Top 10 Resume Blunders

1. Using MS Word “Resume Templates” for creating the resume.

For many, the first source of resume assistance in this day and age of the Personal Computer complete with Microsoft Office Suite is usually the “Resume Templates” found within MS Word. Sadly, while these templates result in fine looking printed resumes they achieve the worst possible results for electronic resumes. Bill Gates is not who you should be relying on for creating your resume. He has never had to even interview for a job in decades. Trust us, don’t use MS Word templates and instead create the resume from scratch using the template as a guide only.

If you are planning on sending your resume as an MS Word attachment, chances are software of some sort (referred to as Applicant Tracking Software or ATS) will be scanning your resume before a human ever sees it. The excessive usage of stylesheets, formatting, tables and cells that are part and parcel of the prefabricated template … among many other problems … will almost assuredly result in your resume causing a hiccup and getting belched out of a company’s tracking system.

2. Not adhering to the traditional reverse chronological format.

What all hiring managers care most about is your current or most recent one or two positions. As one reads back into your past they become less interested about jobs you held 10 or more years ago as they are mostly interested in what you have done during the past five years or so. You should always list the most recent job first, and your very first or earliest position down at the bottom or toward the end of the resume. Functional resumes are seen as a cover-up for gaps that doesn’t fool anyone except those candidates that insist on using them.

The two main resume formats are:
– Chronological
– Functional

There’s also the European “CV” version.

– Curriculum Vitae

Vitae, also known as curricula vitae or c.v., are documents that detail your academic and professional accomplishments. Vitae are more comprehensive documents than resumes. They are most often used for academic or research positions. This format type is used mainly by PhD’s, professors, research or engineering scientists who are expected to provide pages of manuscripts, books, articles, and journal features they’ve written during their lifetime. While resumes are rarely more than one or two pages long, vitae can be many pages in length. Fewer than 10% of the population will have a C.V. type resume.

3. Too cute or overly fancy fonts.

Too tiny or excessively fancy fonts can make it impossible to read your resume unless zoomed to 200% size or reformatted to a different font style. This will be more trouble than most readers will have time for. Thus your resume’s probability of being discarded in the circular or “delete” folder increases dramatically. Always use conventional text such as Times Roman (found in most newspapers) or Arial (found in many websites, E-zines, or advertising text).

4. Electronically Unfriendly Resume.

Not being “electronically savvy” in formatting the resume results in an electronically UNFRIENDLY resume format. Even if you create your resume from scratch and avoid the templates referred to in item #1 above, you must still exercise diligence. Avoid excessive graphics, clip art, cells, or tables. If you are a graphic artist or other fine artist, send your fancy PDF formatted resume along with the more plain MS Word rendition so someone has both versions.

Search Google with the key phrase “scannable resume” and you will find thousands of articles that provide many of the same, repeated guidelines for making certain your resume can be “read” by electronic corporate scanning systems.

5. Duplicate, conflicting or overlapping jobs.

Listing jobs such as weekend retail or Golf Course jobs, weekend real estate sales, retail store jobs, or others which conflict with the ultimate goal of the career you are pursuing accomplishes nothing other than sending contradictory messages. Never list overlapping jobs to make up for what you feel might be shortcomings in your “daytime” position. This will only confuse things and if you are lucky to obtain the interview will place you at the defensive end of a line of questioning that is counterproductive.

6. Splitting or embedding your “contact infor-mation.”

Never split your contact info so that part of it remains at the top of the resume while forcing the remaining remnant to down to the bottom. If someone has to search the bottom for the phone number, email address, or remaining contact info, they may easily get distracted before ever calling you … and move on to the next resume. Most individuals only spend three seconds looking at a resume and then move on to the next. Make sure your complete contact info including cell phone and email is all in one conspicuous location at the top. If you have a two-page resume, make sure you repeat the contact info on page two in the event it becomes separated from page one. This prevents “orphan” resume pages that no one can figure to whom they belong.

7. Inclusion of too-personal information.

Maybe you’re proud of your Democratic fundraising volunteer work. Or of your active membership in La Leche, PETA, or some other group. You should never mention marital status, size of family, political organizations or any other group unless it is related to the job you are applying for.

None of these items will add any benefit to the value of your resume. In fact, if the person you are meeting happens to be Republican and you mentioned working for a Democratic fund raiser … it will almost certainly backfire against you. Same goes for religious affiliation, sexual orientation, etc. It’s nobody’s business so why advertise it?

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8. Too long resume length.

For most positions in the entry to six-figure range, a two page resume should suffice. In fact, a one-page resume is sufficient for most individuals with less than 8 years of experience. Very few will care about the second page let alone make it to reading your third page. It is your most current experience that matters and that should be listed prominently, in a chronological format as the first item you elaborate on.

9. Cluttered Appearance.

Even a two-page resume may be unattractive to read if it is simply blocks of ongoing paragraphs packed into small, narrow page margins. Using bulletized lists breaks up and helps highlight strengths and features of your skills. Make sure you spend more time discussing what you’re doing in your current job than having two sentences on the current job and three paragraphs elaborating what you did back during college.

10. Omitting an Objective (While trying to make a career change).

If you are attempting a career change, the resume “Objective Statement” will be critical. Chances are your skills may not fit the job openings perfectly and the objective will help explain why you are submitting a resume for a job that is not necessarily the perfect fit. Written correctly, the Objective Statement alone (which is usually one of the first items a hiring manager or interviewer reads after the contact info) is enough to trigger a return call.

Each one of these tips can increase your chances of an interview “Call Back” by 100%! This means if you receive just one call within a certain week which you might not have because you followed that tip … you just increased your interview chances 100%.

Now imagine what can happen when you incorporate every tip outlined here … and spent time with either an expert resume writer or staffing consultant to coach you.

Your interview probability ratio will climb many hundreds of percentages as you “precision engineer” the resume so that it accomplishes its maximum potential of resulting in returned calls and interview invitations!

An excellent example of a conventional, popular resume format is found at Purdue University’s website.

Try this: Have a friend or colleague you trust look at the resume. After handing it to the person, remove it immediately in exactly five seconds.

Now ask what they remember seeing on it. If this sounds like a severe situation, it is not. That is representative of the net time and attention your resume will get in the course of a hyper-busy work day at any typical company. It better have contained precious verbiage and key terms that makes that person want it back to read more … or you will never hear back from them.

Frank G. Risalvato is a staffing and recruiting consultant actively working in the search profession since 1987. He has founded several companies and contributed hundreds of articles to the recruiting profession and speaks at trade associations meetings. He has appeared on TV, Radio, and has been called upon by state and federal agencies for expert testimony. His unique and original recruiter training services, books and kits are found on: or call (973) 300-1010 for more information on his custom one-on-one recruiter coaching and training support services. Email: Copyright 2006 © by Frank G. Risalvato

Frank Risalvato made the plunge into the search industry in 1987. Within two years he was earning fees on a monthly basis that were comparable to his entire previous annual salary. Today he specializes in the low to mid-six figure hires and manages multiple openings each month. Although he didn't invent recruiter training, he views himself as someone that improves, perfects, and enhances pre-existing techniques. His new book is "A Manager's Guide To Maximizing Search Firm Success."


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