While crafting your resume, knowing what you should do is just as important as know what to avoid. This article will provide guidance around the top 10 pitfalls you'll want to avoid in order to find resume success.

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Creating a succinct and attractive resume that contains well-prioritized data is a challenge for anyone writing their resume. Whether it be admissions into collegiate programs, landing an entry-level position or making a career switch, have no doubt that you will be competing with hundreds of others! Your resume must portray you as the best candidate, within the most favorable light and, ultimately, cast the view to the admissions or hiring teams that you are the most appropriate choice for selection. This challenge can be made much easier if you avoid some simple, but oft-forgotten pitfalls.

Read more about resumes in our resume writing series:


The following 10 pitfalls are the most common. Read this article to help ensure you dodge these resume perils as well as garner additional help from services across the web.

1. Formatting is Key!

The saying that you only get one first impression holds weight in both social and professional settings. The impression that your 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! While it's preferable to stick with the tried and true Times New Roman or Arial, it's most important that you don't intermingle a variety of font types. Additionally, stick to a point size no greater than 11 - filling up page space with large print will be seen as a way to hide or cover up a lack of experiences. Bolding should be left to the header information (name, address, phone number, email) and subheadings within the document (Profile, Education, Work History). The format of the resume will be determined by your career focus; 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 receive hundreds of resumes, thus they do not have the luxury of thoroughly reading each resume – candidates must provide necessary data quickly and effectively. Your Qualifications Summary should include information as to what is sought (entrance into a university program or a position) and your qualifications as they are related. Employment History, Accomplishments, and Education should build upon what is provided in the Qualifications Summary.

3. Avoid Self-serving, Objective Statements

The world today is highly competitive - admissions directors and hiring managers are not interested in what you want (i.e.: "Seeking admission into an MBA program to further my career potential"). Rather, they want to know what their institutions gain by adding you to the mix; think JFK's classic speech, "Ask not what your country…" Taking this approach will provide a much greater outcome on the road to acceptance or hiring.

4. Poor Prioritization

Your resume should be a true reflection of your professional and academic background as it applies to what the program or targeted position 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. Showcase and Quantify Your Accomplishments

Of course a resume should display your accomplishments- that is largely why we craft resumes, isn't it? However, all too often, these accolades are buried within dense blocks of text. As mentioned earlier, admissions directors and hiring managers will not read every line of a resume to determine what each candidate has to offer, so make sure you showcase what you have in a manner that is easy to pick out from the page. However, be careful- 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 as part of your resume.

7. Inappropriate Length

We've all be told, at least once, that all resumes should never be longer than a single page. Sure, this is the standard, however let's be clear- 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

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, it should not be repeated elsewhere. Not only is this tiring for those reviewing the resume, it's simply a waste of valuable space and looks as if you're 'padding' to reach a particular length

10. Spelling or Grammatical Errors

Once a spelling or grammatical error is detected by an admissions director or hiring manager, many 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 2007 instead of 2015), 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 is a plethora of simple mistake you can make that will significantly damage your resume's quality and reduce your chances of getting the job you want. If you're worried about these resume perils and want to mitigate the risk, think about using a professional resume writer. They will ensure that your resume gets the spotlight for all the right reasons!

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