3 Resume Mistakes I Made in My Early Twenties

All the contradictory “How To Write a Resume” articles online led me astray.

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

My resume has gone through a lot of variations. Between the first one I built in college and the current one that I have now, nearly everything has changed. The sections, style, details — it’s like night and day looking at them side by side. You would never think they came from the same person.

Part of what caused this is that in the early stages of my post-graduate life I was obsessed with scouring the internet for resume and job application advice. The problem? The internet is full of advice for job seekers, and an alarming amount of it is super contradictory. You can find clashing information just about everywhere you go, especially when it comes to how to craft a good resume.

I was led in many different directions and have since learned a lot. But here are a few of the biggest mistakes I made in my early days:

1) Over-designing everything.

Wanting to stand out and be perceived as unique and interesting is understandable. But it’s easy to take that too far in the wrong direction.

Really fancy and obscure fonts, multiple colors, and an unconventional layout can just as easily work against you as they can in your favor. As a former graphic design student, it took a while for me to learn when and how to scale things back, especially when applying for non-design jobs.

At the end of the day, all recruiters are looking for is something that’s easy to read and understand that showcases your qualifications. Whether that includes a “pop of color” or not is up to you, but good design is never going to override valuable experience. Make sure you nail the content of your resume before you get caught up in the design.

2) Not understanding the one-page rule.

Note that I didn’t say “not following the one-page rule.”

Whether or not you agree that resumes must always be a single page, the idea behind this rule is important. Your resume needs to be direct and to the point.

It’s incredibly unlikely that you have done enough in your early twenties to warrant a resume that’s more than a page long. You’re probably still in the early and entry-level stages of your career. If your resume is lengthy, it’s probably because you have a lot of unnecessary information on there. You don’t need to include every part-time or seasonal job you’ve ever had, especially if it’s not highly relevant to what you’re applying for.

On the flip side, if you’re the kind of person who filled your college career with internships and experiential learning, don’t leave out anything that demonstrates how capable you are to do the job. Despite what the internet would have you think, many people are willing to flip the page if the information is good enough.

3) Putting it in the wrong place.

Having been on the other side of the hiring table now, I know from reviewing resumes submitted through automated systems that those applicants suffer from several disadvantages. For one thing, the formats are terrible to look at, which doesn’t do anyone any favors. It’s also clear that people often don’t like to spend time writing out their experience the way they have with their actual resumes.

This results in weaker looking applicants.

Getting your resume in front of a real, living, breathing human being is the most important first step in the job application process. Whenever possible, look for email addresses and contact information. Prior to getting the job I have now, I actually called the office and asked who to send my application to, ensuring I had the right name for my cover letter and that it would be seen by the person making the hiring decisions. This won’t always work, but it’s always worth the effort to try.

The job-hunting process is no easy feat. Although the vast resources of the internet are often intended to make things easier, it’s easy to get confused by everything that’s out there. No matter what step-by-step guides or “How To” articles you may read, here’s what really matters:

Make your resume easy to read, relevant, and get it in front of a person. Beyond that, if the job is meant for you I’m sure you’ll get it.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made with your resume?



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