3 Scariest Resume Mistakes — and How to Fix Them

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ScaryJob hunting can be scarier than any horror movie. This Halloween, make sure your resume is a treat and not a trick for hiring managers by avoiding these three common mistakes.

I (Don’t) Know What You Did Last Summer

Gaps on your resume are a red flag to many employers. When months or years go unaccounted for, employers will want to know why. While gaps are bad, trying to cover them can be even worse. According to Forbes, many job seekers with spotty employment history use a functional (or skill-based) format instead of the more standard chronological format. However, Penelope Patsuris points out that “the format makes managers suspicious and more intent on piecing together a timeline of your employment.”

There are a few reasons you might have gaps on your resume; here are some of the most common and how you can present them in a positive light.

  • According to Kim Isaacs, Monster.com’s resume expert, one way to gloss over employment gaps is to list only the years of employment instead of complete dates. Short gaps will be invisible if you describe your employment as “2012-2014” instead of “January 2012-February 2014.”
  • If you took time off to raise children or care for an elderly relative, just say so. You can also easily explain a gap year spent traveling or continuing your education.
  • While you’re looking for a job, take time to volunteer in your community. Not only will your volunteer experience cover the gap in your resume, but it will also look great to a potential employer. And hey — you just might make a valuable connection or learn a new skill while you’re volunteering.

Night of the Working Dead

Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, cautions job seekers against writing in “Boilerplate Zombie language, using phrases like ‘Results-oriented professional with a bottom-line orientation.’” When aiming for a professional tone, many resumes end up sounding boring, lifeless, or terribly generic.

Avoid these common resume writing errors:

  • Vague language such as stuff or things;
  • Meaningless buzzwords such as synergy;
  • Weak verbs such as was, did, worked, and experienced;
  • Clichés such as people person, problem solver, and perfect fit for the team;
  • Overused words such as driven, creative, effective, and motivated.

Instead, focus on specific examples (especially quantifiable accomplishments), strong and active verbs, and clear, concise language.

Invasion of the Grammar Errors

As this hilarious (and, thankfully, fake) resume highlights, your word processor’s spell check is not without fault. If you rely solely on it, you may find yourself proudly proclaiming to be a “Bachelorette of Science.” Here are a few proofreading pointers:

  • Let your resume rest for at least 24 hours after writing it. Approaching it with fresh eyes helps you to avoid overlooking obvious mistakes.
  • Read it out loud. If you read a sentence differently than the way you wrote it, you may want to change the wording. Reading aloud also helps catch missing words and other errors.
  • Ask a friend — preferably an English major — to look over your resume.
  • If you don’t have your very own proofreader on speed dial (or if you just don’t want to bother your busy friends), use Grammarly’s automated proofreading tool.
  • Always re-check for spelling and grammar errors after updating your resume.

What’s your biggest resume fear? Gather ‘round the comments campfire and tell your spookiest job hunting story!


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A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and nearly FIVE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
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