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Career Planning: Avoiding the Top 10 Pitfalls of Resume Writing

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Provided by our partner ResumeEdge -the leading student resume writing services resource

Creating a succinct and attractive resume that contains well-prioritized data is one of the major challenges facing candidates today. Not only will an applicant's resume be competing against hundreds of others for admission into undergraduate and graduate programs, it must clearly portray the candidate in the most favorable light and as the most appropriate choice for selection. In order to do this, several resume pitfalls must be avoided.

Read through the top 10 pitfalls of resume writing listed below, and get additional help prioritizing your information by taking advantage of a professional resume writing service like ResumeEdge today.

1. Poor or Inappropriate Formatting
The first impression a resume makes on an admissions director or hiring manager is generally the most lasting. Large blocks of uninterrupted text, small margins, text that is very small, or an abundance of bolding, italics, and "designer" fonts make documents difficult to read.

Use only one font, preferably Times New Roman or Arial, in a point size greater than 11. Bolding should be left to the header information (name, address, phone number, email) and subheadings within the document (Profile, Education, Work History). A candidate's career focus will determine whether the resume format will be conservative (i.e.: those seeking admission to graduate school or MBA programs) or more stylish (i.e.: Artists, Performers).

2. Lack of Focus
An effective resume should indicate to the reader within seven seconds, or less, that the candidate's targeted goal and qualifications match their career aspiration. It's not enough to list schooling, work history, and activities. Admissions directors and hiring managers will not thoroughly read a resume to cull needed information - candidates must provide this data quickly and effectively. Qualifications Summaries should include information as to what is sought (entrance into a university program or a position) and the candidate's qualifications that are related to this. Employment History, Accomplishments, and Education should build upon what is provided in the Qualifications Summary.

3. Using Self-serving Objective Statements
In today's competitive environment, admissions directors and hiring managers are not interested in what a candidate wants (i.e.: Seeking admission into an MBA program to further my career potential). Rather, they seek candidates that clearly state how their presence in the school or on the job will enhance the program or the company.

4. Poor Information Prioritization
A resume should reveal the candidate's professional and academic background as it applies to the program being sought or the targeted position and in reverse-chronological order (the last job worked or school attended is listed first within that section). If Education is an important qualification it should be presented before Work History, not dead last on the document. If real-world experience is valued, then it should come before Education. If special skills, such as IT, are at a premium, they should be showcased immediately after the opening summary, not left to the end of a two-page resume.

5. Failure to Showcase and Quantify Accomplishments
Admissions directors and hiring managers will not read every line of a resume to determine what a candidate has to offer, especially if it's buried within dense blocks of text. Applicants must provide special sections indicating professional or academic achievements and these must be quantified. It's not enough to write: Excelled in school programs. Admissions directors want to know details about what school programs, your exact GPA, type of scholarships, or internships which will prove the claim of excellence.

6. Including Non-relevant Data
Birth dates, religious affiliations, race, social security numbers, and marital data should never be included.

7. Inappropriate Length
There is no one correct page length for a resume. The document is as long as it has to be in order to provide a clear and effective picture of the candidate. Professionals with many years of experience will most likely have two pages. To cram this data into one page or exclude important information in order to reach an arbitrary length will only dilute candidacy. The key is to provide only that data which is relevant to the current academic or career goal.

Please note: Some schools do have page length restrictions and these are posted on their websites. It's always wise to follow those guidelines.

8. Personalizing the Document and using Casual Language
Modern resumes are business documents and should never be personalized with use of "I" "my" "we" or other personal pronouns. Additionally, the tone of the resume should always remain professional and businesslike - slang is always excluded.

9. Redundancy of Information
Once information has been provided in a resume, whether it's in the Qualifications Summary, Career Accomplishments section, or Work History section, it should not be repeated elsewhere. Admissions directors and hiring managers soon tire of redundancy and feel the candidate is padding the resume to reach a certain page length.

10. Spelling or Grammatical Errors and Incorrect Verb Tense
Once a spelling or grammatical error is detected by an admissions director or hiring manager, they will stop reading the resume. Their trust in that person's abilities is forever lost. This is also true when dates of employment or education are obviously incorrect (i.e.: a recent college graduate listing the date of graduation as 2001 instead of 2009), or when verb tense does not match dates of employment (i.e.: current jobs have duties listed in present tense; previous jobs have duties listed in past tense).

As you can see, there are plenty of simple mistake you can make that will significantly damage your resume's quality and reduce your chances of getting the job you want. Avoid these pitfalls by using professional resume writing services from ResumeEdge today.

Career Planning: How to Write a Resume

Want to read more information on how to write a resume? Take a look at the following articles on resume writing:

 

ResumeEdge - resume writing service

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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