11 Things to Avoid When Writing a Resume

by Lisa Rangel | June 08, 2017

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Writing a resume that gets results is critical in landing job interviews. And you have to know what to include as well as exclude in order to make your resume great. So here are 11 things to avoid when writing your resume. 

1. Don’t make your resume unnecessarily long.

Keep you reader interested in five- to 10-second increments by showcasing your experience in as little space as possible (without sacrificing your achievements). For most job seekers with more than 10 years of experience, a two-page resume is fine. Chances are, whatever is on subsequent pages, may not get noticed if the reader is not engaged. 

2. Don’t leave it to the reader to figure out what you do.

Begin your resume with a targeted title and summary punctuating what you do and how you do it. Make it very easy for the reader to discern what you do with no effort on their part. 

3. Don’t forget to make your resume searchable.

Include key search terms in your summary to (a) make your resume searchable and discoverable by hiring managers seeking out your expertise, and (b) help reiterate your competencies. 

4. Don’t be vague.

Use measurable achievements, focused language, and deliberate phrasing throughout your resume to highlight your experience. Trying to be all things to all people will get you nowhere.

5. Don’t use a list of tasks.

Throughout your resume, use action driven words and results-driven bullets. Avoid a list of tasks wherever possible, and don't start a resume bullet with the words “Duties included.” That’s so 2011. 

6. Don’t be passive.

Candidates are hired now because they can save money, make money, or streamline processes to make money faster. Demonstrate in your resume bullets how you have accomplished this—regardless of your position. Don't start a bullet with the phrase "Responsible for." Instead, be a candidate of action. 

7. Don’t use pronouns.

First person (I) or third person (he/she) pronouns are not needed in a resume. Stick to using third person verbs only and ditch the pronouns. Save the personalization for your personal statements, cover letters, and bios. 

8. Don’t miss typos and grammatical mistakes.

Be sure to proofread your resume for typos and grammatical errors. While this may seem obvious, missing errors can happen even to the best candidates. Reading your resume aloud and having a trusted colleague review your resume will help catch errors that spellcheck misses. 

9. Don’t only write for the ATS (application tracking system).

Roughly 65 to 70 percent of hires happen through employee referrals, social media, and personal contacts when you analyze research from JobVite, SHRM, and CareerXRoads. So be sure to write for people and not just the systems that house resumes. If you’re job searching right, you should be sending your resume to people more than you are submitting to job postings. 

10. Don’t be plain.

Use a conservative line of color or a varied size font to help move the eye through the document.  Be visually daring with a tasteful text box with pertinent data to draw attention to key accomplishments.  Don't be afraid to use a modest selection of visual graphic elements, like color and font treatment, to make the resume stand out among a sea of resumes seen by a recruiter. 

11. Don’t make it all about you.

Be sure you don't simply list everything you ever did on your resume without thinking of the recipient of your resume. Instead, cater your achievements to demonstrate how you can solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity for the prospective employer. Make your document about how you can be a solution for them instead of being all about you and your needs.

A version of this post previously appeared on ChameleonResumes.com. 

Filed Under: Job Search | Resumes & Cover Letters

Tags: grammar | job applications | resume advice | resume tips | writing

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