Money & Career

9 things to avoid when writing a resume

By: Yuki Hayashi

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

9 things to avoid when writing a resume

By: Yuki Hayashi
Your resume is your first opportunity to make a great impression on potential employers. Make sure yours does just that by avoiding some common resume blunders. The human resource experts we spoke to listed the following mistakes as the 9 résumé fails most likely to get your CV shredded faster than you can say "The position has already been filled."

1. Lies, fibs and exaggerated achievements
"Be honest about your skills, achievements and work history. Exaggerating these things can come back at you when your potential employer does background checks or asks you to perform at a certain skill level the first day," says Debby Carreau, the president of Inspired HR in Calgary.

Sometimes it takes even less time to get busted.

Manny Pardo, the owner of Flour Girls, a pastry shop in Milton, Ont., recounts an interview that went south very fast: "The candidate had mentioned fluency in Spanish. While it was irrelevant to the position, I introduced myself in Spanish and he had no idea how to reply! I cut the interview right there: There's no point wasting time with a blatant liar."

Editing suggestion: Stick to the facts.

2. Listing irrelevant work experience
"If you're applying to my company as a copywriter or graphic designer, I don't need to see your experience as a Blue Mountain ski instructor from 10
 years ago," explains Caroline Piggott, the owner of Flourish, a Toronto business-support services firm.

Editing suggestion: Stay focused on the (desired) job at hand.

If you're looking for jobs in multiple industries, you should maintain a couple of different resumes.

Using the example above, you should maintain one resume for graphic design positions (highlighting any pertinent education, internship and work experience) and another resume for sports industry positions (this is where your ski instructor experience and any volunteer coaching become relevant).

If you encounter a job that merges both skill profiles -- for instance, a marketing gig at a ski destination -- create a hybrid résumé that covers both.

Page 1 of 3 -- Discover why it's important to keep your resume free of fancy fonts and designs on page 2

3. Unquantified self-praise
"When someone has a professional summary section on their resume that begins, ‘a consummate professional...' they lose all credibility. Such individuals are just not taken seriously," says Bruce Hurwitz, the president of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. "Candidates must present objective facts about their successes -- not platitudes."

Editing suggestion: Don't say you're a pro; show you're a pro.

Quantify your professional achievements. If you've improved client retention by 35 per cent over the two years you've held your current sales position, say so explicitly.

Be similarly concrete when listing volunteer work you've done in the company's name. If you chaired last year's United Way committee, note that it raised $10,000 in two weeks -- 25 per cent more than the previous year's take. Remember, these achievements have to be accurate.

4. Over-the-top design flourishes
Resume files should be easy to open, easy to print and easy to understand. Use a common font, and don't get creative with borders, lest part of your résumé is cropped during printing.

Likewise with photos: Unless you're going for a gig as a model or actor, photos are irrelevant, overly ink consuming and possibly cringe inducing.

"I remember a résumé where the applicant was suggesting he was 'a real go-getter,' so he inserted a picture of himself in an action pose, which took up 30 per cent
of the page," says Tom Armour, a human resource executive with Toronto-based staffing agency High Return Selection. "It was overwhelming," he adds.

Editing suggestion:
Keep things simple. Use the resume templates in your word processing program, for instance.

5. Overly creative job titles
"Use common, searchable terms and titles. Social media and resume-tracking systems use search capability to screen hundreds of resumes. If you use 
expressions such as, 'I am a customer evangelist' they may not be picked up by the systems," explains Armour.

And even if a live person is filtering the resumes, they may be alienated by overly quaint turns of phrase.

Editing suggestion:
Use the industry job title most commonly associated with your position. Even if you want to stand out as an edgy, innovative type, save the evangelizing for the second-round interview.

Page 2 of 3 -- Learn how the right email address can boost your appearance of professionalism on page 3

6. A "to whom it may concern" vibe
"Job seekers should customize their resumes for each job they apply to. When you find a job you're excited to apply for, take a few minutes to carefully read over and edit your résumé before you send it in. Customize, customize, customize!" says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of, a North American job search site focused on telecommuting and flex-time positions.

And always double-check and proofread your resume to ensure you don't mistakenly present the résumé you customized for Company A to Company B.

Editing suggestion:
Save your CV documents with descriptive names so you can track each version -- for example, "YHayashi resume" or "YHayashi lifeguard resume."

7. An unprofessional email address

"Email addresses with words other than your name in them or that include numbers, demonstrate a distinct lack of professionalism," says Carreau, the Calgary-based HR executive.

The sad reality is, as much as you may love your addy, it isn't going to score you many job interviews, whether your dream job is in information technology or at a mixed martial arts training gym.

Editing suggestion:
"Create an email account designated specifically for your job search. Use your name in your email address, and make sure to include your new email address in your resume," advises Carreau.

8. Including (certain) hobbies and personal interests
Personal interests are a tough call. Some experts say keep them off, period.

Professional resume writer and editor Gerry Sandis of disagrees. He says that a discussion about your hobbies and interests can sometimes be a "great icebreaker at the beginning of an interview."

Editing suggestion:
If in doubt, leave it out. The top priority of your resume is to sell yourself as professional. If you feel compelled to include hobbies and interests on your resume, limit them to ones that enhance your professional image, not any that could be perceived as indicating you're a loner, overly aggressive, socially dysfunctional or lazy, says Sandis.

9. Spelling and grammatical errors

These mistakes send a very unprofessional image. Other things to avoid include slang or text-speak, says Carreau. Never include "shortcuts like the ones used for SMS, like 'ur' for 'your' or 'you're,'" she says.

NAGI. (It's not a good idea.)

Editing suggestion: Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck! And have a reliable friend proofread your resume for you, too.

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Money & Career

9 things to avoid when writing a resume