5 Mistakes You Absolutely Need To Avoid On Your Resume (CV)

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I know that most of you reading this blog on a regular basis do not know this, but I am a resume expert. Yes, I’ve written, rewritten, edited and translated tons of resumes over the past three years, and because of this, I have a huge list of what NOT to do on your resume.

Unfortunately, I often see such mistakes on many resumes that I come across.  I also edit resumes for Canadians (in English and French) which are even a bit worse than the resumes that I work on here in the US.  So, I thought that it was time for me to write about the 5 main mistakes that you absolutely need to avoid on your resume.  I see those mistakes on a regular basis, and you must quit making them if you want to get the job.

1 – Your Resume is Not Up to Date

Your resume MUST be up to date.  Do you know that most potential employers will just toss your resume away as soon as they get it if it’s not up to date?

I’m sorry; a resume that ends in 2015 is not an up to date resume.  What have you done these past few Years?  Were you out of work?  Have you done temporary jobs or odd jobs that you might not be very proud of and don’t want to show on your resume?  Then, mention it.  You don’t have to put the details about your those jobs, but tell your potential employer that you’ve filled a few jobs outside of your skills and expertise, so they would understand that you haven’t spent two years watching TV on your sofa.

The same goes for any other reasons why there might be a gap in your resume.  A pregnancy, an illness, a leave of absence.  Just mention it in a professional fashion.  This is very important.

2 – Your Date Formatting is Incorrect

What most employers want to see in the US is a month-year format for each period of employment such as 11/2009 – 04/2012.  I see a lot of resumes showing dates like 2007-2010.  What does it mean, really? You may have started that position in December of 2007 until January of 2010.  This means that you would have really been working there 2 years, yet your resume wants to show 3 years.  That’s why employers do not like this type of format.  If you have such date formatting on your resume, you may be losing a lot of opportunities, for that mistake alone.

If you are not exactly sure what month you started or ended a position, give it your best guess (was it summer? winter?), and go with that, but make sure you create your resume with the correct date format.

3 – Your Font is Horrible and/or Inappropriate

Gosh, do I hate that one! I see people asking for help with their resume using either horrible or very inappropriate font that would make any potential employer run.

Just last week, I had a client who had her whole resume on Comic Sans MS font.  Please, people, if you want to send a fun email to your mom or your beau, Comic Sans MS is fine, but it’s a NO-NO for a resume.  It looks very unprofessional, and it tells your potential employer that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Acceptable fonts for resumes are usually Arial, Times New Roman, or Garamond.  Try to stay away from everything else and you’ll be fine.

4 – Your Formatting doesn’t Make Sense

The formatting of your resume is very, very important.  Your resume represents YOU before your potential employer gets the chance to meet you in person. If your resume has a terrible formatting it’s a pretty bad representation of you.  It’s like you are going to an interview not dressed up appropriately.

Most of my clients contact me about the formatting of their resume and when my work is done they totally get it. They see what a difference it can make to have a resume reformatted to something more organized, more professional looking, and most of all that shows your potential employer that you are a professional worth interviewing.

The basics of a good formatting are the following: Your name, address, email and phone number shouldn’t take more than two lines.  Name, titles and subtitles should be in bold.  The most recent position is always on top of the list.  No more than 10-12 years of past experience is needed (no 5 page resumes, please), and yes, I do see that and worse. Computer skills and education should be last.  They are other details, of course, but this is your basic acceptable resume format.

5 – You Have Too Much Information

Is there such thing as giving too much information? Oh, yes, there is, and I see that all the time.  Believe it or not, I have seen resumes with marital status, social security number, age, birth date, gender, picture, and references private information.

This drives me totally crazy.  None of such information should EVER show on your resume.  You should never, ever, want to put any of such information on your resume because it’s like telling the crooks out there, this is me and, please, just rob my identity as you wish.

Now, pictures on a resume could have its own little section in this post.  Who in their right mind would want to put their picture on their resume?  A good and honest employer will never want to hire you based on your looks.  Pictures are only for actors or models, or even online marketers, of course, but besides that, please, give yourself a favor and take that picture off of your resume.  When a client sends me a resume with their picture on it, I take it off immediately and give them a little speech why they don’t need it.  Most of the times, they get it and don’t even discuss it.

