7 Quick Resume Fixes

On more than one occasion, I’ve taken on the task of vetting out interns for the organizations I’ve worked for. After going through the process myself, there was something immensely gratifying about placing kindred spirits in internships. But lately, something seems fishy about the resumes flooding my inbox. I may be a tad more critical than your average HR manager (thanks to moonlighting as a resume editor), but the latest crop of resumes look about as likeable as canned tuna.

Yep. Canned tuna. Nothing against folks who relish the stuff (did Jessica Simpson ever figure it out?), but I’ll never understand the appeal of slimy fish vacuum packed in a container. It just looks unappetizing.

And the kicker? None of the applicants are under qualified. I suspect many are favoring timeliness over presentation, and as a result, that exquisitely prepared tuna tartare employers crave is looking more and more like oily mush in a can. Yuck.

I get it. Stakes are high. College students feel like they have to apply within seconds, lest an opportunity be lost to them forever. But you do yourself a disservice if you don’t take the time to properly write your resume.

These are the 7 most common resume errors I’ve come across as of late:

1. Spelling and grammar slip-ups.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to have more than one person, and preferably a professional, edit your resume. Aside from glaring spelling and grammar missteps, a pro can help with issues like tense and verbiage.

2. Unusual characters.

One of the more interesting resumes I received was one with less than and greater than symbols to denote strength or weakness in certain skills. The problem? It took me several minutes to figure out that that was the idea behind all the signs, and by then, I was too exasperated to continue reading down the page.

Less is more, so leave out unnecessary characters like tildes (~), carets (^), curly brackets, asterisks, and yes, less than or greater than symbols.

3. Oversized names.

It’s perfectly acceptable to make your header larger than the text of your resume, but refrain from taking up half a page to do so. It can come across as a lack of experience on your part, and the remainder of your resume could end up on a second page. Which brings me to…

4. Multiple pages.

Time-wise, I can’t imagine any Gen Y’er having gained enough experience to warrant two pages. If you do have a lot of information you just can’t part with, it’s okay to max out your margins if they’re in printable range.

If you’re like me and just like seeing your career trajectory mapped out on a resume, consider having two separate documents: one that is a complete resume of your employment history, regardless of field, and another for applications only. You can tailor your application version to each opportunity by referring to your complete resume for relevant experience. Speaking of which…

5. Unrelated experience. 

It’s tempting to include seasonal employment or temporary work to compensate for gaps, but avoid grouping odd jobs with pertinent experience. Most resume readers won’t even make it to the bottom of the page, so place your most noteworthy positions or internships near the top.

6. Odd formatting.

Aesthetically, I’m all for non-traditional resumes, particularly if someone is pursuing an opportunity in a creative field. But keep in mind that when we read, we scan in a relative direction: left to right and up and down. Sometimes docs get skewed when downloading – don’t make it worse by spacing things out unnecessarily.

7. An objective.

Seriously, toss your objective. Employers know why you sent them a resume. If you’ve spent hours crafting yours, use it as the jumping off point for your cover letter instead.

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Suzanne De Vita

Suzanne De Vita is an online editor and content producer. Exceptionally vocal, she’s often found belting “The Star-Spangled Banner” or chanting “Roll Tide!” at her television. Her greatest loves are The Temptations, barnyard animals and cajun cuisine. She’s contributed to Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans, and received her BA from Quinnipiac University.