Resume Worst Practices: How NOT to Get an Interview

Updated: June 10, 2010

  1. Bad formatting. Before reading any details on a resume, I simply look at it like a painting. If the painting is ugly, I want to look away. Bad formatting on a resume, regardless of what the details say is a killer; some employers will toss it aside, others will read it with a sharper eye. Do not try to stretch the length with bigger font, narrower margins or more spacing (like you did on college papers). Do not send a resume where the font size and type are non-standard. If you use bullets or other formatting, make sure the text lines up and each area looks uniform. Space your employment history so each job is distinct; no one wants to read a page long paragraph with no clear delineation between new subjects.
  2. Erroneous mission statement. The quickest way to get your resume tossed aside is proving in the first sentence that you have no attention to detail. I hate when an applicant applies for a sales job with a mission statement that details their desire "for growth in the accounting department."
  3. Highlight your low GPA. First, GPAs have no place on a resume; if your employer wants your GPA they will ask you for a transcript. Second, posting a sub-par GPA at the top of your resume will only highlight your lack of effort, lack of intelligence or the amount you partied in college. Do yourself a favor and eliminate your GPA. If you MUST have a GPA on your resume (as a point of pride), please be above 3.5.
  4. Elaborate explanations of simple jobs. If you were a waiter do not say anything to the effect of: "professionally accommodated guests," "thoroughly exhibited product knowledge," or "masterfully suggested menu items." Being a waiter is a hard job, but it does not deserve Shakespearean language in its description. If you want to include additional information, it should be substantive; employee of the month, promotions, etc.
  5. Overuse of thesaurus, descriptive adjectives and generic industry jargon. Found in the same class as the overly elaborate job description, is the overuse of a thesaurus and/or perceived industry jargon. I find the overuse of non-conversational language in resumes unbelievably corny. This is not a suggestion to be unprofessional when building your resume, only to tone it down. Remember, this is not your creative writing thesis, it is a presentation of your skills. Avoid corny descriptions of your experience such as "ambitiously," "skillfully," "fanatical," and "world-class." Similarly, do not attempt to trick your potential employer by trying to use industry jargon when your work history gives no reference to your background in the industry.
  6. No attention to detail. Check over your resume several times, send it to a friend, then check it again. Some of the most common, yet easily avoidable mistakes I have seen are due to a lack in proofreading. Make sure all your contact information is present and correct. Ensure that spell-check has not changed misspelled words into completely different meanings. As stated above, make sure your mission statement is in line with the job you are applying for.
  7. Lying. Finally, don't lie or stretch the truth too much. If your lies are not discovered through the first screen, they almost certainly will be discovered in your interview. If you are that good and get the job, your lies will most likely manifest in your performance.
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