As a professional resume writer, I am familiar with a lot of do’s and dont’s in the business. These are general mistakes to steer away from as you draft and revise your resume. Note, however, that there are always exceptions and that styles vary by industry.
1. Unnecessary details Don’t include job duties from previous positions unless they have direct bearing on the job you are applying for. You can phrase a lot of your past responsibilities in ways that show a correlation in skills, though. For example, if you are going for a lead position, highlight any experience you have supervising, directing, or overseeing, even if the past job itself was not anything like the one you are applying for.
2. Too long or too short Your resume should be about a page, preferably with 1″ margins. If you need to narrow the margins to stay on one page, leave no less than half an inch, at the least. If you are seriously having trouble fitting all the information, find ways to group and rephrase descriptions and achievements.
3. Unbalanced visual effect Keeping a balance between words and space is crucial in making your resume inviting to the busy, overworked eye. Your average HR person does not want to read paragraphs – he or she wants billet points. If you do use full sentences with periods, etc., keep it to 3-4 lines at most, preferably in your summary of qualifications under your header.
You can capitalize on strong resume terms and save space if you eliminate unnecessary text. The work history section is just a sampler, in most cases, and the reviewer does not need to know everything you did at each job. Leave the really pertinent details for the qualifications summary and the cover letter. Always leave some space between headings for different sections; bullet point sections are the only places you can do single-spaced text rows.
4. Too loud Don’t overdo your qualifications or heading. Find the modest balance between showcasing key achievements and being upfront about your abilities and experience. As a note, your header should not overpower the whole page.
5. Totally irrelevant to the job If you apply for a job that is totally different than any previous work experience or educational background, you need to address that lack and clearly state why you are qualified to work in a totally different field. Do not expect the HR reviewer to put the pieces together for you, like you’re throwing them some fish and spices and expect them to know you can cook.
6. Spelling and grammar mistakes. If you are serious about getting any job that treats you like a human being, double and triple-check your spelling and grammar. There is no shame in asking for an outside opinion, and there are lots of people on websites like Craigslist and Fiverr who will proofread for reasonable fees.
7. Format inconsistencies. Keep your spacing even, font sizes for headings and regular text the same, and make sure you adhere to the same alignment throughout your page.
8. Too wordy. Get rid of all irrelevant words, because each one diminishes your credibility. Any reviewer will respect and appreciate an applicant who knows how to say what he or she means efficiently.
9. Too vague and mundane We all know there is a resume “code” out there, where cleaning toilets becomes “sanitation and hygiene specialist”, but you have to give your reviewer a picture of what you have done, especially if you are drawing on that experience as a recommendation for your desired position. Be specific and find the middle ground between bathroom maintenance and “environmental engineer”. In addition, leave out the skills and strengths everyone else lists, like “excellent communicator” and “team player” and invent some interesting descriptions and combinations of adjectives that are not commonly found together. This is an easy eye-catcher that helps you stand out in a modest fashion.
10. Obvious BS Do not lie. We all know when we are lying, and it is better to get a job you can keep than being asked to leave because they find out you’re a fraud. This is also less stressful for you because you do not have to pretend to be something you’re not. Honesty is always the better bet, whether it is Karma, the Ten Commandments, or common sense and decency.
Overall, take a step back and ask yourself if your resume would be worth your time if someone slid it across your desk for a review on your lunch hour.