Also, you need to remember that you should never be hired based on your age, looks, gender or marital status.  Do not even think that you’d ever need such information on a resume.

Putting your social security number on a resume is downright stupid and dangerous.  when the time comes, your potential employer will request your social security number.  Until then, they don’t need to know.

Do not ever put information regarding your references on your resume either, because that’s private information of that person that shouldn’t go into the hands of any strangers.  Give your references upon request only.

Of course, there’s more to say about resumes, but I hope that you’re getting those 5 mistakes you absolutely need to avoid on your resume to give you the best chance to get the job you’re trying to apply for.

Please, leave your feedbacks down below in the comment area.

Sylviane Nuccio

35 thoughts on “5 Mistakes You Absolutely Need To Avoid On Your Resume (CV)”

  1. I had no idea you’re a resume expert! I bet you could help people with their LinkedIn profiles, too. All I can say is thank God I don’t have to deal with a resume (though I do need to work on that profile….) but you’re right, these are some mistakes that are easy to fix but can make a big difference. Comic Sans…. nooooooooo!!!

    I also think pictures shouldn’t be on a resume because it could bias someone. I mean we do make snap judgements about people and whether someone likes the way we look or not can affect our ability to get an interview if that’s what someone sees before our qualifications!

    I remember sending out resumes and there was a specific format I was always advised to follow but I wonder nowadays with the internet if people should have some supplemental information about themselves online, maybe like a personal website that is a long version of a resume. Of course, that opens up a whole other can of works with people finding your online profiles (and of course pictures). I wonder if having information online makes it more difficult now because employers can find out everything you wouldn’t put on a resume – age, probably your political and religious preferences, etc. Sounds like a challenge! All the more reason to keep a resume clean, direct and professional. These are great tips for college kids who aren’t sure where to start, or for anyone getting back out there and looking for a job.
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    1. Hi Carol,

      I’m glad you are confirming the negatives of putting your photo on a resume. Usually when there is photo on a client’s resume I give them a call right away to give them a little pet talk mentioning some of the things you are mentioning here.

      I know that 90% of my clients don’t have any supplemental information online, but if they did that’s plenty enough and they don’t need to put personal info on their resume for sure.

      Thanks for your input, Carol 🙂

      1. Ah, I should have read the other comments first, you’ve answered my question about the photo Sylviane!

        In response to Carol Lynn, I like to put a link to my LinkedIn profile on my CV because they’re probably going to look there anyway and that’s where (hopefully) we have lots of endorsements and recommendations to enhance our chances,
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  2. This is a subject that I never want to deal with ever again Sylviane. I’ve been out of corporate America now for five years and I can’t ever imagine having to go back. Especially at my age now. I’m so darn set in my ways now.

    I still help my best friend with his resume all the time. We keep it on my computer because he’s always losing his files. I always remember the advice my Dad use to give me about resumes because he use to hire people all the time. I never forgot that and obviously I did okay with my own since I never had a problem in that area.

    Great advice though for those still wanting to continue in corporate America. I wish them all the best.

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    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I know that this post is not really speaking to our online world, but as a writer, part of my work is helping people with resumes, and gosh do they need help!

      So I thought I’d finally write a post for them, which I am going to direct some people to when needed.

      Thanks for your support, Adrienne.

  3. One question I would ask myself is: Will this information I include help to strengthen the impact of my resume for my target audience?

    Another thing to add is to showcase your accomplishments. Resumes that show what you accomplished at the job is just as important in how long you worked there. This is where you want to tailor your resume to the job your are applying for. You highlight your accomplishments (with bullet points) to show what you have accomplished before and that you did this on a major scale. This will set you apart from the competition easily and I am surprised that most people still don’t do this.

    We can’t leave out the cover letter because most hiring managers read this first and if your “story” isn’t compelling, your resume won’t get glanced out.

    Another thing is including everything. This won’t impress hiring managers either. Employers can careless that you volunteer for the homeless and got a certificate in CPR. Including too much info can actually hurt you. Employers want to see a consistent set of accomplishments in the field you are applying for. Everything else is T. M. I.

