Get VIP invites to recruiting events with popular employers! Sign up here.

First Time on Brazen?

Spice Up Your Inbox!

Get invites to exclusive career events, networking opportunities and top career advice.



Leave These Basic Resume Mistakes in the Dust

Pin It  

resume in typewriter

As a new employee at a Miami-based employment agency, I spend most of my days looking at resumes, scheduling appointments and helping recruiters prepare candidates for the tough job market.

Read: I spend a lot of time reviewing disastrous resumes.

The worst part is that I see the same mistakes over and over again. Given the exceedingly competitive job market, you’d think people would pay more attention.

If you are on the job hunt make sure to avoid some of these common resume mistakes.

The three page resume

My co-workers and I want to cry every time an exceedingly long resume is submitted. That means we have to sift through it, pick out the great parts and cut it down to one page.

People seem to think that the longer their resumes are, the better they are. It means you have more experience, right? Wrong. Employers will probably spend less than 10 seconds looking at your resume. They want something straight and to the point, not a dissertation.

If you give them entire paragraphs explaining how you worked at McDonald’s during summer break as a teenager and it gave you sales experience, they will probably trash it. Instead, stick to the stuff that is relevant to the position, use bullet points and get to the point.

In some cases, for example if you’re a freelance writer or web designer, potential clients might want to see a more detailed resume. But for the most part, brief is best.

Incorrect contact information

Part of my new job involves calling up potential candidates and scheduling interviews with recruiters. As the person who has to get a hold of job candidates somehow, it would certainly make my life easier (and get you an interview sooner!) if the the contact information on your resume is correct and up-to-date.

Often I encounter resumes with old or incorrect contact details. I try to dig for the correct number or email address, but potential employers may not put in the time to track you down.

A fuzzy idea about the job

Read what you are applying for, people! I’ve already had several people call me upset over the fact that they thought they were applying for high level positions. The truth of the matter is that if they had actually read the job ad they would have clearly seen that our agency mostly deals with entry level positions.

Make sure to read the details of every job ad, especially the ones you want to pursue. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call and ask if there is a number or email address given.

Colors, fonts and funky formatting

Resumes should not have highlighted text, bizarre designs, funky colors or perfume sprayed on them. Employers don’t want to be blinded by cyan highlighting. They want to get the information they need as quickly as possible.

Keep it simple, people. Black Times New Roman 12pt font is all you need.

Lying

We all know it’s a no-no, but people actually do this. They say one thing on their resume, claiming to have a bachelors degree for example, we schedule them for an interview, they come in and we find out they were lying. It wastes the employer’s time (and money) and makes you look like an idiot. Just don’t do it.

Remember that your resume is supposed to reflect you as a person and as a worker, so try to avoid silly mistakes. Believe it or not, by avoiding these common mistakes you will dramatically increase your chances of being called in for an interview.

Amanda Abella is a member of the Brazen Life Contributor Network.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.brazencareerist.com/profile/erica-soultanian-0 Erica Soultanian

    Thanks for the great advice! I was wondering what makes a resume stand out from the crowd?

    • Tara

      Your cover letter makes you stand out from the pack. As a recruiter for almost a decade now, resumes are not the impressive parts, they are the back up to the cover letter. Also, there is nothing wrong with tailoring your resume to fit a position, as long as you aren’t lying about education or experience.

      • http://twitter.com/amandaabella Amanda Abella

        Yes, I would have to agree that cover letters are what really makes you stand out. I get to review horrendous cover letters as well :)

        • http://www.facebook.com/bobpiesz Bob Piesz

          Cover letters are the first impression! Make sure it counts!

    • http://sgbmediagroup.com SGB Media Group

      A c-note stapled to it. ;-)

  • Pingback: Leave These Basic Resume Mistakes in the Dust » US Hospital Careers – Hospital Career News & Information

  • Tiffany

    typos are a HUGE no no as well. Proof read, people~!

    • Anonymous

      Proofreading is important, but this point is overstated. It seems to bring out the control freak in people. I once worked as a recruiter in a company that was struggling to find talent. The positions required people with an unusual combination of abilities, and the pay wasn’t great compared to what competitors offered. The company was spending huge amounts of money to attract applicants, and interviews were taking up considerable time for managers right up to the CEO. Yet people were rejected for minor typos on the resume. That’s a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

      Typos happen. They happen in the New York Times. They happen in books from major publishers. They occasionally happen on resumes.

  • Dustin

    I always found it helpful to have those closest to you review your resume…..they will let you know if you are lying or not giving yourself enough credit

  • Pingback: Happy hour tips for interns, plus how to get the most out of LinkedIn

  • Jrandom42

    Okay, I’ll bite: I’ve been in IT for the past 20 years, doing all sorts of significant stuff. There’s no way I can condense it into one page. How do I make it work?

