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Résumé Killers

Gavin Davis -- Never forget, your résumé is a representation of you. Here are tips to help you make sure the first impression it makes is the right one.

My philosophy is simple: Stick to the facts. If in doubt, leave it out!


Avoid abbreviations! They are unprofessional and not universally accepted. Trust me; nothing looks worse on a résumé than seeing sentences resembling the following: “duties included answering the fone and going 2 c clients.” This is a résumé, not a text message. Make sure you use correct words and proper sentences.

Personal information

Leave off anything related to hobbies or personal interests. If it doesn’t relate to employment it doesn’t belong on a résumé. Information such as weight and height is irrelevant (unless of course you’re trying out for basketball team). I have seen résumés where people include their eye color and comments about their skin (“glowing skin”). Do not give the reader a reason to eliminate you because of your personal characteristics. Again, stick to the formula -– if it does not relate to the job, it doesn’t belong on the résumé.


People feel that in order to be noticed they need their résumé to look like a piece of artwork. This perception is wrong and has the opposite effect of appearing unprofessional and amateur. At the end of the day, the employer only wants to see skills, duties, and achievements. He or she is not interested because your résumé is shaded yellow with a butterfly in the top right-hand corner.


Never, never, never be negative on your résumé or cover letter (and most importantly, in your interview). If you left your previous job because you hated your boss, keep it to yourself. Do not try to explain this on your résumé because you cannot explain those reasons in writing. Remember, a résumé’s job is to promote and sell. Do not get eliminated immediately for being negative.

No dates

DO NOT MAKE THE READER HAVE TO GUESS! This is such a killer on any résumé. INCLUDE DATES. What years did you go to high school? How long did you attend college? When did you graduate? How long did you work at your current job?

Do not make the person reading your résumé have to ask these questions. The minute this happens, your résumé is going to one place -- the trash bin! Make sure your résumé flows and you have no gaps in your dates. If you took a year off to go travelling, include this. When you include dates DO NOT just include years. For example, “I worked at McDonalds from 2008-2010” -– what does this mean? Did you work for three years from January 2008 to December 2010, or for a little over one year from December 2008 to January 2010.


Long, long, long, long, long résumés are boring! If an employer sees an extremely long résumé, they will immediately develop a negative frame of mind. Remember, résumé readers tend to have little patience, especially when they need to read 100 résumés. You do not gain extra brownie points for writing the longest résumé -- enough said!

Lack of achievements/highlights

I never understand how people get this wrong, but so many times people fill up their résumés with irrelevant information, and they leave off the most vital part of a résumé -- showing off your highlights and achievements. Think about it -- most people who apply for the same job can all do the standard day-to-day duties. So what separates the good résumé from the bad résumé? It’s the one that includes achievements and highlights. It includes how the person was an asset at their previous job. Employers want to see not that you just worked and did a good job, but that you added value to the company. Leaving off your achievements is the best way to get your résumé tossed in the bin. Alternatively, including value-added achievements is the best way to get your résumé put on the top of the list.

Irrelevant information

Everyone is proud of achievements they have accomplished throughout their life. Finishing second place in the 100 meter sprint final in my first year of high school was a great thrill, but is it relevant on my résumé? Does it add value to it? Use common sense when including “extra information.” Receiving your CPR certificate is relevant when you’re applying for a job that requires this, such as a lifesaver or swimming instructor. It isn’t so relevant if you received your CPR certificate 10 years ago, and now you’re going for a job as a CEO.

Grammar mistakes and typos

People read this point and think, “Obviously my résumé isn’t going to have spelling mistakes and typos.” I can tell you from experience that one in five résumés will make this vital mistake. When an employer has 100 résumés, the first 20 are eliminated because of grammar mistakes or typos. These mistakes are glaringly obvious on a résumé. Make sure you use spell-check, but more importantly, re-read your résumé. Even give it to someone else to read over.

Trying to sound “Too Clever”

You may think that using words such as “meticulous,” “scrupulous,” or “industrious” to describe yourself may make you sound smart. Unfortunately, they can have the opposite effect. Your résumé is a representation of you. Don’t forget this!

For more information, visit RedStarResume at

© 2011 RedStarResume Publications

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