    To stand out, you have to build a strong resume that gives the impression that you are a focused professional who has tons of valuable experience and stepped up the plate. You have to include the information needed to understand what values them. Leave the ego at home and get the job first.
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    1. Hi Sonia,

      Thank you for your valuable insight here.

      Believe it or not Canadians, and especially French Canadians, still include their hobbies in their resume like it’s going to interest anyone. I known they’ve got that from the old French tradition, but frankly, nowadays this is not relevant anymore. No one should have their hobbies on their resume, because your potential employer just doesn’t care, to put it politely.

      Thank you for giving such extra great advice.

  4. What a wonderful overview on this subject Sylvianne!

    Although I don’t think I would ever have to write one, we just never know what the future has for us do we?

    As an entrepreneur for years now, I have not given this a single thought. But, even as my own business owner, one day I may have to follow these guidelines if I wanted to work with someone.

    So this doesn’t just apply to the resume, but also gives a great outline for me if I wanted to hire someone. This is a win win post my friend.

    And…I will send this information to the many people I do work with.

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    1. Hi Donna,

      Yes, I know that most people reading this blog are entrepreneurs, however, I’m hoping that this post will be high enough in the search engine results when people are looking for advice on creating a professional looking resume.

      As always, thank you for coming by 🙂

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      Wow, for one thing I didn’t know you were a lawyer. Very interesting from lawyer to tech geek 🙂

      Yes, I see some pretty bad looking resumes, and in the past 5 years or so, lots of people started putting their picture on their them. I don’t even know where this idea started, but a bad one indeed. I bet some people do lose jobs because of this.

      Thank you for coming 🙂

  5. Wow Sylviane you are a lady of many talents. I did not know this one.

    I fail on all counts. Well not all because I cannot use the incorrect font when I do not have a resume. I have never done one. I was an employee of course when I left school but back then at least in Australia no one did resumes.

    I was an employee up until my late 20’s then started my own business. I went briefly back into employment but had been head hunted. The we always had our own businesses. I was CEO of a company for some time but again offered the job and it was with friends.

    On the other side I have read thousands of resumes as I have employed hundreds of people over time, Your advice is excellent for anyone seeking employment.

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    1. Hi Sue,

      Wow, you’re a big business lady. I’m impressed by YOUR resume here. You’ve been an entrepreneur for years, I am sure I could learn bunches from you.

      By the way, on my radio interview yesterday I mentioned your name along with Adrienne, Carol Lynn, Sonia and Donna 🙂 was mentioned as the host was asking me to mention a few bloggers that I liked 😉

  6. Good Morning Sylviane. This is a very good explanation of exactly the “correct way”
    to create a resume. The unemployment rate may not be quit so high if more people would read your article. Thanks for sharing this great information.
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    1. Hi Carol,

      That’s why I wrote it. I am so tired of seeing those terrible looking resumes, and I really want to help those people who are looking for jobs so bad. The resume is an important part of finding a job.

  7. Hi Sylviane,

    Phew, I’m not making any of those errors!

    One of the things I pointed out to a friend recently was that her email needed to sound professional, I won’t tell you what it was exactly but it was something like [email protected] – not really professional. I recommended firstname.lastname @ preferably a paid for domain name or first initial lastname.

    Incidentally, what’s your view of putting a small photograph of yourself on your CV?
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    1. Hi Roz,

      Yes, as I said in the post those are just few issues that filled up my post here, I didn’t mention everything… far from it. emails and other things will be the topics of another post in the future. You are so right. I’ve seen stupid emails that have sometimes made me laugh out loud! Only professional looking emails should be used on resumes. Good advice you gave to your friend.

      As for a photo on a resume I’ve mentioned that on the post. It’s a no-no. Bad idea for a resume.

      Thanks for your input 🙂

    1. Hi Barbara,

      How interesting that you help people with resumes too!

      Yes, those issues are so basics you would think that most people would know better, yet I’ve written the post, because I know for a fact, that so many still don’t.

      Thanks for coming, Barbara 🙂

  8. Thanks for highlighting these basic errors which we might skip while building the resume. Yes, we should always be very precise about including only the necessary information on the resume. Great post.

