Resumes & Cover Letters

Top Ten Pitfalls in Resume Writing

  1. Too long: Most new graduates should restrict their resumes to one page. If you have trouble condensing, get help from a technical or business writer or a career center professional.
  2. Typographical, grammatical or spelling errors: These errors suggest carelessness, poor education and/or lack of intelligence. Have at least two others proofread it before submitting. Don't rely on spell-checkers or grammar-checkers on the computer.
  3. Hard to read: A poorly typed or copied resume looks unprofessional. Use a computer. Use a plain typeface, preferably no smaller than a 12-point font. Use asterisks, bullets, underlining, boldface type and italics only to make the document easier to read, not fancier. Again, ask a professional's opinion.
  4. Too verbose (too many words to say too little): Do not use complete sentences or paragraphs. Say as much as possible with as few words as possible. A, an and the can almost always be left out. Be careful in your use of jargon and avoid slang.
  5. Too sparse: Give more than the bare essentials, especially when describing work experience, skills and accomplishments that will give employers desired information. Including membership in the Society of Women Engineers, for example, would be helpful to employers who wish to hire more women, yet cannot ask for that information.
  6. Irrelevant information: Customize your resume to the position you seek. Emphasize relevant experience, skills, activities and accomplishments. Do not include marital status, age, sex, children, height, weight, health, church membership, etc.
  7. Obviously generic: Too many resumes scream "I need a job -- any job!" The employer needs to feel that you are interested in that position with that company.
  8. Too snazzy: Of course, use good quality bond paper, but avoid exotic types, colored paper, photographs, binders and graphics. More and more companies are scanning resumes into a database. To format a resume for scanning, use white paper, black ink and plain type, and avoid symbols, underlining or italics.
  9. Boring: Make your resume as dynamic as possible. Begin every statement with an action verb, describing what you accomplished on the job. Don't write what someone else told you to do, write what you did. Take advantage of your rich vocabulary and avoid repeating words, especially the first word in a section.
  10. Too modest: The resume showcases your qualifications in competition with the other applicants. Put your best foot forward without misrepresentation, falsification or arrogance.