I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing some pretty fascinating and, dare I say it, beautiful resumes. That said, I’ve also seen my fair share of resumes that end up with more red ink than resume content after I’m through with them.
As my own little PSA, I’m going to share with you four of them that would make any career counselor or recruiter visibly cringe and what to do instead.
1. The Extremely Exaggerated Resume
Calling yourself a “founder” on your resume can either look very impressive or be a huge red flag, depending on the context. For instance, I once had to explain why being a babysitter every couple of months for a cousin didn’t quite warrant the title of “founder of childcare startup” on a resume.
Flat out lying—or even exaggerating—on your resume won’t get you very far. If anything comes off as a bit suspicious, the person reviewing your resume will begin to doubt the veracity of the rest of your accomplishments as well. And even if lying does get you the job, it will eventually come back to bite you.
tl;dr: Seriously, don’t lie on your resume.
2. The Centered Resume
Remember when I said I’ve seen some beautiful resumes? One thing all of those resumes had in common is that they never sacrificed readability for the sake of design. That means they all aligned their text to the left so that my eyes would know exactly where to return to once I was done with a line of text.
The most confusing resume I’ve ever seen was a resume where the text was centered. I couldn’t tell where the next section began, the bullets were basically impossible to read, and I could feel myself getting more and more annoyed with each passing line. It doesn’t matter how nice the white space looks or how artistic the effect is if your reader doesn’t have a pleasant and easy reading experience.
tl;dr: Make your resume skimmable. Here are some tips.
3. The TMI Resume
Usually, this only happens when a job applicant just doesn’t know any better, so consider this your heads up: Do not include personal information like your photo, your sexual orientation, your marital status, or your religious affiliations on your resume. Antidiscrimination laws in the U.S. prevent employers from being allowed to ask for this information during the job search process, so if they see this info on your resume, they will not engage. It’s an automatic toss.
Of course, not every country has the same resume norms, so for those of you applying to jobs outside of the U.S., make sure you know what the expectations are for the country you’re hoping to pursue employment in.
tl;dr: Skip the personal details—keep it professional.
4. The 5-Page Resume
I try my best not to audibly sigh when someone presents me with a multi-page resume, but it can be a challenge. Unless you’re applying for a position in academia, you have no business having a resume over one page (max two pages) long.
Surprisingly, it’s actually very frequently the people with less experience who break this rule. I’ve seen 18-year-olds with five-page resumes! Let me put this plainly: Adding more pages to your resume will not make you seem more qualified. In fact, it’s just the opposite—it typically makes you look like you’re overcompensating.
tl;dr: Keep your resume one page long. Here’s some help.
There were others, as well, like the resume that seemed to be composed of a haphazard arrangement of text boxes or the typo-ridden resume. In short, all of these resumes managed to be exceptionally memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Not the first impression you want to be making on your dream company.
Want to make sure yours stands out the right way? Check out our ultimate resume guide.
Photo of fail stamp courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author