  9. Last time I made a resume was an year ago (for an assignment for my computer class). At that time, I was confused (I still am), what else can I put besides my high school career? (I can’t legally work in US, should I mention that? Can I talk about blogging and what I do now – along with my college studies?)

    Basically, what can you include in a resume, Sylviane?

    (I would have asked you this earlier if I knew you were an expert on Resumes 😀 Anyways, now I know where to ask when I have a confusing with resumes :D).

    Thank you for the tips, Sylviane!

    1. Hi Jeevan,

      Sorry for the long coming reply to your questions.

      Well, if you’re not legal to work in the US, you wouldn’t be able to work for an employer, but as for your own self, like working on someone’s site in the US (for example) that might be different. I wouldn’t mention that in my resume though.

      Yes, you should include all your work as a blogger, being as detailed as possible using bullet points. That will serve you great, especially if you don’ t have job experience.

      Include any type of work you’ve done related to what you want to show on your resume.

      Hope this help a bit!

  10. Hi Sylviane,

    Really?! A resume expert? 🙂 I never knew you were dear. I think most of ’em here didn’t.

    Mmm… I think my resume will filter out without changes after going through your suggestions. I’ve had no idea about the font though. I mean which font should use. Anyway I’ve been using Arial 🙂 Oh gosh…

    Well, I have a question there though dear. I’m really glad you mentioned about gaps. One of my friends have such gaps as they were through surgeries and so. I mean, he had to be on the bed around 10 – 11 months. Where do you think it should be mentioned? I mean, at the end of the resume? 🙂

    Do you think activities such as blogging can be added on resume dear? 🙂 I’ve been doing blogging while I’m on studies. So no gap there. But could it be an additional advantage? Anyway, I don’t wanna go out for work 😉 lol…

    Thanks for great information on resume dear 🙂

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    1. Hi Mayura,

      Yes, Arial is an acceptable font for resumes as I mentioned in the post.

      When you have had a gap due to illness or hospitalization, you should mention it where the gap is or at the beginning of the resume. Not at the end as the hiring manager might not even get there to see it.

      Yes, yes, blogging should show on your resume. You bet. You can specify what you’ve done on your blog using bullet points.

      I’m glad this might have been of help to you 🙂 and thanks for coming, Mayura!

    1. Hi Michael,

      Yes, that’s true, your resume speaks for you while you’re not there. I had some of my clients that have been hired based on their resume alone!

      Thanks for coming 🙂

  11. Two thumbs up for the inappropriate fonts, Sylviane!

    I remember back when I was still working in the corporate world and screening through some resumes. I can never forget this one resume I saw. I think the applicant watched “Legally Blonde” a wee bit too much. It had all these fancy fonts and colored ink and even printed on colored paper. Good thing it wasn’t scented.
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    1. Hi Adele,

      Ahaha, so funny. I know what you mean.

      I’ve seen incredibly ridiculous resumes and some stick to your head. I had once a resume of a lady with a picture on it, but she must have had a tank-top so on the picture she appeared to be top less as no closing could be seen on her head shot. Where is the common sense here?

      Thanks for your fun feedbacks.

      1. Hahaha!!! I also saw a few of those kinds of resumes too. Looked more like those pics that they took from some vacation and then they just cropped it. Ironically, we would always have a session in college where they would teach us about writing our own resumes, how to conduct ourselves during interviews, and even dress codes. You have to wonder if they were paying attention at all.
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  12. Along the lines of “Too much information”, target your resume for the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a job at a web development firm looking for someone specifically versed in html5 and ajax, don’t focus on how you’re great at web programming in perl. First, if they are using scanning software on your resume, you’re less likely to be passed onto a real person. Second, if you are passed onto a real person they are probably going to skip your whole, “I’m great with perl” section and it will make you look light on experience in what they really want…html5 and ajax.

    Sorry if that was a bit specific…it’s easier to stick to examples I know 🙂
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    1. Hi Rick,

      Thank you for your great example here. I agree that targeting your resume to the specific job you’re applying for is very important. I see this mistake often as well, so thanks for the reminder.

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