    • http://twitter.com/Career411Dan Dan Drullinger

      Use the experiences most relative to that of the job you are applying for. While you do not want to include every single IT experience you have done, it is just fine to note that you do have more experience and would be happy to present it to them if need be. Employers are going to scan for what is most important and relevant to what they are looking for.

    • http://twitter.com/mrohde mrohde

      Consider consideing the content of your work history to one page listing accomplishment (what did you do to improve the business) and then provide a second page as an addendum of your skills.

      As a hiring manager for IT people I found that there is often confustion between what I can do for the business and what skills I have. Some of the best laid out resumes will explain how an employee saved money, made money, mitigated risk, etc and then for technical staff they can break our all of their skills sepearate.

  • http://twitter.com/kaleighsomers kaleigh somers

    You’d be surprised how many people will skirt the truth and lie on a resume because “the hiring manager just wouldn’t understand” why they’re out of work for so long or had a gap here or there. It’s actually upsetting how disingenuous people will be just to land an opportunity for an opportunity – not even the actual job. I agree that it’s only going to come down to the moment when an employer realizes and that looks worse.

  • http://twitter.com/vertigogroup Vertigo / Group

    Like others have said, typos are huge, but so is grammar. In fact, proper grammar is more important to me than typos. Sometimes typos make it through to final copy, and accidents happen, however poor grammar shows little education or a complete lack of trying to understand the English language.

    I agree that keeping it safe and conservative is paramount now days–at least in professional positions–but it is equally important to know ones audience. Want a job at 37Signals, better make an artsy resume or even a video resume. This is also a generational difference. As long as Gen X’ers remain in positions of power, the conservative resume will serve one well. As Millennials begin to take the reins the conservative resume will change. Just MHO.

    • Eric

      I definitely agree on the grammar thing, even on the web. Companies do check your web presence as the recruiting process moves along. Not to stir the pot, but if you’re going to write about the importance of grammar…

      “…is paramount nowadays” or “…is paramount these days” and

      “…important to know one’s audience.”

      • Leo

        Karma, guess I deserve it on some level for not proofreading my own work. Better not do that on my dissertation. ;)

    • BJP

      Ummm, Gen X’ers are not in positions of power, or at least very few. Most of us identify closer with Millennials than Boomers. Most of us are NOT conservative either. :)

      • Lisa

        GenX mentality is still in power however….hence the advice to go conservative with your font. Hey when an HR person tells me to use Times New Roman I’m going to use TNR and not argue with a certified professional.

        • Soag87

          How can GenX mentality “still” be in power if most haven’t reached positions of power yet? The oldest GenX’er (assuming 1965 start) would be 46. They are only now starting to move into those roles.

          A more accurate description would be that businesses in general (especially larger, older, established companies) tend to be trend-laggers rather than trend setters because they tend to follow fundamentals (which aren’t really flashy or exciting by definition). I just graduated undergrad before the dot.com boom went beserk. Lots of “rules” were tossed out, along with many of those fundamentals. We all know how that worked out. :)

  • http://www.cscyphers.com/blog scyphers

    Having done quite a bit of hiring over the years, I just assume that everyone lies (at least a little bit) on their resume and discount things accordingly. So, if you were to tell the bold, unvarnished truth, that might hinder you a bit — or, at least, undersell your abilities.

  • http://twitter.com/mypwnjd Thomas Hutto

    I have to disagree regarding the font selection. Choosing Times New Roman is a mistake. It’s not designed as a readable font for something like a resume. Its best use is in a newspaper column. While I’m not advocating script fonts, or Comic Sans, a clean and clear font that makes your resume visually appealing is 1000% better than Times New Roman. For a more indepth discussion of typography, start here. http://www.typographyforlawyers.com/?page_id=1655

    • http://twitter.com/mj_daye Mike Daye

      For resumes I really like Sans serif fonts, MS Sans being a go to font. I just try to make it easy to read.

  • http://twitter.com/Turner Turner

    As a hiring manager as well as someone who has interviewed before, I completely agree! Although I’m also guilty of having a 3-page resume. I just can’t seem to condense it down!

    I do have a question though. I read an article yesterday about some really amazing eye-popping creative resumes. One of them was formatted to look like a Facebook profile page, for instance. Another looked like a hand-written page from a spiral notebook. What’s your take on very non-standard resumes like this?

  • http://blog.andrewshell.org/ Andrew Shell

    I no longer offer a paper resume. My resume is my website. I do have a “My Resume” section which contains my work and education history, but the sort of company I’d want to work for needs to be more holistic in their hiring process. They should skim the articles on my blog, look at the projects I’ve listed in my portfolio and most importantly talk to me. When I get into a traditional hiring process with questions like “What is an example of a time you solved a problem” I know I’m at the wrong place and I move on.

