include them!) and make sure the base font is something classic and easy-to-read, like Times New Roman or Arial.
Featured Image Credit: Tret Erwin