Creating a résumé is like creating a battle plan for your future employment. It is a strategic document that you should carefully craft to give the right information to the right person at the right time. A résumé is not, and should not be used as, a warhead of information.
Listed below are some of the most common mistakes people make when drafting their résumé. If you are aware of these issues, you will know how to win the fight for better employment—and knowing is half the battle.
1. Too Short or Too Long
A good résumé is as long as it needs to be. As a general rule, your résumé should be no more than one page for an entry-level position and slightly longer if you have ample experience. But there is no one-size-fits-all résumé. Tailor each draft to the company you are applying for.
If you have vast levels of experience related to the certain position, include it on your résumé. But you should limit information to what is absolutely essential. If you have an industry-specific certification, abbreviate it. Those in the industry will know what you are talking about.
If you have experience working in a certain niche within a field, give some details—but only if you can do so in a way that will pique a hiring manager’s interest in you. The last thing you want is to explain yourself out of an interview.
Research the company you want to work for. Your résumé should give only as much information as is relevant to the job. Too often, people try to elaborate in certain areas and under-explain in others.
2. Grammar Mistakes
Everyone should have a basic understanding of grammar. No matter your expertise, you should be able to use punctuation effectively, differentiate amongst commonly used homophones, and spell simple words correctly. If you don’t understand the importance of grammar, just search the phrase “grammar the difference between” on Google. Grammarians should already be laughing.
After drafting your résumé, make sure to proofread your work. Programs like Grammarly and Ginger work wonders in catching spelling errors, misused words, and other problems with your writing, but these tools don’t catch everything. Try reading each draft aloud. This trick will help you hear the errors your eyes would just normally skim over.
Once you think your résumé is flawless, give it to someone else to edit. Choose one of your snootier academic friends with a degree in English, preferably someone who diagrams sentences in his or her spare time. This person will have the skills and willingness to make sure your work is error-free.
3. Trickery and Deceit
Comparing your résumé to a battle plan is not that far off base. Of course, you’re not going to use your résumé to help you storm a beachhead or overtake an enemy installation. However, a good résumé—like a battle plan—does place you closer to the people of influence; a good résumé gets you an interview.
A hiring manager will look over your résumé and make a decision on whether you have the appropriate skills, education, training, and experience for the job you are applying for. So, as you create your résumé, avoid dishonesty. The last thing an employer wants to do is waste time on someone who was less than forthright. If your knowledge of the Spanish language only goes as far as “¿Dónde está la biblioteca, Pedro?” don’t list fluent in Spanish as a skill.
Ordering drinks in a bar in Guadalajara, Mexico over spring break does not mean you have international negotiation skills. Fixing your toilet’s flushing mechanism does not make you a skilled plumber.
Honesty really is the best policy. This way you can avoid having to explain that you only meant you were the fry cook at McDonald’s when you wrote down that you have culinary experience in a professional kitchen.
It’s important to always be professional. There are a few areas where hiring managers see unprofessionalism most often on a résumé: email addresses, fonts, and formatting.
If you are still using the same email address you created when you were in high school, it’s time for an update. Hotpants16, Iheart1direction, and UnicornMcBrownieFarts scream that they were created by someone still living at home with a curfew. If this describes your email, update to something simple and modern.
A professional email can be as simple as your first and last name at a common domain. Since Google seems to rule the world these days, it is not uncommon to see @gmail.com. If you use @msn.com, @aol.com, or @hotmail.com, you may want to upgrade to something used this century.
Sending your friend an email in ComicSans, Jokerman, or even Wingdings can be a fun way to make your friend’s skin crawl. But choosing the wrong font can take your résumé from the top of the candidate’s list to the bottom of the trash in a heartbeat.
There are hundreds of fonts available to choose from and thousands of websites that explain in depth what your choice says about you as a person. Read a few articles and consider the company you are applying to before choosing a font type.
Hopefully, you know that your résumé should not be one giant wall of text. Such documents are like a tsunami of information: they are more likely to drown readers than inspire them schedule you for an interview.
Break up your text by adding various categories to your résumé. These sections will improve the flow from one section to another. The most common categories include:
- Work experience
- Skills and abilities
- Contact information
Although it was once acceptable to have a section of references, or to write a sentence about them, this is now an outdated practice. Today’s reference section is LinkedIn. Keep your profile up to date and you won’t need references.
You can find thousands of great examples of what not to do when writing a résumé. Leave a comment with a bad example you’ve seen recently—and avoid similar mistakes when writing your own résumé.