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More Common Resume Errors

Posted on: August 17th, 2010 by Michael Trust

As regular readers know, I wrote a blog awhile back about common resume errors.  Here are some more errors that you can add to your list when you proofread your resume.  Remember – even with spell check, grammar check, and the like, there is never, ever any excuse for any mistake on your resume. There is simply no room for error on such an important document. With that said, here are some things to watch for (and things that you'll have to find with a human eye):

  • Words that sound the same, but that have very different meanings. We all know these words – words like "their, there, and they're", "laid off" and "layed off".  Spell check won't catch these types of errors; you will have to. They are easy to make, and very easy to overlook, especially when you've worked on multiple drafts of your resume.
  • Watch those tenses: other than your current position, all past experiences should be written in the past tense. It's very easy to fall into the trap of writing in the present tense, or even switching between tenses as you're writing.  One way to avoid this problem is to simply write out all that you want to say, and not to worry about tense, grammar in general, etc. Then go back and read what you've written, and make the necessary adjustments. This will allow your thoughts to flow freely in the "thinking/writing" stage, and leave the proofreading to later. Just be sure that you do proofread.
  • Words and numbers that are similar in spelling, but have wholly different meanings.  Like the first bullet above – words that are easily mistyped like "pubic" instead of "public" or "manger" instead of "manager". The same could be said for numerical values, like phone numbers – it's very easy to transpose a digit in a phone number, especially if many of the digits are the same. After awhile, it all runs together, and it's easy to overlook, because the brain sees what the brain thinks should be there (what it thinks it should see). Have someone proofread for you to be sure that you're  not making any of these mistakes.
  • Documents titled "Resume" – simply stated: not needed; it's obvious.
  • The phrase "references provided upon request" – simply stated: not needed; it's obvious.
  • A section for Hobbies and Interests: unless directly related to the job – leave it off.
  • Any legally protected information should be left off (at least in the United States) – things like date of birth, marital status, disability status, height, weight, eye and hair color, race, etc.
  • Outdated skills – things like typing speed, using a fax machine, email, photocopier, etc. – all should be left off. In today's modern office, these things are expected and/or are of less importance (e.g.:  typing speed).
  • In the United States, photos are not generally used on resumes, unless the position is specifically related to how you look, like a model, or actress, or something similar.
  • Video resumes are all the rage, but are fraught with peril and most hiring managers, and larger organizations frown up on them due to the legal issues they raise.
  • Marital status is never appropriate on a resume in the United States.
  • Existence of children is never appropriate on a resume in the United States.
  • Date of Birth is never appropriate on a resume in the United States.
  • Political affiliation is never appropriate on a resume in the United States.
  • Religion is never appropriate on a resume in the United States, unless in some very specific circumstances a certain religious belief is required for the job (e.g.: to teach at a Buddhist school, you have to be Buddhist).  If you do volunteer work at a religious or political organization, you can list these as "non-profit" and discuss the work rather than the context.

For the bulleted items that describe errors not appropriate in the United States: there are legal issues for an employer around these items and putting them on your resume will almost always guarantee that your resume will not even be reviewed; no employer wants to take the legal risk. 
These are all easy things to fix and to proofread. Let your resume stand out for the right reasons, not for the wrong ones.

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