Common Resume Mistakes

Posted on Sunday 15 February 2015


We have already covered how to secure a pay rise here, but what if you don’t even have a job yet? For many Canadians, particularly those just about to leave education, getting a job is the single biggest factor in improving their financial outlook. After all, the bigger the income column, the easier it is to build a successful budget (unless it’s windfall income , which poses some unique challenges). In this article we’ll cover five things that you shouldn’t put on your resume, and provide some suggestions of what to write instead.

Personal information. In Canada, there are some questions that a potential employer cannot legally ask in a job interview. To prevent discrimination, they cannot ask for your age, your citizenship or immigration status, your religion, your disabilities (in terms broader than “can you perform all tasks essential to this job?”) your marital or family status, or your political affiliations. Don’t include a photo with your resume, and remember that you don’t have to give your year of graduation alongside your education. When it comes to the contact information that you have to provide, don’t use your funny novelty email address. If you haven’t already, set up a professional-looking address under your real name.

Irrelevant experience. Are you applying to work as a software developer? Then you don’t need to include your high school newspaper round. This gives you more space to focus on your relevant experience and detail your achievements. That said, you might not have a great deal of relevant experience, particularly at the entry level. If you have career gaps or a very short working history, try to spin them into something relevant to the job. You should be customising your resume for each application anyway. Speaking of irrelevant activities, your hobbies do not belong on your resume unless they are directly relevant to the job. For that software developer job, there is no point in mentioning your interest in life drawing. However, if you have built some programs at home as a hobby, throw that into the resume.

Unquantified self-praise. “I am a very good worker”. That’s great, really. Everyone wants to employ a very good worker, but the problem is that anyone can claim to be one on their resume. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of filling your resume with vague statements about your responsibilities, when employers really want to see results. Where possible, put a figure on how well you did. Did you increase customer retention by one third? Were your sales in the top 10 percent nationwide for your company? Did you deliver a project $100,000 under budget? Recruiters love numbers. Don’t stuff them into your resume wherever they will fit, but a few well-chosen figures can really help you land that job.


Cliches. Are you a “go-getter” or a “team player”? Are you “dynamic”, “self-motivated”, and “results-driven”? Do you “proactively” “think outside the box”? Resume, meet shredder. In 2014, the American jobs website CareerBuilder polled hiring managers on the terms they least liked to see on a resume. Those seven terms were among the worst 15. When you are drafting your resumes, try to keep these overused terms out. What do recruiters like to see instead? Well, mostly verbs. “Achieved”, “improved”, “trained”, “managed”, “created”. Conveniently enough, this fits very well with the quantification mentioned above. If you can say that you “managed a team of up to twelve people”, for example, you can impress a hiring manager twice in one sentence.

Stylistic errors. First, in an age of automated spell-checking, there is no excuse for a resume dat luks liek dis. Make sure that you proof-read, because mistakes are unprofessional and will direct your job application straight into the garbage. Keep your formatting simple. A bit of effort put into presentation can make your resume stick out, but don’t go overboard. All text should be typed in a plain, classic font like Arial, and in no colour except black.Underlined, bold or italic text is best avoided, except for headings. No pictures whatsoever should be included. Even if you are applying for a graphic design job, that’s what a portfolio is for.