One Story. Ten Examples of Bad Resume Advice

Job seekers know there’s a ton of bad resume advice out there – really, really bad advice.
One of the worst examples I’ve seen recently comes from Yahoo Finance. At first glance, the piece appears to be aimed at job hunters whose resumes will be screened by computer software well before reaching human eyeballs. Even given that consideration, however, I found most of this content to be, at best, naïve, and at worst, poorly thought out.

Photo credit: Click, MorgueFile

I’ll give points for Numbers 7 and 10. If Page 2 of your document ends up loose and floating around the office someplace, wouldn’t you want me to know which candidate it belongs to? All righty, then. Use letterhead or stick a header on both of your resume pages (you won’t be submitting more than two, right?), and make sure your cover letter and any supporting documentation is similarly marked so your application materials are easy to identify.

Listing one’s grade point average is, by and large, irrelevant if you aren’t applying for a scholarship, a post-graduate fellowship, an academic position, or your very first job out of high school or university. Your grades are not something I care about unless you scored exceptionally well, as in honor student well, in a major or minor that is directly relevant to the position at hand. Put your GPA on your CV, if you like, but drop it from the resume. It’s filler that can come across as a little pretentious.

The rest of the linked article, however, is mostly hooey. Let’s do a quick breakdown.

1. Yes, I want your address, and I want an accurate one. Same for your phone number – I’m checking the area code. I need to know whether you’re available to interview in person right away, whether your daily commute is likely to be problematic, and whether we’ll need to ask you about plans to relocate or allow extra time for you to move or finish a semester. I may also plan preliminary interview questions with this information. (“Based on your area code, it looks like you must have spent some time in Colorado. Can you tell me more about that?”) Remember, in the Information Age, pretty much any bad guy can dig up your address at any time. Sorry. Leave it off your generic job board and social postings, if you really feel more secure that way, but do not make it inconvenient or challenging for a company’s recruiter to contact you.

2. I don’t care about your LinkedIn profile, and even if I did, I have The Google. Nobody hides their dirty laundry on LinkedIn, and I’m already reading your resume. Save the space for something relevant. Ditto for your other social media accounts – I’ve seen enough cat videos today.

3. Ummmm. No. No, no, no, no, no. This one is so ridiculous, I’m not sure how the suggestion got into print. Do not do this. Do not give yourself a “professional title” that you never held and haven’t earned. If your previous job had a title (a real one, not “Fast Food Fry Guy”), you may certainly list it under that employer, but don’t make things up in hopes that it’ll sound like you were higher up the food chain than you really were. It gives off a douchenozzle vibe.

4. This is a formatting gripe. While I suspect the author most likely had search keywords in mind when writing this one, if the candidate feels his or her job descriptions, cover letter, portfolio, samples, and so forth adequately sum up the skill set being presented for consideration, I’m not going to argue. I don’t mind seeing a separate list of skills, as long as it can be done without making the entire resume run longer than two pages. If you are going to post a summary of your abilities, though, I expect you to curate them. The selections proffered should indicate some relevance to the overall industry or positional rank, if not the posted job opening.

5. Skip the detailed company descriptions. I don’t care about the ins and outs of your previous employer’s business. I care what you did there and what you learned. Remember, if I can’t manage to figure it out by reading the company name (or by calling your old supervisors), I still haz The Google, and I don’t need to be spoonfed unnecessary details.

6. In general, I like bullets. A blanket ban is uncalled for, although there are occasional overusage offenses. I will concede that the sample resume looks crammed. That isn’t a bullet issue, per se, so much as a paring down and editing the darn thing issue.

8. Internships are a judgment call, just like continuing education courses or professional classes and certifications. If you have room for them, it’s fine to add them in or leave them off. Most people with more than five or 10 years’ experience to report probably just won’t have space. Barring some sort of bizarre and unlikely circumstance, though, telling somebody you were once an intern isn’t going to cost you a job.

9. Computer knowledge prerequisites are entirely industry and job specific. This is not a helpful or reasonable across-the-board critique that would apply to all applicants, though it may well be applicable to the sample applicant’s specific career goals.

11. While I agree that references are not required, listing them is not an error and can, in fact, be one of the reasons you get chosen for an interview.  Believe it or not, recruiters and hiring managers sometimes know your references or have secondary connections to them. If you can fit reference details in, it can be advantageous for you to do so.

12. Here we go, again. Times

New Roman is a classic because it works. It flows well and is easy to read. Sure, it’s heavily used, but unless you’re applying for a graphic design job, legibility, not ornamentation, should take priority. While we’re on the subject: It’s quite likely that not all those pretty decorative fonts you were so thrilled to find and are now busily slapping on your pages are going to translate well when you go to print them off or squish them into a PDF. Proof everything, or you could end up with a series of dark blobs popping up where words should be.

What’s the worst resume advice you’ve ever heard?

Kate

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