3 Cringeworthy Resume Mistakes

One of the strangest parts about being a writer is the reaction that people give off. The first is a mix between “really? why?” or “so, how do you make money?”, and my favorite — a simple but non-confrontational “that’s cool.” The second is “can you take a look at my resume?” Normally, for those who skip the former and go to the latter, I am happy to do that. I’ve looked at quite a few friends, family, and coworker’s resumes. And like clockwork, I can spot exactly what is wrong with them and why they aren’t getting noticed.

This leads me to why I’ve decided to do a two part blogging series on resumes and cover letters — the cornerstones of job searching. Hopefully, some of these tips will not only help improve your resume but get you to step back and truly think about what you’re putting on the page. Usually the biggest mistake I see is people writing their resume without any thought and simply to get it done.

Would you go into your first day of work not thinking about what you’re going to wear? No? Good, because a resume is part of your internet ensemble.

Your Content and Design Are Bad

This combination is scarier than a Wes Craven movie. Hardly any resume I’ve ever reviewed has had either perfect content or perfect design. Some have had close to perfect content with little change but that usually means there is a large part of design that needs revisions. Content that doesn’t paint a picture of what you do is bad for the recruiter. Combining that with an unfriendly design is trouble.

First, let’s talk about content. Here are some tips:

  • Full sentences are not your friend
  • Start with a verb, remove “I”
  • Stop using periods
  • Use apps like Grammarly or Hemingway to get instant feedback
  • Ask people in similar positions to your current role what they’ve wrote on their resume
  • Scan LinkedIn for people who have held your position and see what they have. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. But don’t be that person and lift their content
  • Have an editor/reviewer on standby
  • Make sense! This is last one is important. I once read a resume that listed Microsoft Word as an Operating system

These tips are just a start. I could go on about other ways to revamp you content. But I would start with this. I’d bet that there is at least three things from that list that could help you. One key thing to remember is you can have sentences perfectly structured but if they are too vague, you might be boiling the hot water you’re already in.

Next, let’s talk about your design. Most likely, you haven’t put much thought into it unless you are a designer or a “creative.” (Side note: I hate that label, everyone has their own creative genes or sparks of genius). But if you’ve used a template from Microsoft Word, you’re doing it wrong. If you’ve stuck with default bullets or fonts, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re not thinking out of the box, guess what, you’re doing it wrong. Using defaults or a design someone else thought of from Microsoft, Adobe, or Apple isn’t original. It’s the exact opposite.

When it comes to design, you need to think like a hipster. You want to set the standard before it’s cool. You want to have that original vibe that no one else has — or at least you think no one else has.

Here are some more detailed tips for a killer design:

  • Don’t use default fonts, templates, bullets, or default anything
  • Learn the difference between a Serif and a Sans Serif font
  • Stop underlining! Underlining is dead
  • Take it easy on the italics too
  • Text boxes are your friend
  • Color is also your friend (blue projects strength, purple projects weakness)
  • You don’t need your name in 1000pt font
  • Make use of white space
  • Try Adobe InDesign or another program besides word for more variety
  • Go on Pinterest for inspiration
  • Reorganize! Put your education on the bottom (it feels good to be dangerous, admit it)
  • Get feedback on readability from people around you
  • Think outside the box

This more important for you if you are trying to get in a more artsy role. If you’re trying to become an account, most likely you won’t need to worry too much about resume design. But, it always better to have a clean, well-organized resume than one that is not. If you work on this, you might just come up with something that doesn’t haunt your dreams.

You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About

Vagueness is a plague that reveals who the liars and the underachievers are. It is true that resumes should be short and sweet. But think of them as a brief conversation. If you’re vague, will someone actually know what you’re saying? Or would they ask follow-up questions? Unfortunately, the only follow-up question a recruiter will have if you’re being too vague is “where is the trash can?”

If you’ve worked at a company for three, four, or five years, you probably already have an elevator pitch ready when people ask you what you do. So, why do we struggle putting that on paper? Most of the time, we end up scrambling and writing down nonsense that doesn’t accurately explain what we do.

Try this exercise. Grab a friend, family member, or a stranger in a coffee shop. Ask them to ask you what your job is and what the most important parts of it are. Have them either record or write down your answers verbatim. Go over your answers and take the most important parts from it. You can then use those as your bullet points.

Succinct detail is your friend when it comes to describing what you’ve done with your experience. This is truly where a resume is make or break.

You’re Out of Your League

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but job requirements are requirements for a reason. If you only have one year of experience with a Bachelors and a position requires ten years’ experience with a Ph.D., you’re going to be out of luck. There seems to be this new trend going around where mentors, parents, friends, etc. will tell you to apply for positions that you are flat out unqualified for. My tip on this is to spend more time reading the job requirements before you mass apply.

Now, I’m not talking about nailing every single job posting. If you have three of five or four of five, that’s common. Some postings will go out of their way to include more requirements, so you most likely won’t have ever single one. I’m directing this towards those who have zero out five or are missing key components on the posting. A surprising number of resumes that I’ve reviewed are going out for positions way above the level and skill needed. The best way to avoid this is to read the posting fully and use the requirements to set goals and achieve your goals.

You Have Some Silver Lining

The best part about this whole rant of a post is that people still do get jobs with bad resumes. Believe it or not, most people don’t have a well-rounded resume. But, if you are struggling, the tips mentioned above can seriously help you. If you try any of them and they work for you, let me know. I’d love to see the method to my madness in action.

I’m also offering to anyone who likes and shares this post a free resume consultation. The consultation will consist of feedback on the top five parts of your resume that you could improve. Once you’ve liked and shared this post, send me a message and we can discuss your resume.

I want to note that this offer is only valid until September 2nd, 2016. And that I do normally charge for this service. Feedback, revisions, and design revisions are all an extra fee as well. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time. Good luck revising!

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Jarrett Weber is a Michigan based Technical Writer and Freelance Writer dedicated to sharing his insights with other professionals. Feel free to connect with him and send a message!