Things to Avoid on Your Resume

Your resume is your first chance to make an impression on potential employer–don’t blow it! Jill Walser, of the career website I Got the Job!, has advice on what to avoid when creating or freshening up your resume:

Spelling errors
“Job seekers who spell too many words incorrectly risk having their resumes made into airplanes and flown around the recruiter’s office,” says Walser. Check your resume for spelling blunders, and then have a peer review it in case you missed a mistake. Then wait several hours and check it again with fresh eyes. Don’t rely on your word processor’s spelling checker–it won’t always catch homonyms (for instance, “break” and “brake”).

Also, be careful to correctly spell the names of software and technologies you mention. If an employer is using keyword-scanning software, spelling “PowerPoint” (which is spelled as one word) as “Power Point” (two words) could automatically land your resume in the “No” pile. Walser even recommends using the exact spelling and word spacing used in the job post. “If the posting states, ‘Experience with MY SQL [instead of “MySQL”] is desired,’ it would likely help the job seeker with his or her keyword ranking to include that misspelling on the resume sent to that company,” she says.

You might also consider putting an employer’s misspelling in parentheses, as an “alternative” spelling, at the term’s first mention in your resume–for instance, “Experience with MySQL (MY SQL).”

“Willing to learn _____”
You may think this makes you sound open to learning, but Walser says otherwise. “While phrases like this will boost your resume’s keyword count,” says Walser, “they may be interpreted as a ‘bait and switch’ tactic”–and land your resume in the trash. “Hiring managers want to know what candidates can do for them now, not what they will learn how to do later,” she says.

Statements with no proof
“Phrases like ‘Constantly seek to improve processes,’ without supporting context, are unhelpful to the reader,” says Walser. Avoid vague, general statements, and make your resume stand out with numbers and specifics that accurately describe your accomplishments to employers. “Providing context and scope with a statement like ‘Streamlined client on-boarding process by 26%, saving 3 hours per client,’ is much more informative,” she says.

Tired and awkward phrases
“It’s hard to get away from some resume cliches–like ‘strong communication skills,'” says Walser. Try using phrases that are similar but more exact instead. In this case, for instance, you might describe your experience with “public speaking” or “executive-level presentations”–and the trite phrases can be omitted entirely.

Clumsy bullet points on a resume can also make a candidate sound unprofessional. “A recent client of mine was using an old resume with the phrase ‘Accurate with attention to detail,'” says Walser. “Because the syntax of the phrase was awkward, it reduced the credibility of her claim.”

Unrelated qualifications
Don’t waste valuable resume space on highlighting skills that aren’t relevant to the job you’re applying for. “Hiring managers want to know that candidates want to do the job they’re interviewing for,” says Walser. “Highlighting skills that are not relevant to the job at hand clouds the picture of what the candidate wants to do.”

Dates of education
“Placing dates next to degrees may make the candidate appear too old or too young,” warns Walser. “The interviewers will figure out how old the candidate is eventually, but it’s much better to have that occur during the interview.” During an interview, a prospective employer can gauge your enthusiasm, energy level, and maturity–instead of making assumptions based on a guessed-at age.


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