    • Lisalahey

      andrew I forgot to add: and your blog which is probably linked to your resume is crucial….companies do check them out and they do google you and look for your facebook behaviours…..incredible the number of people who forget this and leave stupid postings with racy pics of themselves online!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Bird/1570972196 Rob Bird

      I like your idea of a website for your resume. Please don’t go overboard though: http://www.fatpacking.com/resume/Resume.cfm

  • http://sgbmediagroup.com SGB Media Group

    I’m 3 pages myself but I’m 52 with 30 years experience.

  • http://twitter.com/aishazoe Aisha O’Brien

    Those sound like really boring resumes. I like to add simple but punchy graphic elements to my resumes. Hasn’t failed me yet.

  • http://twitter.com/oducmcmarketing Doug Gray @ ODU/CMC

    Also please leave out confidential personal info such as date of birth, social security numbers, license numbers, university ID numbers, etc. I’m surprised at what people will disclose in a resume. This is not the HR application just a resume. Keep your private info private.

  • Bubbley_frog

    I’ve recently been thrown into WRITING resumes without any experience doing so, and I’m proud to say that I stick to these rules pretty well. I don’t use Times, though, as I’m a Graphic Designer and like to use something just a little different and friendlier. I use Optima instead. I made my own resume very graphic, but that’s what my position calls for, so I think it’s valid, and it got me this job. The only time I have a really hard time sticking to two pages is for military resumes; it’s impossible. Good points, though! I’m in shock when people bring in what they had been submitting as a resume and I see grammar errors all over. I’m happy to help them improve them :)

  • Wanda

    Good solid advice for your resume. Keep it straight and to the point. You don’t want people wasting your time so don’t waste an employers time. Both you and they will be grateful.
    Wanda’s Blog: African Mango Supplements for Quick Weight Loss

  • http://twitter.com/DanaLeavy DanaLeavy

    I agree with Thomas on the font thing – readability is a big factor, and there are a number of other fonts that work in 11, or even 10.5 (if you’re trying to squeeze onto one page – not necessarily required). But great points – especially about being fuzzy on the job. The biggest mistake I see is people not taking the time to really tailor their resume to fit the role and the organization, and this is usually evident in the lack of clarity and focus in their overall branding message.

  • http://WhosChrisHughes.com Chris Hughes

    Do you have any other tips for standing out on your resume? Something like using off-white paper has been mentioned from various people I’ve spoken to.

    How about someone who’s started a business during college but now needs to get a job because of problems with the business. How would they best feature this to potential employers?

  • Brenda Bernstein

    I have some samples of some snazzy, tasteful and not boring resumes on my website: http://theessayexpert.com/samples/resumes-cover-letters-samples/

    I almost never use TNR on my resumes any more! Sans serif is genrally the preferred font family.

  • Sarah

    No colors, fonts and funky formatting? How else are you able to brand yourself via your resume? Resume design sets a candidate apart from others, and when applying for a marketing-type position, is a great way to show off a person’s creativity.

    • Anonymous

      one’s experience, and the way they sell it, is how they usually set themselves apart. “creativity” is a matter of taste, and usually one person’s “creative” or “funky” is another person’s “amateur”. resumes are about imparting information, and the more clearly one does this, the better chance they’ll rise above. i’ve been in the position to filter hundreds of resumes at a time, and i can say that my marketing colleagues and i agree–one’s “flashy style” will not usually demonstrate the level of discretion it would take to handle client work, so they usually get cast aside.

      • http://www.melindamckee.com Melinda McKee

        It all depends, of course. I myself am in a creative field, and so my resume design follows suit (though it still looks clean and professional). I’ve had several confirmations from potential employers that it really caught their eye in a positive way.

        But you better believe I vetted it with multiple people first, to make sure I wasn’t taking too big of a risk!

        As for the TNR thing, I think if you’re in most business environments, you could do worse. But resumes sent to *me* (in the creative scene) with that font automatically have a strike against them, because it makes me wonder what else they’re unoriginal and uncreative about.

        • Anonymous

          It does depend, sort of. I’m also in a creative field, and I can say that going for “pizazz” in designing a resume has not gotten a lot of people seen, in my experience. Moreover, if one is on the design side, it’s their book that proves one’s mettle. This is about solid information design, at the heart of things, and like verbal communications, clean and straightforward gives the best impression.

          Vis a vis TNR, I agree with the sentiment that some people don’t deal well with serifs–and when recruiters scan copies of those resumes with it (or copy them), they tend to look far less crisp. I prefer sans serif fonts myself. I’ve dealt with foundations and people for whom they really don’t read well–there are print legibility and contrast standards outlined for the sight-impaired that are well worth noting (both for web accessibility and print). Here’s a link to the W3C guidelines for the web, to give everyone an idea:

          http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/

  • Jonathan Bishop

    As someone who has employed people for 20+ years at both entry and senior positions, and has had to deal with recruiting agencies hacking resumes down to one page and completely missing the things that matter to me, I completely disagree with this advice.

