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Top 5 Resume Mistakes To Avoid

Many students are putting the final touches on their resumes in preparation for iCareer Day and other #SUCareerWeek events. If you’re not on campus, consider using the change of seasons as a reminder to take a look at your resume and get everything up-to-date. Your last step should be to check for these common mistakes before you share you resume with an employer.

1. Spelling or Grammar Mistakes

You may roll your eyes at this one, but these mistakes still happen. When a recruiter finds a typo on your resume, it sends a clear message that you lack attention to detail and may call into question your overall writing skills.

Spelling and grammar checks in Word are a great start but they don’t capture everything. You need to read your resume over for spelling mistakes and reading it out loud can help catch grammatical issues. Your best bet for avoiding spelling and grammar mistakes is  to have someone else review your resume. Sometimes all it takes is another pair of eyes to catch a mistake you’ve been glossing over for weeks.

2.  Bad Formatting

Poor formatting will make even the best resume content difficult to read. One of the biggest mistakes is trying to cram too much information on the page. Keep in mind that a balance of white space and type on your resume is probably the first thing the human eye will notice. You should have spaces between headers and also in between individual positions.

White Space spelled out on a white background
Remember not to cram too much information on the page; your resume should have plenty of white space to make it easier on the eye. Image via

Other formatting mistakes to avoid include anything that makes your resume stand out for the wrong reason. A crazy border, an unusual font, or using multiple colors distracts from the content of your resume and comes across as unprofessional. There is certainly room in many industries to use some graphic elements in your resume, but never to the point that it takes away from communicating a clear story about you.

Finally, make sure your formatting is consistent. This includes how you present information, the size of your bullets, the indentation of each section of bullets, and headings.

3. Lacks Transferrable Skills

When you’re applying for your first professional experience it can be difficult to see how some of your past experiences relate to the role you’re seeking. However, even roles like camp counselor, waitress, or babysitter provide for an opportunity to use soft skills such as organization, communication, and conflict resolution. This also applies to people who are coming from a purely technical background and are now trying to make the transition into more of a consulting or analyst role. In this instance, you will want to focus on your teamwork, interactions with clients or senior management, and problem-solving skills rather than only highlighting your technical expertise.

4. Missing Keywords

Each of your bullets should begin with a strong action verb so avoid starting them with phrases such as “Responsible for” or “Duties included.” It is fine to use the same word a few times throughout your resume but try not to have the same action verb in bullets back-to-back since that can be visually distracting.

Do your research to understand what some of the keywords are in your industry and include them where it makes sense. You will want to read industry publications and some of the learning outcomes in your course syllabi could give you great examples. As much as keywords are important, do not try to force them into bullets where they simply don’t fit.

5. Multiple Pages

Perhaps instead of cramming information onto one page, you’ve decided that going on a second page is good idea. Please note there are industries where multiple page resumes are expected such as education and library science. However, if you have less than 10 years of experience and are applying for roles at a corporation, a one page resume is strongly recommended. Recruiters take approximately 6 seconds to scan a resume so the chances of a second page getting looked it are very slim.

Woman in business attire and glass reading several sheets of paper
Recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds scanning a resume; make sure yours is formatted for quick scanning. Image via

The first thing you need to do is be critical about what you are choosing to include on you resume. Are certain experiences more relevant than others? Can you trim some bullets from certain roles? Do you need to list every leadership activity or can you pick the ones where you made the most impact?

Once you’ve trimmed the fat from your resume, the next thing you can do is try a few formatting adjustments. You can make your margins 0.5 all around, reduce your font size (try not to go smaller than 10 in standard fonts), put your contact information on one line, and reduce the spaces between your sections to 0.5.

You stand a much better chance of your resume standing out for the right reasons if you avoid these mistakes.

Do you have any other resume tips or tricks? Share them in the comments below.


Meredith Tornabene

Meredith served as the iSchool's Associate Director of Career Counseling from 2014 - 2016.

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