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Résumé Mistakes College Students Should Avoid

Nothing, and I mean nothing, aggravates me more than losing out on an opportunity because of one silly mistake. That is why when I submit something- let’s say a blog entry to a company website- I have three editors to pass through BEFORE it gets posted. Paranoia? Sure, you can look at it that way. But I like to view it as precaution. Spell check may catch a few things, but it does not fix everything. Résumé mistakes are crucial. Which is why I suggested way back when that you take your current résumé to your writing and career centers to avoid the soon-to-be listed egregious and killing interview mistakes. Now, I know it’s not considered polite to have a laugh at other people’s expense, so if you want you can view this as a learning opportunity of what not to do. And if you laugh in the process, don’t worry I won’t tell a soul.

First off, a list of my own personal mistakes.

  • Not using a professional email. The one you used in high school just doesn’t cut it in real life. Usually, people will utilize some combination of their first and last name. Avoid nicknames and combinations that give off an unprofessional vibe.
  • Giving references without any of their contact information. An employer is not going to track down these people for you. Names mean nothing without numbers and email addresses.
  • Inconsistent styles throughout the resume. Employers want simple and not flashy. Align everything to one side of the page and decide if you are going to use periods at the end of every sentence. Here’s a quick hint: you should. Keep the same font size as well.
  • Mistakes in years. I was in school from 2007-2011, not 207-2011.

Now, here are some examples of mistakes other people have made.

  • Skills: “I know how to type on the computer without looking.” Good for you, except that skill is somewhat expected at least for college students and graduates after 1999. Generation X and before can get away with “hunting and pecking” but you, my friends, cannot.
  • Do not call yourself a “loyal and dedicated employee” but then tell potential employers “feel free to reach out to me while at work.”
  •  Adding excessive and outdated awards and achievements. I know you might be proud of being the town’s Pie Eating Champion, but nobody else cares. Include awards that show off your leadership or managing skills, your dedication or your experience. Use your best judgment, but I would avoid using awards and acknowledgements before high school unless it is something really exceptional. Generally keep their numbers down too, maybe three or four. The space on your résumé should be mostly taken up by experience and useful skills.
  • Do not use colored paper or glitter. Seriously, I’ve seen that. Your résumé is not a preschool art project. Professional résumés use actual résumé paper or just plain white printer paper– no loose leaf.
  • It’s usually a good idea to personalize your résumé and cover letter to the company you are currently applying for. It’s usually in bad taste if you send a résumé to a company stating you want a job at their rival firm.

I always do background research on these entries before I write them. While attempting this entry’s research, I came across many sites listing examples of actual mistakes taken from other people. You can do the same thing. Simply research other people’s mistakes and avoid them on your résumé. A great example comes from Humor Matters, where they list some extraordinary examples of bad mistakes. When you’re done, look back over your own résumé and catch the silly mistakes before they cost you a job interview.

Questions? Ideas or suggestions? Follow me on twitter @ChrisComella or email me at [email protected]

IMAGE: Courtesy of Aussie Résumés

Christopher Comella

Christopher earned his BA in Political Science from DePaul University in 2011, and is no stranger to writing and deadlines. One of his greatest assets is to add humor to even the driest of subjects, which is why half of his professors love him and the other half hated his work.

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