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How to Screw Up a Good Resume

Contributed by Drew Miller

Landing a job can be tough, especially in the IT industry. But before you can get the job, you have to get the interview. That’s where the resume comes in. Your resume should communicate your abilities to a hiring manager and attract enough attention to get you a first interview. There are many good resources on how to write a good resume. This article will describe some of the more common mistakes that can land your resume in the trash.

1. Make spellling mestakes

Nothing kills a resume faster than spelling errors. This tells the employer that you are lazy and do not pay attention to detail; two qualities they want to avoid. Don’t simply rely on the spellchecker to find mistakes because it will overlook correctly spelled words being used in the wrong places. Also be careful to use the correct spelling of words that can be spelled different ways, for example: there, their and they’re or accept and except.

2. Use the same resume template as everyone else

That ‘Contemporary Resume’ template in MS Word looks pretty nice, right? Not if you want your resume to get noticed. Your resume should look professional but it should also stand out from the others. That means putting in a little extra effort to create your own layout.

3. Add ‘References available upon request’ at the bottom

Employers already know this; they don’t need you to remind them. You would be better off using this space to describe how you reduced costs by 20% at your last job.

4. Switch back and forth between tense when describing activities

You want to show a hiring manager that you have good communication skills. The resume demonstrates that you understand the rules of grammar and punctuation.

“Install, configure and maintained Linux web server running Apache 2.0.” A sentence like this shows that you probably slept through 8th grade English. Basically, any day-to-day activities at your current job should be described in the present tense, all other activities should be in the past tense.

5. Include pictures and logos

An MCP logo on a business card is fine. An MCP logo on a resume is gimmicky and distracting. Sending a photo of yourself with a resume is completely unacceptable. You’re trying to get a job with an IT firm, not a modeling agency.

6. Make your resume longer than one page

There are cases where this is appropriate but in general your resume should only be one page long. The worst thing that could happen is that the second page could get lost leaving an interviewer with an incomplete resume. Also, do not add a second page unless you have enough information to completely fill it.

7. Cut and paste your formatted resume when applying for online job postings

Some online job boards allow you to submit Word or RTF documents but most simply use an HTML form to email your resume text to an employer. Pasting your resume into one of these forms will remove all formatting and will usually destroy the nice appearance. In addition to your regular resume, maintain a ‘text only’ version using Notepad or other basic text editor. By using a ‘text only’ resume, you can guarantee that your resume is properly spaced and section headers are noticeable.

8. Forget to update your contact information

So your resume has made it through the HR minefield. The IT Director likes it and wants to call you for an interview but keeps getting that annoying message saying “Your call cannot be completed at this time”. You will never get an interview if the employer can’t contact you. Double check that your resume correctly lists your name, address, phone number and email address. Be sure to include at least one number or address that you can guarantee will still be good in six months.

9. Leave off an Objective or Summary of Qualifications

A manager with several resumes to review will spend less than a minute reading yours. Make sure the manager quickly sees all your best features by including a short statement that summarizes why you are a good fit for the position.

10. Print your resume on regular copy paper

When mailing your resume you have additional opportunities to impress an employer that are lost when submitting via email. Spend the extra buck and get some quality paper and matching envelopes. Again, the point is to make your resume stand out.

Your resume is a sales tool. Use it to highlight your good qualities and hide your bad qualities (such as a lack of experience). Keep in mind that your resume must be accurate. If you lie or embellish the facts on a resume, sooner or later, you will get caught. Put in some effort to develop a good, strong resume and make your goal of landing an IT job a little easier.

Additional Reading:
Resume Tips
Resume Mistakes

By Drew Miller