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When you’re preparing a resume, it’s natural to want to tell prospective employers all about yourself, but there are some things that are better left unsaid. Remember, you have only a limited amount of space to convince someone you’d be a good hire. It’s important to include nothing that may offend someone or cause them to question your abilities. What follows are seven things your should avoid on your resume. Bonus: This leaves you more space to highlight your strongest points.
Criticism of past employers
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A sure way to put off a potential employer is to waste space on your resume criticizing your past employers or supervisors. You may feel perfectly justified in your criticism, but the purpose of a resume is to showcase your talents and abilities, not air your grievances. Prospective employers are likely to get the impression that you are disloyal or generally disgruntled — and that not what they’re looking for. Instead of focusing on things that went wrong, write about your positive relationships and your accomplishments. Tell people about the good things you can bring to their business if they give you the opportunity.
Excuses for past problems
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If you have been laid off or dismissed from a job, you may feel the need to explain the situation in your resume. It’s natural to want to tell your side of the story, especially if you feel that you were not at fault. The problem is that it’s easy to spend too much time discussing disappointments and missed opportunities. You may give end up giving the impression that you aren’t taking responsibility for your own mistakes. A better approach is to write about past successes and the assets you brought to previous jobs. If you are called upon to explain a layoff or dismissal in an interview, be honest, but brief. Let people know that your focus is on the future.
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When a job applicant lists skills unrelated to their job performance, it can appear that they have no truly valuable skills to showcase. Be sure to describe the things you’ve learned that have improved your performance on the job. Do you have great internet skills? Have you pursued any special training to enhance your contribution in past jobs? Are you attending school to earn an advanced degree or a certificate? Meanwhile, you may be proud of your bowling skills, but unless you’re planning a career in the field of bowling, leave that off your resume.
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You may have had many achievements in your life, but be sure to focus on the most recent ones when you create your resume. If something happened 10 or 15 years ago, prospective employers may get the impression you’re reaching. When you mention achievements from the distant past, you risk sending a message that your successes are behind you. Leave out that Cub Scout merit badge. Employers want to know what you’ve done lately.
Poor grammar and spelling
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If you submit a resume with misspellings, typos or grammatical errors, you are not likely to score a job interview. You may be in a field in which the proper use of language seems unimportant to you, but most employers want to know that their hires have good communication skills. Even if good English is not central to the role you pursue, grammatical mistakes on your resume can signal to people that you’re careless and possibly unreliable. Take the trouble to make sure your resume is free of errors, so recruiters will know that you’re serious about the job.
Too much information
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Keep it brief. Remember that recruiters have a limited amount of time to sort through applications. They likely are focusing on several key things when they screen applicants, such as experience, training and past employment. If you write a great detail about every job you’ve ever had, you may overwhelm prospective employers. Worse, the information that makes you stand out as an applicant could get overlooked. In most cases, submitting one or two pages worth of information is adequate. Stick to things that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking, and remember that you can expand on those points if you get to the interview stage.
Anything that isn’t true
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You may be tempted to exaggerate your skills, training or accomplishments, but doing so always is a mistake. Once you put something in writing, you can’t take it back. Even if it helps you land a job, the lie may resurface years later and damage your reputation or even cost you your career. So don’t exaggerate your qualifications. If you don’t have a college degree, describe the training you’ve received on the job. The best way to get a resume filled with accomplishments is to do work that you’re proud of. Faking your qualifications is a bad idea.
What wisdom — or painful lessons — can you share about your job searches? Tell us in comments below or on our Facebook page.