5 things to avoid on your résumé

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During my years in Talent Acquisition, I’ve read tens of thousands of résumés. Not only have I formed my own impressions, but I have also heard feedback from multiple hiring managers across different fields.

Here are 5 things to avoid on your résumé:

1. Typos, spelling errors and poor grammar

Hands-down, this is the biggest pet peeve for hiring managers. Your résumé is the first impression they have of you. If there are typos, spelling errors or poor grammar on a résumé, hiring managers infer one of two things: 1) the person is not detail-oriented or conscientious or 2) the person does not care. Your résumé should be flawless.

The best thing you can do to ensure that your résumé is free of any errors is to have another person review it. We tend to develop tunnel vision when we spend hours working on a document, which can blind us to errors. Having an objective reviewer with a fresh pair of eyes helps to catch anything you may have missed.

2. Poor layout

Poor page layout will halt a hiring manager before they even get to your work experience. It’s no longer acceptable to focus exclusively on content, especially with the wide variety of free and easily accessible résumé templates available in Word or online.

If you feel confused or overwhelmed by the volume of résumé templates available for free, it may be worth enlisting the support a résumé writer. Their job is to put together a résumé with a customized layout, and some even offer packages that include updating your LinkedIn. If you use a résumé writer, I still recommend that you review the final draft carefully for any typos. The bottom line is that your résumé represents you.

3. Too many pages

Even though this is one of the most talked topics when it comes to résumés, many candidates still submit résumés that are longer than three pages. The longest résumé I’ve ever received was 21 pages.

My rule of thumb for résumé length is this: those with five years’ work experience or less should be one page, 5-10 years’ experience can be two pages and more than 10 years’ experience can go up to three pages. If you go over three pages, you have to edit.

Go back through your résumé and see if you can combine any related responsibilities or if you can find more succinct ways to express what you have written. The next point may also prove helpful in this area.

4. Irrelevant information

In an effort to be thorough, some candidates write irrelevant details. Irrelevant information includes but is not limited to: incomplete degrees, course lists, underdeveloped skills, excessive details about early jobs,  mundane personal interests etc.

Irrelevant information plays against candidates because it implies that the person can’t discern what’s pertinent and what isn’t. No manager wants to work with someone who spouts raw data; they want an employee who will synthesize it and get to the core meaning. Your best bet is to edit each section of your résumé thoughtfully.

5. Too trendy

There are articles out there that want to shock readers and perhaps go viral. They will use exciting subjects like “The death of the résumé” or “Job titles don’t matter” to appear avant-garde. It’s best to be more conservative when it comes to your résumé.

The bottom line is that you will be asked for a résumé sooner or later, even if you are contacted by a headhunter or if you know someone at the company. You want to appear professional. No one has time to waste on a candidate who does something trendy like omit dates or job titles. Hiring managers want to know a candidate’s credentials before meeting them and HR departments need to have the résumé on file in case the person is selected for hire.

I would also recommend staying away from a highly stylized résumé unless you work in a creative field like design for instance. I advise against using pictographs because they are too literal to connote creativity and end up coming across as either juvenile or unprofessional.

Putting it all together

Now that we have covered what to avoid, I want to share advice about what you should do!

If you want to update or tweak your résumé, check out my Résumé Hacks articles One thing that can take your résumé to the next level and Upgrade your résumé in 30 minutes or less.

If you feel your résumé needs an overhaul, you might find my article New year, new résumé helpful.