5 Obvious Ways to Ruin Your Résumé (That You May Not Have Realized)

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There are literally one million ways to concoct a stellar résumé, and another million ways to mess it up. Developing a résumé depends on the role you’re applying for, the company you’re applying to, and where you are in your career (to name a few). Plus, if you think that living breathing HR employees are reading them, it’s not always that simple anymore. Many companies use programs to scan résumés and search for keywords and phrases that match their job opening. Times are changing, and so is the recruiting landscape.

In a previous article I mentioned some of the different factors that create a successful résumé. But to be more specific, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the do’s and don’ts. To be fair, there are certainly many other reasons why your résumé would be at risk to be voted off the island, just as much as the reasons below might not matter to some companies. But based on my experience these are the best ways to ruin your chances of getting your dream job. Beware!

  1. Using silly font. This is obvious but I’m going to say it anyway: Stick to the Times New Roman-Calibri-Arial family. This is not the time to whip out Comic Sans or Century Gothic. They give no added value and can be distracting to the hiring manager. I’m not sure what type of company would be enthusiastic about someone who uses Lucida Handwriting, but I’d be interested to know if there is one! I suggest just keeping it simple. Additionally, it may give the impression that your focus is not on the main objective of the résumé (which is to hire you!).
  1. Not proofread and making typos. I also mentioned this before in another post: By sending in your résumé it is assumed that you (and others) have proofread it repeatedly and decided that this final copy is your best. If there is a spelling error or grammatical mistake, it screams carelessness. Not to say that you are careless (we’re all guilty of errors), but play it safe and triple check.
  1. References Available Upon Request.” Years ago, including this phrase at the bottom of your résumé was popular, but not anymore. There’s LinkedIn, Facebook, and other ways of learning more about candidates than just their résumés. Plus, if a company truly wants this information from you, they will ask (and it’s usually on application forms, anyway). At that point, I’d assume you’d readily provide it. If not, be prepared to explain why. My standpoint is to either include your references with their contact information already on your résumé/on a separate sheet or don’t mention it at all.
  1. Filling up space with irrelevant/excessive information. We’ve all been there: crafted one big, perfect, I-can-do-everything résumé and went on an application spree. It’s not a bad résumé, so someone has to email you back, right? Wrong. Your résumé should be aligned with the job description, as well as the company’s mission and values. Even using the same words as the job posting is helpful. If you’re applying for an administrative job, there is no need to include your membership to the Art Club in 2010. So unless you did something spectacular that makes you more productive in the desired role, nix it. As for the length of your résumé, that is widely debated. I don’t have a right or wrong answer. But my opinion? Keep it at one page, unless you have over 10 years of professional experience. As a young 20-something, pick the top three or four things that scream “HIRE ME I’M AWESOME” and leave the rest out. Brevity is key.
  1. Using terrible descriptions. Imagine a résumé that actually represents your skills and accomplishments? Crazy, right? Hiring managers want to know what you can do and what is unique about your skills. You have one page to bait the company into asking you for an interview. Consider describing the changes you made in your role, what you learned, how you can apply it elsewhere, the projects you worked on, and how you did it. For example, if you were an Office Assistant, listing job duties like “answered phones, retrieved office mail, supported other departments” is not helpful. It says nothing. They know what office assistants do, so don’t regurgitate job tasks to them. Better descriptions would be: “Provided excellent administrative support between departments” and “Effectively responded to all incoming calls regarding the company mission, as well as provide exceptional customer service to additional inquiries.” It gives a little oomph to your rap sheet, despite how simple your job was. It at least shows that you cared enough to phrase your words eloquently. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this.

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