Top 5 common resume mistakes and how to avoid them
If you have ever tried to write a resume, for yourself or for someone you k
now, you are already familiar with the fact that this is not an easy task t
o take on. So much information goes into a resume; from your career objecti
ve to the list of your qualifications, your resume should be personal, conv
ey confidence and set your best foot forward in order to impress a potentia
l employer. However, creating a winning resume is not easy. The following a
re the most commonly made mistakes in resume composition:
• Including references to personal web sites.
You may wonder why referencing a personal web site may be a mistake. What
if you have a sample of your graphic design work on your site that you wan
t your potential employer to see? It sounds like a great idea, if the site
you are referencing only has work-related information available. Many peo
ple make a mistake of including their personal web sites that may contain
information potential employers may find irrelevant (and now you are wasti
ng their time) or inappropriate.
As a rule, do not include your personal web site if it contains your photo or
other photos that may be viewed as inappropriate, if it contains jokes (even i
f they are clean jokes), or your blog. In other words, if the site you have is
entirely for personal purposes, you are best leaving it off your resume.
Include a link to your web site if the pages are set up to showcase your prof
essional portfolio, a copy of your resume, reference letters, presentations,
photos taken for professional use, or your web development skills.
• Using very small fonts in order to get everything to fit on one page.
One of the most common challenges is creating a resume that formats well on
a single page. As a rule, a resume should not exceed two pages. However, in
recent years, it has become commonplace for professionals to change jobs fre
quently, and listing all the experiences, in addition to your career objecti
ve, education, qualifications and references, can certainly take up a lot of
Do not use a small font in order to fit everything into your resume. There i
s not a single area in your resume that should have a font size of less than
10 points. Keep in mind the font type you are using – stick to the basics,
Arial and Times New Roman are your best bet. Instead of changing the font si
ze, review and revise your resume to make your statements more concise.
• Incorrect company/school listings.
The biggest mistake people make, without realizing that they are making it,
is not referring to the past employers and/or the school(s) they’ve attend
ed by their full names. Do not use variations of company and school names.
Don’t use abbreviations unless they are in fact part of the name. If you ha
ve attended New York University, list the complete name, not just NYU (even
though it’s commonly known and your employer will likely recognize it). Yo
u don’t want to appear sloppy or as if you don’t pay attention to details.
• Lengthy paragraphs describing your experiences.
To list the responsibilities you’ve had in your past professional experience
, you are best off using bullet points that begin with action verbs, such as
managed, developed, etc. You do not need to use full sentences, and you cer
tainly do not need to use the paragraph format. This makes the information i
n your resume overwhelming and difficult to review quickly. Make your statem
ents brief and clear; don’t add words to fill in space.
The most important factor in achieving a winning resume is proof reading. Y
ou want to put your best foot forward. If your resume contains grammar and
spelling problems, your potential employer will get an impression that you
are not detail-oriented. It is hard to proof a document you have been worki
ng on so closely – use spell check (but be ware, it will not catch everythi
ng), ask your friends for help, meet with a career counselor. Do your best
to present the most polished resume to your potential employers.
Resume writing services – pros and cons
If you have never written a resume, you may wonder if it is easier to embark
on the task yourself or to hire someone else to do it for you. Resume writi
ng services or professionals concentrate on developing and writing resumes f
or professionals in any industry, with any caliber of experience. These prof
essionals are skilled in formatting your resume, knowing how to create winni
ng statements that draw attention, and customizing your resume to the indust
ry or field you are interested in. In addition to their writing skills, resu
me writing professionals are familiar with the scanning software that most c
ompanies use in order to review resumes for key words.
You should consider using a resume writing services:
- If you have never written a resume and you don’t know anyone who can as
sist in the process
- If you have not written a resume in years and are unsure of the appropriat
e format that translates well online
- If English is not your first language or if you know that you typically h
ave problems with spelling or grammar.
A resume writer can assist by first collecting your information and understa
nding your career objective. If you have an existing resume, even if it is n
ot the most up to date, you should make sure that you give that to the write
r as a starting point. When you work with a professional resume writer you c
an expect that they can help you in composing your career objective statemen
t, listing your responsibilities in a concise manner, and perfecting the fin
al document. Additionally, a resume writer will be able to help you address
any concerns potential employers may have about your resume, such as explain
ing a change of career, or gaps in your professional history.
There are truly no cons to using resume services, but there are certainly som
e things you should consider in order to get the best service for your money.
While some people recommend writers who are accredited or certified as profe
ssional resume writers, this is not the key to finding someone who will do a
great job on your behalf. Make sure that you speak with the writer, and hav
e him/her address any concerns or questions you have about composing your re
sume. They should be able to provide you with a sample of a before and an af
ter resumes they have recently completed for a client, as well as profession
al references. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their writing process;
ask about their background (what other writing services do they provide?),
their writing and editing process, turnaround time and a detailed explanatio
n of their fees. If you receive a draft of your resume, and you are not sat
isfied with the format or there are discrepancies, ask for the writer to add
ress your concerns before accepting the final document. The costs will vary,
depending on the professional’s experience. Make sure that you understand w
hat is involved in the cost. It is also in your best interest to talk to a c
ouple of different professionals, so that you can better idea of the cost range.
