Resume Pet Peeves

Two things happened last week that inspired this post: I reviewed all the resumes submitted to me for an assignment by my undergraduate students, and LinkedIn sent me an article about resume pet peeves. I thought it might be interesting to compare my pet peeves with those in the article by Louise Kursmark, an “Executive Resume Writer” and Career Consultant.

I’ll first summarize Kursmark’s list of pet peeves, and then add my own. Keep in mind that my pet peeves refer to resumes of current college students or new graduates, and hers may refer to resumes written by applicants at all levels of experience.

Kursmark’s Resume Pet Peeves

  • Too much information—no one needs more than two pages
  • Lack of focus—what are you offering?
  • Dense copy—keep it readable
  • Accomplishment-like statements—items on your resume that are activities, not accomplishments
  • Inefficient and ineffective formatting—stress the important information
  • Resume speak—don’t use buzz words when simple English is clearer

My Resume Pet Peeves (after agreeing with everything Kursmark said, I have a few more to add)

  • Inappropriate verb forms—use present tense for jobs or activities you’re still engaged in, past tense for things that are in the past. ALSO, use first person verbs (Manage, Produce, Write) not second person (Manages, Produces, Writes). The resume is by and about you, not about someone else. ALSO, use verbs, not gerunds (noun forms of verbs). That is Manage, Produce, Writing, not Managing, Producing, Writing.
  • Use of a software template—I don’t know who designed the templates that you can download from most word-processing software programs, but most of them certainly don’t provide you with a way to present yourself professionally, often forcing you to use inappropriate font sizes (too small AND too large), add unnecessary solid lines between sections, or create a table-like grid that is unprofessional and hard to read.
  • Uneven alignment and/or multiple indentations—Keep items flush left (except, possibly, for your heading contact information, which you can center if you must), keep the vertical “lines” of the text clear and clean. Don’t add multiple columns of text.
  • Information about high school—If what you did in high school is really relevant, you can keep it in, but I’ve only seen that happen a few times in 20+ years of reviewing resumes.
  • Lack of proofreading—A resume is, arguably, one of the most important documents you’ll ever produce. Read it over carefully, and then get someone else to read it over carefully, before you send it to anyone.

The primary job of the person who reads your resume is to cut down the pile of applicants to an appropriate number to interview. That means that on the first go round, they’re not necessarily reading to see who’s best, they’re reading to see which resumes they can toss. ANY ERROR is a good reason to toss a resume, so don’t let minor mistakes be the reason your experience isn’t given the consideration it’s due.

You will find more advice about how to write a good resume in my book’s Tip 38 Create (or update) your resume and Appendix I: Creating a resume. In my next post, I’ll write about my pet peeves with cover letters!