Common Resume Faux Pas And How To Fix Them

Published: Feb 17, 2012


By Alex Twersky, Marketing Consultant and Career Expert

Your resume is one of the first impressions you will make on a potential employer. In a highly competitive job market, you need a resume that’s focused, accomplishment-oriented and highlights your skills and talents to their fullest. So take note of the following common resume missteps and how you can easily correct them:


You might have the urge to get right to the job descriptions in your resume, but it makes for a better story if you set the stage for what someone is about to read. If you just dive into your most recent employment experience, a reader has to figure out from context what it is you do, what your specialties are, and how much experience you have. To correct this, start your resume with a strong “headline” that captures in a nutshell what your professional capacity and years of experience are. Supplement that with “sub-heads” that outline your three strongest professional skills. Don’t forget to pepper these with specific details. If you’re a writer, don’t just say you’re skilled at writing articles, but specify what range of subjects you’ve written about, and how many different pieces you have produced over the years.


It’s a natural temptation to include every single responsibility you have in your job description. Most people have difficulty separating their key responsibilities from the more mundane ones. There’s also some funny math at play: you might think the more you write, the more substantial your role seems. In some ways, these are all common resume mistakes. First, just stick to your most vital responsibilities, and make your case succinctly. The shorter a job description is the more likely the reader will be to retain the information. If you put leading a department on the same par as attending weekly meetings, you’re going to dilute the power of the former. So apply the following litmus test: jot down your five most crucial responsibilities. If you’re tempted to add more, ask yourself how important the additional ones seem in comparison to the top five you initially listed. If they don’t pass the so-called “who cares?” test, then don’t include them on your resume.


You can say the same thing in many different ways. When it comes to describing what you do on the job, you can say it plainly or add details that really show your level or responsibility or accomplishment. Try to use data that express the impact your work has had on a specific project, or the overall organization. Let’s illustrate this with an example. Say you manage a team of people. You can simply write “Manage professional staff.” But imagine yourself reading that line, and ask whether it tells the whole story. Now contrast this with the following, fuller description, which really shows the scope of responsibility: “Manage a team of 20 professionals, including writers, editors and designers.” By adding relevant detail to your descriptions, you invite the reader to “see” and “feel” the professional world you inhabit.

The list of resume faux pas goes on and on, but perhaps you want to get cracking and apply these tips to your existing resume and see the difference it makes? Check back here at Wiley Job Network for future articles on how to make your resume one of the sharpest tools in your career arsenal.

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