Avoiding Resume Pitfalls


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Friday, January 21, 2022
Avoiding Resume Pitfalls

Avoiding Resume Pitfalls

A first impression counts for a lot in job searches. In most cases, the first time a recruiter or hiring manager will “see” you is through your resume. It is your handshake, your winning smile, your how-do-you-do. Doing everything you can to make sure that first impression is professional, memorable, and enticing enough to land you an interview is what makes resume writing so challenging. If you avoid these common pitfalls, you’ll be well on your way to writing a resume that makes a great first impression.

A Resume for Everybody is a Resume For Nobody

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when writing a resume is trying to write a one-size-fits-all resume. Each resume you send out should be specifically tailored to the position AND company you’re applying to. Taking the time to craft a customized resume reflects positively on your attention to detail and your seriousness; recruiters and employers can tell when they receive a form resume.

Salary Information

You may be tempted to include information about your past job salaries as a way of displaying your value, or you may be considering adding a desired salary range. Neither of these will be to your advantage. Save salary discussions for the interview. Setting a salary requirement on your resume runs the risk of either taking yourself out of the running if the number is too high or getting you under-paid if your desired salary is below what they’re prepared to offer.

Unrelated Work Experience

Your resume should be geared around RELEVANT work experience. If you worked somewhere in the past that is unrelated to your current field or taught you skills you won’t be using for this job, include a brief mention of it in your work experience but don’t go into lengthy specifics about your responsibilities or accomplishments. Work experience on a resume is about quality, not quantity. Use that space in your resume to elaborate on past work experience that is directly relevant/important to the role you’re applying for.


Putting down too many or not enough references can hurt your chances. Stick to a small number (two to three, tops) of professional references. Avoid using family or personal acquaintances as references. An ideal reference is a past colleague, client, or supervisor who can offer positive feedback about your performance and work ethic. Place your references on a separate page and make sure you do not use the line “references available upon request.”

Sloppy Formatting

Avoid typos like the plague. A sloppy, grammatically incorrect resume can torpedo your prospects. Use programs like Grammarly to ensure your work is good to go. Get a second pair of eyes on it (preferably someone who knows “The Elements of Style” like the back of their hand) to catch any errors you may have missed. 

Professional Profile Vs. Resume Objectives

A prospective employer wants to know what you can do for them. While sharing your objectives on your resume can be useful information, what they really want to know is who you are and what you can accomplish. That’s why including a succinct and dynamic professional profile on your resume is so important. The profile is the section where you get to sum yourself up: it is your elevator pitch to the employer, a handful of sentences that spell out your professional abilities. 

Unprofessional Email Address

Goofy email addresses are fun but they aren’t professional, so make sure your contact information includes something simple and uncontroversial like yourfirstname.lastname[at]___.com. Leave your BabyYodaDidABooBoo[at]yahoo address off of it.

To Photo or Not to Photo

Unless they specifically ask for a picture or you’re applying for a job where headshots matter (i.e. acting, modeling, etc) you’re better off not including a picture of yourself. Recruiters and managers are only human, and may have biases (sometimes ones they’re not even consciously aware of) that could influence them to exclude resumes based on how you look.

Need more career search assistance? Check out resources on the Counseling and Career Services page.

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