If you don’t spend a lot of time looking at other people’s resumes, then you probably don’t notice how many of them make the same common mistakes. But if you look at resumes for a living, patterns start to emerge. There are some obvious mistakes that you’ll see over and over again until they become genuine pet peeves. The very sight of one of these mistakes sends you into a fit.
If you’re on the other side of the looking glass – the person writing the resume rather than reading it – you should know what those pet peeves are. You’ll want to remove any of these things before your resume passes beneath the watchful gaze of the seasoned hiring manager. Your future employment might hinge on it.
So here are five resume pet peeves that you should avoid at any cost.
Submitting a first draft
A huge part of the writing process is revision, and creating a resume is a writing process. Never turn in a first draft of anything, and this goes double – no, triple – for resumes.
Writing a first draft is simply step one. Once you have a draft, go back over it and see if you can find mistakes, then fix those. Next, show your draft to people you trust who will give you honest feedback (and no, we don’t mean flattery). Make adjustments based on that feedback.
When you’ve revised your resume several times, and you feel like it can’t possibly be any better, sit on it for a week and then come back to it. Approach it with a fresh pair of eyes and you’ll notice a lot of things that weren’t apparent to you earlier. Then make more changes.
Your resume might be short (make sure your resume fits on a single page), but that doesn’t mean it won’t take a long time to get right. Remember, Rule #1 for good writing is: “Revise, revise, then revise some more.”
Having an unprofessional email address
Your resume is a first impression. The person reading it doesn’t know who you are, and they have to make a whole lot of assumptions based on a small amount of information. This means that every piece of information on your resume says way more than you might expect.
One small thing that makes a big statement is your email address. Having an unprofessional email address (for example, something like firstname.lastname@example.org would be considered unprofessional) can sink an otherwise exceptional candidate.
We don’t want to cover this exhaustively here because we’ve already written a pretty big article about it (but you should read that if you want to know more about creating a professional email address). To summarize what we wrote there, your best bet is to simply use your name and a recognized, current email platform like Gmail. The example we gave in our broader email article was that someone named Macy Moonflower should use an email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forgetting to spellcheck
If you turn in a resume that’s filled with spelling errors, you’re almost certainly going to be rejected without a second thought.
Remember what we said in the previous point: Your resume says a lot about you. If you don’t spellcheck your resume, the person reading it can make the assumption that you’re not very detail-oriented, or that you have a tendency to slack off a bit. We’re not saying this to be overly harsh; your resume has already demonstrated these things.
Put your best foot forward. Make sure your spelling and grammar are clean. Use your spellcheck feature. Run your resume by people who can help you fix any mistakes. If you have friends who write professionally, they should definitely be looking at your resume (you might have to treat them to coffee or lunch, though).
Every mistake can be an excuse to not hire you, so make sure your resume is error-free.
Listing irrelevant experience
Let’s be real: When you’re first entering the job market, filling a whole page with your employment achievements can be a daunting task. You’ll need to fluff things up a bit. However, as you pile on real experience, you should work on culling your resume of extra fluff.
Now, we need to clarify something here, because we don’t want to give the wrong impression. Sometimes, experience that’s seemingly irrelevant is actually important. For example, if you worked as a receptionist at an accounting firm and you later became a certified public accountant, that receptionist experience is relevant. In that particular position, you would have been surrounded by accounting jargon and concepts, which will give you a leg up over someone who’s never worked for an accounting firm before.
But if you had a paper route when you were twelve and you’re applying for a job in the medical field, you can probably skip that. Unless the job you’re applying for requires you to ride a bicycle and deliver stacks of paper…
Not including dates and shuffling your work experience out of order
These might be seen as two separate points, but we’re combining them into one because they’re so closely related.
When you list your work experience on a resume, you should list previous employers in chronological order and include dates. This is vital information, and it’s much easier to read and process when it’s listed out chronologically.
Some people like to arrange their resume by relevancy, so the most relevant work experience is at top, even if that position ended years ago. This can be confusing to read.
Keep in mind that the person reading your resume might be looking at dozens – maybe even hundreds – of resumes in a day. If that person struggles to read your resume, they’re not going to whip out their reading glasses, put on a batch of coffee, cozy up by a fireplace, and spend a long afternoon analyzing your resume. What’s most likely to happen is that your resume will end up in a trashcan.
When you’re putting together a resume, it’s of vital importance that you take the time to craft something you can be proud of. If you avoid the five mistakes we’ve listed above, you’re well on your way to writing a great resume.
If you want more great advice on putting together the perfect resume, check out our articles “Is the Resume Objective Statement a Thing of the Past?” and “Creative Ways to Spice Up Your Resume.”
We’re rooting for you!