5 Things Nobody Wants to See on Your Resume

ability-to-smell-fear-cartoon-smAs a former career advisor at my university (Friday was my last day), I was asked to critique hundreds of resumes for undergraduates, graduate students and alumni. During that time, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, based on extensive training and feedback from students who were applying for jobs.

Long story short… I saw a lot. There were some beautiful resumes that I wanted to hang on my refrigerator, and others that needed some tweaking. Over time, I discovered that what you leave out of a resume may be just as important as what you put in.

In honor of my last day in the university’s career center, I bring you the five things you should eliminate from your resume (and how you can change them)!

5 Things Nobody Wants to See on Your Resume

1. Lengthy chunks of text

Humans have the attention span of goldfish. (I think that’s why we respond so well to lists, in comparison to full articles!) An employer is going to dread reading through paragraphs upon paragraphs about what you accomplished at each job. For an easy-to-read resume that doesn’t lack the important details, use bullet points to distinguish different tasks you performed. Start each bullet point with a strong action verb, and remember that the way your resume is formatted can either make it easier or harder for an employer to read. Err on the side of “easier” by using bullet points instead of huge chunks of text.

images2. Clichés

If I had a dollar for every “creative problem-solver” and “dynamic team player” I encountered as a career advisor, I could probably buy out the entire accessories section at Forever 21. (If only.) This tends to arise when people decide to add the soft skills into their “skills” sections. Trust me – if I have seen more of these than I can count, then employers and human resources managers are especially likely to have seen them in their piles of resumes. To avoid making employers roll their eyes at your resume, talk about your hard skills instead of soft skills. (Tweet this!) Does the position require a programming background? Then don’t call yourself a “skilled programmer” – instead, say that you are “proficient in Java.” Will your position require creativity? Refer to your proficiency in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. In list form, include languages you speak fluently, software/hardware that you can use and other techniques you can implement that are valuable to your field (ie: laboratory techniques for a medical position).  These will paint a much better picture of who you are as an employee and what you can provide the company.

3. Ridiculous email addresses

Usually, an email address that includes some variation of your name or company is going to be the ideal — most other addresses will seem unprofessional. Most of the students I encountered last year used their university email accounts, so they managed to steer clear of this mistake. However, I did meet a handful of students with “lilhottie55@domain.com”-esque email addresses, which employers are not going to love. Make a good first impression by using a professional email address. (You have no excuse not to! You can make a new account online for free.)

4. Blatant lies

You would think that this one goes without saying, but you would be wrong. There were times when I was helping a student with a resume, and when I asked him or her “What exactly does this bullet point mean?” or “What did you do at this company?” I received vague answers that tipped me off that something was amiss. Sometimes the student admitted to the lie right away – one student, after warming up to me, explained that his “sales experience” was actually an Internet scam that he decided to participate in. For others, it took longer to draw things out – one student, for example, had appointed himself to a management position that didn’t exist at his company. No matter how limited or extensive your experience is, be truthful about what you’ve done (and leave the scams off). Employers will be able to sense a lie from a mile away, and this will quickly erase all of your credibility.

5. “References available upon request.”

If you hand in a resume that says “references available upon request,” and then the employer asks to see your references, if you don’t hand them over right then, your references aren’t really “available upon request.” Instead, create a separate reference sheet to hand in to employers at interviews or to those who request one, and save that extra line of space on your resume. (Besides, “references available upon request” is kind of silly – if an employer requests your reference sheet, you’d better give them one!)


What are some resume gaffes that you’ve seen or been guilty of yourself?

6 Replies to “5 Things Nobody Wants to See on Your Resume”

  1. Wow I found this post to be pretty useful and I wanted it to share it with my friends on Facebook and on my blog. I am a graphic designer currently working in retail, and I notice some of these Resume faux-pas constantly when people turn in applications to me at work. I better review my resume to make sure I don’t fall into any of these 5 “Don’ts.”

  2. Definitely agree with #3 and #5! I saw all kinds of email addresses on a project I recently worked on. It’s much harder for employers to take you seriously or even email you back when you have a crazy address. When you’ve got dozens of messages to send, it’s much easier to type “johndoe3@example.com” than “xCoolxDudex85xx@example.com.”
    Same goes for references. When employers have dozens of people to contact already, tracking you down again just to ask for references makes more work for them.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

      I’m always amazed at the email addresses people use once they get into college! We had an assignment in my human resources class last year that required us to look through real resumes and figure out who we would hire for some hypothetical job. The identifying information was left out (ie: domain names, phone numbers, etc) but there were several email addresses for someone applying to a corporate position that were completely crazy!

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