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Common resume mistakes

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Please, be original.  Don't make these common mistakes.

Mistake: Inaccurate name for your own university (Hello!)
  Common ERRORS:
Virginia Polytechnic and State University (you're missing something!)
Virginia Tech University (wrong!)
Spellcheck won't help you if you enter "statue" instead of "state."
Correct: There are two correct names:
Full name: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Official shortened name: Virginia Tech
Which should you use?
To be on the safe side, you may wish to use both: the full name followed by the shorter name in parentheses, which you'll see commonly in our samples.
Why? Covers all the bases. Different employers may not know one name or the other. Sometimes a database with university names might contain one or the other.
  DO include the location as "Blacksburg, Virginia" (or you may abbreviate state names).
  DON'T include street addresses and zip codes of school and work locations.
   
Mistake: Typos.
  You have one chance to make a first impression. In many cases, your resume, or your resume plus a cover letter, are the only things an employer has to base an impression of you.
  The resume is a critical document for presenting yourself. The view is that if you would make a mistake on your resume, you'll probably make a lot more mistakes on the job.
  Relying on spellcheck alone will get you into trouble.
Common errors include misuse of there, their, and they're; state and statue; perspective and prospective; manager and manger, and the like.
   
Mistake: Misuse of the apostrophe. Misuse of plurals, possessives.
Example: "Resolved customer's concerns."
That means you worked with one customer.
If you've worked with multiple customers, use plural possessive.
Example: Wrong: "Deans list."
The list belongs to the dean, who is one person; thus it is singular, possessive as the "Dean's list."
   
Mistake: Using really small fonts
  Employers are typically reading many resumes, and are taking less than half a minute on a first read.
  Really small fonts are hard to read, so this does not predispose the reader to have a favorable impression of you.
  It's fine for your addresses to be in a smaller font than your resume content, but make it large enough it can be read.
  It generally looks good for your name to be in a larger, perhaps bold, font at the top of your document.
  What's too small for content?
Depends on the font style.
An 11-point Garamond is probably too small; an 11.5-point could work.
A 10-point Arial can be read; 11-point is on the large side.
A 10-point Times New Roman is a bit on the small side.
   
Mistake: Resume with a few lines spilling onto a second page.
Fix: This can be cleaned up with sensible editing and sensible adjustment of your page formatting.
  Most undergraduates can fit all your resume content on one page (exception for resumes for federal employment, which are expected to be longer). A small percentage may really need a two-page resume; if you have filled two pages with good, well-edited content, chosen a reasonable font and margins, an advisor can help you determine whether to go with two pages and how to best order your information so the most important content is on page one. Ask for a Career Services advisor's assistance in editing your resume through walk-in advising.
   
Mistake: Very wide margins with content squeezed in the middle; document falling onto a second page.
Correct: Your margins should be at least one half inch. You really don't need more than one inch, especially with left-side-column headings.
  Students sometimes ask if their resumes have "enough white space." Yes, you want a clean, uncluttered document, but an employer isn't reading white space.
  Employers are reading your content, and you want it to be easy to see.
   
Mistake: Very crowded content with no blank lines between any sections or entries.
  This is the flip-side of the previously-listed mistake.
Correct: You should have a blank line — think of it as breathing room — between each of your sections and your blocks of content.
   
Mistake: Long wordy descriptions in your objective and elsewhere.
Correct: Complete sentences are not needed in a resume.
  Concise, understandable phrases are sufficient.
Not good: Wording like "to obtain a challending position utilizing my extensive background and knowledge in my field...." does not tell an employer anything useful, and indicating "extensive" knowledge or experience may sound presumptuous on the part of a college student.
Very good advice: Words to strike from your resume. Forbes.
No boring objectives, and more.
  Look at the examples in resume formats and samples.
  Ask for a Career Services advisor's assistance in fine-tuning your resume through a resume review.
   
Mistake: Looking at one sample or example and copying it, without exploring options that best match your career goals and background.
Fix: Read about content and why it matters to an employer.
Look at a variety of samples.
Customize your resume to best showcase your strengths and to match the jobs you seek!
   
Mistake: Using too complicated a format; getting too creative.
Truth: An employer could spend 15 to 30 seconds, or less, on a first read of your resume.
Fix: Keep the layout simple and clean. Examples in resume formats | samples.
  Avoid too many levels of indentation.
  Use one font size for the content; make your name larger and perhaps your addresses a bit smaller.
  Don't mix font styles.
   
Mistake: Giving a lot of detail where not necessary.
Lacking detail where it would be helpful.
Examples: Long description of your work in non-career-related experience such as explaining how you ran the cash register in a retail job.
Long description of one-day volunteer service with limited responsibility.
  Lack of description of a student leadership or committee role where you devoted considerable time and effort and developed skills.
Fix: DO list the retail job. Employers like people with work experience and work ethic (who are not too precious to do non-glamorous jobs!) Just don't explain the obvious. We know you folded shirts if you worked at the Gap. Tell if you got a sales award or trained other employees or were promoted to manager.
Fix: DO list the one-day volunteer work. Just don't mislead anyone that it was more than it was.
Fix: DO give more detail on leadership, volunteer work and projects that took a lot of your time and effort and represent responsibility on your part. Those are sources of great transferrable skills, and they distinguish you from other students.
   
Offsite resources:  
  Words to strike from your resume. Forbes.
No boring objectives, and more.

 

Related:

Resume guide menu

Layout | templates | formats | samples

Vitae (curriculum vitae)

Length

Content | sections including the elusive, challenging objective.

"Should I include my GPA?" and other FAQs

Federal job search
has its own resume issues

 

 

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