pink eraser on paper with partially erased word - 'oops'If you’re one of the thousands of Americans looking for a job, you know just how crowded and competitive the market is. You probably also know that any mistake on your resume, even a tiny one, can prevent you from scoring that coveted interview. The good news is that resume mistakes are preventable.

Here are some tips to avoid common resume mistakes:

Check your spelling. Nothing breaks a heart quite like spell check. Microsoft Word doesn’t know you do not actually have “referees upon request,” or that you are not actually soliciting employment from either a “sir or Madman.” If the mistake is in the dictionary, spell check will overlook it, so don’t’ trust your word processor; it’s a fickle beast.

For a laugh, check out Resumark’s recent blog entry on the most hilarious spelling mistakes on resumes and cover letters.

Say what you mean. It’s easy to be confused by similar words. Many a candidate has mentioned his impersonal skills rather than his interpersonal skills – or that she managed capital, not capitol. And although a candidate probably complimented his boss to get ahead at his last position, he must make sure to disclose that he complemented the boss on the job. In short, make sure your words convey your intended meaning.

Know yourself. Do not misrepresent your personal information. If your resume says you graduated in 1895, you might be a triumph of modern medicine, but more than likely, you are just a careless person who graduated in 1995.  It might also help to include the area code on your phone number and the domain name of your email address.

Former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson padded his resume with a college degree that he did not actually earn – and he was ousted.

Format your text. If you submit a resume that is a single run-on sentence, a single paragraph and/or entirely in capital letters, your professionalism will invariably be called to question. Make sure to adjust your resume if it gets reformatted, and be sure that it is always easy to read.

Check out this candy bar resume, which is formatted perfectly – despite the creative wrapping.

Although inadvertent spelling and grammar mistakes are an unfortunate addition to your resume or cover letter, perhaps one of the worst types of resume blunders come from candidates who have no idea they have made an error. Here are some tips to avoid putting your foot in your mouth, and forcing a hiring manager to send your application to the bottom of the pile:

Avoid jokes. Unless you are applying to be a comedian, steer clear of humor. Mentioning you have an “excellent track record” but that you are “not a horse” will at best will get a light chuckle from the hiring manager as she crumples up your application.

Be specific, but not too specific. Listing just “worked with co-workers” or “worked with food” as job responsibilities makes you appear inarticulate. A six-page resume with an eight-page cover letter makes you look obsessive. Look for a happy medium that combines a list of your past experiences with the results that you achieved.

Don’t include too much information. Some people, especially those with limited work experience, like to list all their accomplishments. Make sure you only include those that highlight your qualifications. “Prom Queen” or “level 10 dungeon master” is probably not applicable to the position you are applying for.

Be positive. Never explain why you left your last job or that you “have trouble following directions.”  Pro tip: Saying you “crumpled under pressure, but are looking for redemption,” isn’t as hilarious to a hiring manager as it sounds in your head.

If you are not sure how a point on your resume will go over with a hiring manager, leave it out. Set yourself apart from other job candidates by being succinct, professional, creative, and reasonable.

Also, one last proofread couldn’t hurt.



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