7 common mistakes that ruin résumés

From going crazy with ‘creative’ fonts and designs to omitting work samples, these common blunders can be the difference between getting you in the door or landing you in the trash.

Your résumé can secure or shatter your chances of landing a job interview.

I have reviewed hundreds of résumés during my 20-plus years in the PR and marketing business. There are seven mistakes I often see from new graduates and working professionals that are helpful to keep in mind the next time you update your résumé:

1. Not branding yourself. Create a compelling tagline and statement to quickly define your differentiators. Consider yourself a brand. Write something that describes what someone gets when they hire you, i.e., what your brand promise is.

2. Giving too much priority to education rather than work experience. Show me what you’ve accomplished first, then what you’ve studied and what letters you have after your name. (Also, if you earned at least a 3.4 GPA, be sure to mention it.)

3. Typos. A résumé is the first impression (next to your cover letter or email intro). Make it perfect; there should be no typos or misspellings. Print or read it aloud. Read it again from the bottom to the top. Have at least two other qualified people proof your résumé.

4. Not making your experience relevant to the position for which you’re applying. If you worked as an analyst, focus on your research and writing skills, instead of emphasizing your use of spreadsheets.

5. Not using current layout, fonts and designs. Some folks get too creative and end up making their résumés look like the cover of a fashion magazine—confusing and inappropriate. Be creative, but always emphasize function over design. Make your resume easy to read and understand.

6. Making too much out of too little. Sometimes you just have to say you were really good at making media lists instead of saying you did “exhaustive research of the highest caliber.” Don’t sound like you’re trying too hard.

7. Not offering to share your portfolio, work samples and references. Don’t take for granted that your prospective employer knows your offering. Fe sure to say, “References and portfolio are available upon request” at the bottom of your résumé. Have both on hand to share via email or your website.

Bonus tip to college students: Be sure to get relevant experience that helps make your résumé stand out. Forget the hostess and retail jobs. Try to get meaningful (and if possible, paid) experience. Even if you have to volunteer your time–-and you can only spare five hours a week–do it. Having internships under your belt show you’re serious about the profession and make all the difference in getting interviews.

Founded in 2001, Sherman Communications provides strategic, creative solutions to help clients differentiate, compete and grow in their crowded marketplaces.


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