When you’re working on your resume for your first job or for your college applications, it’s important to know both what to do and what not to do. Use these top 10 tips to dodge common mistakes that can sabotage your resume and hurt your chances of a yes.
10 resume no-no’s
- DON’T name the file “Resume.” The file name should have your name in it, so it’s easy for the person who downloads it to find. An example file name is “WillyAvery_Resume.” Also be sure to always send resumes over email as PDF files, not from their original format. You want to preserve the font and formatting by only sending to others as PDF files.
- DON’T have long paragraphs. Remember to start each section with a bulleted list starting with a strong action verb. Key information can get lost in dense paragraphs.
- DON’T use the word “I.” Your resume is all about you, so you don’t have to ever say “I…” because that’s obvious. You want to be as pithy as possible, so don’t use unnecessary words.
- DON’T forget to check for misspellings and grammatical errors. Your resume is a direct reflection of your attention to detail. It’s absolutely unacceptable to have a single typo. Don’t give anyone a reason to automatically discount your application.
- DON’T include any personal data. You’ll include your name, address, email (make sure it’s professional), and phone number in the resume header – but that’s it. Do not include any information about your age, height, weight, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, political beliefs, or marital status.
- DON’T include a photograph. A resume is just to list your qualifications and professional experience, not to draw attention to your personal appearance. Unless you’re applying for a modeling or acting job, you should never include a photograph in your resume.
- DON’T have time gaps. Make sure that all periods of time are accounted for. You don’t want the person considering you to notice that you didn’t list anything for an 8-month period and then wonder what you were doing (or not doing) during that time.
- DON’T lie about your qualifications or skills. If you say you’re fluent in Spanish, be prepared for someone to speak to you in Spanish during your interview. If you list that you exceeded sales goals, then be prepared to discuss how you achieved that and what led to your success, specifically.
- DON’T include references. When you apply for a job, it’s assumed that you’ll be providing references. You’ll provide them on a separate document or via email when they’re requested of you. Don’t list the people’s name, titles, and phone numbers on your resume.
- DON’T discuss reasons you left prior positions. While you need to be prepared to answer that question in an interview, it’s not appropriate content for your resume. Keep the focus on your strengths and talents, not on justifying past decisions.
Feeling ready to send? Before you do, use this FINAL checklist to double check
- Professional email address
- Professional voicemail on phone number listed
- Accurate contact information
- Consistent formatting (use of bold, italics, font size hierarchy)
- Content Accuracy
- Do not lie and ensure consistency across all sources (LinkedIn, College Application, Cover Letter).
- Error and typo check
- Use spell check.
- Read out loud.
- Ensure parallel structure in bulleted lists.
- Verb strength and variety
- Social media profile check to ensure appropriate content
- Printed version for final check before saving as PDF
- Saved PDF with your name in it (so it’s easy for the person to download and find)
- Multiple printed copies on resume paper (transport them carefully, so they stay crisp)
Best of luck with your interviews for college and for jobs. If you’re looking for any other tips to give you an advantage in the process, then check out the What, Why, and How of Networking for College Admission or read about what a Dartmouth interviewer suggested was the key to admission.
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