3 Cardinal Sins of Resume Writing

There’s no point in telling you about the importance of a resume in helping you land a job. You already know it, so I won’t bore you with the details there. But even with that knowledge, there’s a shocking number who never learned the proper way to craft a resume, let alone the proper way to write killer copy. Perhaps that’s because the majority of schools only devote a miniscule section of your education on the subject. 

Despite the lack of formal education, potential employers still expect you to deliver a flawless resume when applying for a job. Like any self-respecting person looking to further their education, this is the part where you turn to the internet. Which is probably why you’re reading this article. 

You might be thinking it’s counterproductive to write about what you shouldn’t do in a resume instead of what you should. Let’s bust that myth right now: It’s not. You’ve no doubt learned a lot about what you should have on a resume, but you need to know the resume items that will keep you unemployed for the rest of your life. After considering a long list, here are the three I came thought were most important. 

1. Writing in Generics 

This is a term I kind of made up, so let me explain what I mean. When you write in generics, you’ll be focusing on pointing out the most nonspecific information you can think of to describe your skills and talents. These are the things that everyone will have on their resume. They’ll include words like:

  • Organized
  • Leadership
  • Team player 
  • Detail-Oriented 
  • Motivated
  • Knowledgeable
  • Successful
  • Reliable 
  • Professional 

Just imagine your potential employer cringing a little every time one of those words pops up on your resume. The confusing thing about this advice is that your boss is looking for every single one of those attributes in an employee. The reason they don’t want to see it on your resume is that these words are so generic, they don’t really say anything about you or your work ethic. 

You might interpret “motivated” to mean you manage to wake up at a decent hour every day, hop on the bus, and make it to work at a reasonable time, while your boss is looking for motivated to mean that you have the drive to get to work early, go above and beyond your daily tasks, and be an example for your co-workers to follow. 

But future employers can’t tell that from one non-specific word. They’ll need specifics, including examples of your performance in the past. Including a few numbers, whether impressive or not, is also a good idea. It’s always better to say you were in charge of a single person than it is to say you have plain old management skills. 

2. Relying Solely on Templates 

Speaking in the same vein as writing in generics, relying on templates can also be your downfall. It’s been done before. It shows a lack of initiative if you can’t form a resume to specifically match the job you’re applying for. The makers of the template have probably never applied for the specific job you’re applying for, so there’s likely to be some inconsistencies on a template that won’t do much to impress an employer.

It’s often better to build a resume from scratch. This way, you can develop your own sections, list your relevant work experiences, consider your accomplishments, and edit your resume to complement a specific position. This also gives you a little creativity regarding the design and the writing, which can be very important if you’re applying for a position that requires a creative background. 

That being said, templates aren’t exactly of the devil. It’s true that a template can hinder your ability to highlight important attributes and match a certain job description, but they certainly have their uses, particularly if you’re applying for a generic job or you need to see what a good resume design looks like before making your own. Just be wary when using them, and don’t let a resume template hinder your creativity.  

3. Being Cute, Clever, or Talking Way Too Much 

It doesn’t matter if you have an awesome personality: puns, plays on words, jokes, rhymes, and any other manner of cuteness have no business on a resume (unless, of course, you’re applying to clown college, but if you’re reading this article, the odds of that are pretty low). It’s difficult to interpret cleverness in writing, and it’s more likely to confuse or even offend the interviewer than it is to sway them in your direction. 

In that same vein, resume writers also have a tendency to spend a little too much time talking about themselves and their achievements or using excessive superlatives to get a point across. Doing this will actually have the opposite effect. The more words you use, the less impressed your employer will be. 

They actually want to see that you can speak volumes about yourself in as few words as possible using an utmost professional tone. If you can express that kind of skill on a resume, you won’t have any problems getting a job. 

The best advice I can give regarding this particular point is to edit, edit, edit. Write your first draft using as many words and as many pages as you want, knowing that you’ll have to return to it over and over to get rid of the fluff. Cut out extra words, include numbers, and stick to the points that are most relevant to the job description. Your job is to make your resume shine using as few words as possible, and if you do that, the job is as good as yours.