    A one page resume is a really good way to be put in my discard pile without an interview.

    The resume is your first and most important sales contact with me – you need to sell to me by the end of the second page, but then let me drill into the detail to confirm the sale. I want to know how you present, how you think and what you can and might be able to do. I agree that 5 pages of drivel is not a good idea, and that for some jobs one page might suffice, but rarely for the type of people I want.

    I generally instruct recruiters to give me a summary if they wish, but provide the candidate’s detailed resume as well. I can read, and think and with 100 applications for one position I need a way to differentiate the applicants. One page is unlikely to do that favourably.

    Instead I recommend an 2 page executive summary scripted with the key sales points, perhaps even cross-referenced into the supporting detail resume. This allows you to leave out a lot of necessary but non-distinguishing data in the valuable first 2 pages and but include it in the detail. It also shows me you can get to the point, understand what the job, my firm and I am about, and back up your pitch with facts. I do not assume people will lie – because we will find out, so embellishment is fatal.

    With respect to fonts, you have to be careful here. Some readers can not handle the tails on times fonts and have difficulty reading them. I like them, but you need to look at the output of the potential employer and make a judgement call. 12 point is ridiculously large, but if the reader will be older than younger they may need that for readability. Black – yes, perfume – no, silly layouts that slow me down in reading – unwise.

    • Kris

      I completely agree with you. I am an Executive Recruiter and we do not re-write candidate’s resumes nor do we believe than an accomplished executive can condense their success onto one page. Maybe this advice is for more junior individuals.

    • masha

      I wholeheartedly agree with your advice – as head of an engineering section in an organisation which generally undertakes recruiting using interal processes (i.e. not an agency) it is often clear when a candidate has used an external supposedly professional careers agency. What I as the employer is looking for is often very different to what the human resources consultants are telling people they should do or say.

      The biggest mistake I have found with potential candidates using agencies is that they often make claims about work on projects where they have had a peripheral or limited role – while it is not “lying”, when they are asked questions at interview they aren’t aware of much of the detail of the project. As an example, an engineering project may take 8 years to develop, design and construct, but some candidate’s resumes indicate that although they were with the project for only 2 years they were responsible for the whole gamut of the project. A very good way to get put aside!

      The other mistake I have found people make is to claim they are active in various activities (e.g. a professional association) when they are not. I have been on the Committee for the local group of a professional association and have had a candidate from the local area claim they were an “active member” – I had seen them attend one function in 3 years when their then boss was the guest speaker! Not the best way to make a good impression with the selection panel.

      Finally, I think the layout and contents of a candidate’s resume tells the selection panel about the standard of work the candidate provides, which is why I believe it is important that people prepare their own resumes rather than using an agency.

  • Lisalahey

    Andrew I love that your website is your resume….never thought of that. I’m going to mimic your style and pass on that idea to a good friend of mine who is a social media specialist and PR dude.
    Have you heard of visual cv? I used it once and the employer didn’t get it as an attachment! she didn’t get it when I sent it directly either and I had the right email. Now I don’t trust it.

  • Pingback: | Grad Meets World

  • http://www.facebook.com/morana.medved Morana Medved

    I’d like to be yet another person to chime in against the TNR font – it’s really out of date and not as easy to read as sans serif fonts like classic Arial. Being in the design profession if I got a resume with TNR font it would actually turn me off from even reading it – it seems so behind times. Point 12 font is usually too big – 11 usually works, and in design profession 10 is preferred.

    For an entry level resume 1 page is appropriate but not for people with more experience. I have two pages for my 8 years of experience and I know every word is relevant because I do weed it down on regular basis. I’m actually having a hard time with 2 pages. I entered the world of academia lately and they expect even longer resumes and CVs. I think 1 page is appropriate for entry level, 2 pages for intermediate, and 3 to 4 for senior level positions. I once got a 20 page resume (for 20 years experience) and that was inappropriate, but trying to trim down to 1 page can backfire – I recently ran into a case where a qualified individual was not selected because of trying to “streamline” application package – employer felt not enough experience was shown for an intermediate position.

    The rest of it is good advice. It’s all great advice for entry level, except TNR font.

  • Pingback: Weekly Web Crawl – Resume Tips that Don’t Suck / NY Creative Interns

  • Pingback: Basic Resume - RESUME PORTAL – RESUME PORTAL

  • Pingback: Basic Resume - UTILITY DOCUMENT – UTILITY DOCUMENT

  • Pingback: resume basic examples - RESUME PORTAL – RESUME PORTAL

  • Jobspace

    Incredible post.You just remind me of the time i was looking for a job.I used to apply for so many post without reading waht is it all about.No wonder why the results whre not positive.

    http://www.jobspace.co.za