Most importantly, make sure that you feel comfortable with the writer and t
he terms of the agreement you have with them, before you decide to hire the
m to work on your resume. Trust and understanding will result in the best w
orking relationship, therefore producing the best resume for your career ob
Helpful tips for emailing your resume
In order to seek out and apply for the jobs you are interested in, you will
most likely post your profile and resume on a job search web site, such as m
onster.com or hotjobs.com. These search engines allow you to upload your res
ume in a Microsoft Word or text file format, or create one using their forms
Outside of the job search web sites, e-mailing your resume as form of appl
ication has become commonplace. However, each employer or headhunter has d
ifferent rules on the file they will accept via e-mail. Most companies wil
l accept an attachment in Microsoft Word – this is why you have to be cons
cious of the font type and size, as well as margins you are using when com
posing your resume. If a company is requesting a text file, you should fol
low these steps to convert your Microsoft Word document into a text resume:
- Select File, Save As
- Name the file; as a best practice, use your name as the file name, and us
e underscores as spaces
- Under Format, select Text Only
- Select Save.
Now that you have converted your file to a text file, make sure to open it and
review how the spaces, tabs, and bullet points have transferred over. You may
need to do some edits in order to format the resume to fit the file type. Not
e that the plain text file doesn’t allow for bolding, italicizing or underlini
ng. Make sure that all your text is left justified and that the spacing is cor
If an employer asks that you include your resume in the body of an email, tr
eat this as a text file when formatting. Copy and paste your whole resume in
an email. Keep the font styles basic; use Arial or Times New Roman fonts an
d keep the size at 10 or 12 points. Adjust all the spacing and bullet points
as appropriate. A good rule to follow is to keep the email simple – avoid b
olding or italicizing text since you don’t really know the type of email sof
tware your recipient is using or if the accept HTML or text emails only.
If you are sending your resume as an attachment, format the body of your ema
il as a cover letter. At the top of the email, include your name and address
, as well as the address of your recipient. Typically, the address can be fo
und either on the job listing or at the company’s web site. If you are sendi
ng the resume in the body of the email, follow the same guidelines in terms
of the email content. Don’t make an assumption that including a resume in th
e body of an email is the only information you should include in your messag
e to your potential employer. Even if the resume is copied into the email, y
ou still need to let your employer know a little bit more about yourself via
a cover letter. However, since you will include your address at the top of
the email, feel free to start your resume with a career objective instead of
including the heading with your name and address.
Much like proofing is critical in perfecting your resume, testing how your
resume is displayed in a body of an email or how it opens as an attachment
via another computer is important. Rally your friends or family for help, a
nd send them sample emails with your resume included in the body of the mes
sage or as an attachment. This will provide a great opportunity for you to
assure that your resume is reaching your potential employers in the format
that is clean and professional.
Printed resume – dos and don’ts
As professionals, we rely on the Internet to search for jobs and on e-mail to
apply for them. We create our resumes and cover letters to fit the electronic
format, so it is not a surprise that having to print out a resume can result i
n concerns and mistakes.
First, let’s discuss when a printed resume is needed. While you are completi
ng numerous job applications online, you still need to have a printed resume
to bring on an interview with you. You also must keep in mind that it is ve
ry likely your potential employer will print out your resume from a job sear
ch web site or from the message you sent expressing your interest in the job
. Thus, it is very important that you print out a test copy before submittin
g your resume to employers to assure the layout is what you want it to be.
As a rule, when printing out your resume, make sure to use white or ivory p
aper. You can get a stack of resume paper at any office supplies store. You
will want your resume to appear as clean and professional. Do not use colo
r paper, or change the color of the font in order to make your resume stand
out; your employer will find this unprofessional and childish, which is no
t the first impression you want to make. If your resume is longer than one
page, print out multiple pages. Don’t print on the front and the back of a
single page; rather, include headings in your resume file, indicating page
numbers and print each page on its own sheet of paper. You should not have
any handwriting on your resume; make sure that page numbers are in fact pri
nted along with the rest of the resume content.
Make sure that you let your resume sit on the printer for a few moments bef
ore picking it up. This will help you avoid smudging the ink of the paper,
especially if you are using an Ink Jet printer. You want to assure that the
resume doesn’t have any smudging, stains, or crumpling when you are handin
g it to your potential employer. First impressions are important – you don’
t want yours to be that of someone who is sloppy and careless.
When going in for an interview, you should bring multiple copies of your re
sume with you. Some people think this is not necessary because your potenti
al employer already has your resume. This is a common misconception. You sh
ould always have several copies of your resume printed out and with you whe
n at an interview. Often times, the hiring manager may ask another associat
e to meet you during the interviewing process, and he/she may not have a co
py of your resume. Having extras makes you look professional, prepared and
organized, which helps you set your best foot forward. Additionally, it is
helpful that the copy of the resume you bring in for an interview has a com
plete list of references. You can include the references directly on your r
esume (typically at the bottom of the page), or you can include a separate
sheet of paper with the list. The first option is preferred, because it pro
vides the employer with all of the critical information about you in one pl
ace. Including your references preempts the employer from asking you for th
is information; it also shows that you are seriously interested in the avai
Having a well-formatted, clean and professional resume will only help you ma
ke a great first impression, and help you get the job you are truly interest