How Not to Write a Resume

How to Write a Resume

So you’ve built your resume and taken care of all that we discussed in my previous blog on how to write a resume? Maybe you think that you now know how to write a resume that is suitably equipped to win you that interview? Think again!

It is almost heart-wrenching how blissfully ignorant most of us are, on some aspects that we believe are correct or harmless but which actually end up presenting the resume and by extension, us, in a distasteful light to the reader.

Most of these seem simple and obvious, yet mysteriously elude us as we get caught up in hammering out our past glories and future goals in sincere attempts to wow a prospective employer. If only there was a ready-made list of common resume bloopers that we could check off, right? Well then, read on!

Make it Personal

One size never fit all, my friend. A common mistake made by many of us is to have a single resume and send out the same for different companies and interviews.

Think of it this way.

If you were out shopping for a shirt or dress for your child, would you pick one that almost every other kid is wearing? Or would you search for one that has something unique, that actually fits your child’s size, taste and coloring?

A prospective employer has similar thoughts as he/she attempts to hire an individual. They do not want a regular run-of-the-mill list of qualifications; instead he/she is looking for what special things you can bring to the role, whether you understand the company, the position being offered and if yes, why do you think you are best suited for that role.

Thus, before sending it out, it is good practice to customize the resume depending on the position or the organization, to highlight relevant skills, achievements and objectives as well as to rearrange the existing content to bring the more relevant points forward.

Needless to say, this requires time and effort spent in researching the company, but if this helps in making your resume stand apart, I would say it is surely worth the investment.

Mind your Language!

Nothing screams ‘rookie’ more than a resume that has spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. And in these days of widely available applications, it is almost sinful to submit a resume with these gaps. Ensure that you use available tools like the spell check and thesaurus to avoid these pitfalls.

Also (and it happens even to the best of us) using a word that we were hitherto convinced conveyed a particular aspect actually implies quite the contrary! A common reason for this is the diverse language environment that we are exposed to these days—mother tongues, local dialects, peer jargon, office grapevine, the media . . . .  It is quite likely that these various sources cloud our understanding of the true meaning of a word or a phrase and if the same garbled comprehension is carried into the resume, it could spell disaster.

Hence make sure you get your resume reviewed by a friend or relative or (even better) a professional who can help you here.

Paragraphs or . . . ?

Let’s try a simple experiment. Which of these two makes more sense to you, or makes a stronger impact?

“In my previous project, I designed and developed code for different modules of the billing system. I was also responsible for Unit Testing and System Testing of the code developed by me and my team members. I also handled project quality which involved calculation and monitoring of key metrics such as . . . ”


  • Design and Development of software code for Billing System for client XXX
  • Independent Unit Testing and System Testing of software code
  • Project Quality Management including monitoring of key quality metrics such as Defect Injection Rate. . .

Bullets are easier to read and retain as compared to long drawn-out paragraphs where the meat of the content is diluted by a whole lot of other words that build the sentence. Also human attention span is surprisingly small; by the time, the reader gets to the fifth line, he/she has forgotten what was said in the first, more so if the subject is unfamiliar or repeated excessively—both of which are possible situations here.

Use bullets in your resume to communicate job responsibilities, achievements, educational qualifications, other achievements and skills. And bear in mind that bulleted sentences are a means to replace the long paragraphs, not just to change their representation. Even while building the sentences for the bullet-points, keep them short—not more than 2 lines long. Keep the bullets simple like the filled-in dark circle or the unfilled one.

Smileys and other complex formats take away the seriousness of the document and may also be unreadable in some situations.

Font matters

Yes it does! Your resume is not the place for you to demonstrate your artistic abilities. Use fonts and colors that are not very fancy or loud. Times New Roman is the easiest to read and best-suited for resumes.

You may highlight different sections and job titles by making them bold them or using a different font, but avoid trying to stand apart by experimenting too much.

Remember, loud font sizes imply that you are screaming out your achievements to the audience and a person scanning hundreds of resumes really does not need that. Stick to a font size between 10 and 12 depending on the font type.

How does it all come together?

No one knows why, but a resume once printed looks different as compared to what you see on the computer screen, or worse, varies from computer to computer. By keeping your resume as simple as possible and using standard fonts, heading formats and bullets, you can minimize chances of the latter.

In case you need to send a hard copy of the document, it is a good idea to take a couple of print outs and make the necessary changes until you get the desired effect.

We only get one shot at making a first impression and it takes enormous effort to build a good and lasting one. An un-dotted ‘i’ or a misplaced ‘the,’ a lengthy paragraph that says too much or a garish font that says too loud—these are small loopholes that if left unplugged in your resume, can bring that impression crashing down.

Hopefully this piece will help you avoid such a situation and make a good impact. Good luck!


About the Author

After more than 7 years in the IT industry, Devmitra has now given into her passion for writing and public speaking. A hard-core Scorpio at heart, she believes in making every event in life a learning experience for the future.

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