5 Common Resume Mistakes That Scream “Unprofessional”

If you’re sending out countless resumes but still aren’t getting any responses, it’s time to take a good, hard look over what you’ve been sending out. Are you committing one of these common cover letter or resume mistakes that are apt to make you appear unprofessional?

Top 5 Common Resume Mistakes:

1. You’ve Missed Errors

Even if you read and re-read your resume until your eyes went crossed, just one or two resume mistakes communicates carelessness to an employer. Once you’ve run the document through spell-check, take it over to a grammar checker (Grammarly is a popular one) to find any errors you’ve overlooked. And then, ship a copy to a reliable friend – possibly even one of your references – so another human being can point out any inconsistencies a computer program can miss.

Pro Tip: Keep it simple! Powerful messages don’t require complex language. Think of the best advertising campaigns you’ve experienced, and you won’t think of War and Peace. Search out lists of impactful words, making sure to snatch keywords directly from any job postings you’re responding to, then craft sleek, direct sentences that outline your suitability for the post.

2. You Used Inappropriate Language

Abbreviations and symbols that seem at home in a text message or on Twitter have no place in your carefully crafted catalog of professional accomplishments. Same goes for cuss words. It may seem slightly terrifying that this needs to be said, in which case you would be astonished at some of the major resume mistakes and job search blunders the average citizen has committed.

Pro Tip: Complete sentences may appear frightening at first, but worry not! The internet exists to supply you with examples of language that is appropriate for resumes and cover letters. This is not an endorsement for plagiarism (a.k.a. copying and pasting). Make sure to use documents you find as examples,  altering language and re-writing sentences to apply to you and your situation.

3. You Included a Photograph

There is a time and place for an employer to see your picture, and that is when they Google your social media profiles. Keep that valuable real estate on your resume for more pertinent information, like why you’re an ideal candidate for the job. While popping a photo on your C.V. may seem innocuous – and in some regions, is even expected – many employers will weed out these applications to avoid potential allegations of discrimination. Plus, photos can clog up applicant tracking systems (ATS) software, giving them just one more reason to chuck your application in the circular file.

Pro Tip: Make sure to include well-framed head-and-shoulders photos on all your social media accounts, and include links to those profiles beside your email address and phone number. That means ditching the oh-so-adorable selfie you snapped with your pooch/bf/besties. While you’re at it, you may as well adjust the privacy settings on those less-than-flattering pics – or better still, delete them altogether.

4. You Tried to Get Fancy – and Failed

A resume is a document with a very specific purpose: to communicate your suitability for an employment opportunity. The only thing you communicate when you try to jazz up your application with a pixelated clipart border on imitation parchment paper is that you’re stuck in a time warp circa 1993. Papyrus might be the perfect font for posters advertising your block party, but it has no place here. Sure, graphic designers and other creative professionals have done some amazing things with infographics and other non-traditional resumes, but this isn’t about them. If you look at your resume and find yourself getting nostalgic for your old Geocities website, it may be time to start over from scratch.

Pro Tip: When in doubt, go back to basics. It’s tough to go wrong with crisp, black text on a clean, white background. Choose fonts based on readability, keeping in mind that the best font for the job changes depending on whether you’re staying digital or going hard copy. If you are snail mailing, or doing an in-person drop-off, it can help to pick a heftier paper – even one with a texture – in order to stand out from the crowd.

5. You Didn’t Get Fancy Enough

Templates are wonderful tools. They offer us guidance in an uncertain world. They let us know important formatting guidelines that don’t come up very often, like where the return address goes on a letter. The thing is, like love, sometimes 8 point Times New Roman just ain’t enough. Regardless of how much – or how little – experience you have to include on your resume, each page should look nice when you take it in as a whole. Designers refer to this as balancing negative (white) space. Big blobs of text should be broken into smaller chunks, while paragraphs or lines that look too small should be bolstered, or incorporated into another section. Small fonts will look cramped, and overly large fonts will look goofy.

Pro Tip: Get help if you need it. Some of us were simply not built to fathom the complexities of design, and that’s okay (well, unless you’re a designer…) For those of us who lack that one person in our network with those particular gifts, there exists a veritable plethora of options for hiring one. And for those of us lacking money, at least some of these talented individuals may be willing to barter or donate their time and skills – it never hurts to ask.

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Jobsearch, Resumes