Resources: ArticleBiggest Resume Mistakes with the Simplest Fixes

Mistake: Inconsistent font sizes throughout the resume.  

The Fix: Make sure all bullet points under each position are the same font size. Double check that all company names and titles are the same font size as each other as well. Highlight all of the resume headings and ensure each of them are consistent with each other as well.  

Mistake: Different font types throughout the resume.

The Fix: Highlight the entire document and select a Font Style to make the entire resume one font style. Simple and necessary.

Mistake: Wonky indentations. 

The Fix: Ensure all indentations are at the same point for all categories/headers/bullet points. In Word, the paintbrush tool is excellent for this use and consistency!

Mistake: Tenses change throughout the resume. 

The Fix: For all past positions, use past tense verbiage. For your current role (unless you’ve left this position, in which case put this in past tense as well) use the same ending of a tense (simple or continuous are ideal).  

Mistake: Punctuation for some bullet points but not all.

The Fix: Stick with either ending each bullet point with a period, or don’t. Make sure you do this throughout your resume. We see several resumes where the most recent job experience is inconsistent with the remainder of the resume because the writer is just focused on the new content and not looking at the past.

Mistake: Using different colored text.

The Fix: Change it all to black! [note that this is for our industry…the investment management industry—this may not be the same across industries but for our world—this is the way to go!]

Mistake: Incomplete dates or inconsistent dates.

The Fix: The beginning and end dates of each of your prior jobs should read consistently—if you write out the name of the month in the beginning, do it throughout—do not interchange names and numbers of months throughout your resume. If you use a two-digit month format in the beginning, use a two-digit month format throughout your resume instead of switching to a one-digit month format (ex: 03/2010 to 07/2014 for one job and then 8/2018 to 9/2019 for another). Same goes for years—if you begin using a four-digit year format, end with a four-digit year format; do not flip flop between using two digits and four digits. Additionally, each job should include both a month and a year (yes, we know that Harvard Business School students do it differently) but when months are missing from resumes, the common (non-HBS) resume reader will assume that you’re actively covering up a giant gap in your resume.  

Mistake: Having too lengthy of a resume. 

The Fix: Trim it down! Use this rule of thumb—one page per 10 years of experience. Anyone with any less than 10 years of experience should have a one-page resume. If you’re having trouble eliminating content, try and change your fonts, indentations, spacing (this one saves the MOST space), and margins to get it onto one page without cramming words into every corner of the page. 

Mistake: Including your college internships on your resume if you graduated more than 5 years ago.  

The Fix: Delete them! Enjoy the new space on your resume.  

Mistake: Sepelling errors.  (see what we did there?!)

The Fix: USE SPELLCHECK, but also comb through your resume extremely carefully. Resume headings in capital letters do not always get spellchecked—triple check them!  

Bonus!  The most commonly misspelled words on resumes that we see:

  • Liaison/liaised/liaising/liaises (everyone forgets the second “i”).  
  • Activities—this word is misspelled all the time in resume headings…don’t know why but it is!  
  • Involvement—same as above…as part of the resume heading, most people misspell this word as it is not caught in spellcheck.   
  • Industry acronyms—quadruple check these. Spellcheck can’t tell if you mean SEEC or SEC, Form PIF or Form PF, CPF or CPA etc. 
  • Assess—this is an embarrassing one when misspelled.   

Mistake: Having the two most recent jobs held read “–to present” as the end date.

The Fix: Double check all of your dates for every single job. Be sure that the months and years are accurate.  If there is overlap between jobs, it is helpful to explain that on the resume as it is otherwise extremely confusing OR looks like a typo (which is usually an automatic disqualifier).  People focus on the additions to their resume and tend to neglect the past jobs or just update their CV with the most recent work experience. 

Mistake: Including a photograph.

The Fix: Delete it.

Mistake: Excluding your software/technical expertise. 

The Fix: Add it to the end of your resume to highlight which programs, programming, and databases you’ve had exposure to and used in your recent jobs. We live in a technical world and this information is important to most firms. 

Mistake: Having a summary statement that highlights interests/skills/qualifications not applicable to the job. 

The Fix: Generally, we’re of the belief that summary statements are useless (in our experience, no summary statement was the reason a candidate received an interview or a job…it tends to be “fluff” information) so either eliminate it or tailor it to each job you apply to so that the hiring firm has belief that you’re interested in their job.

Mistake: Using pronouns in your resume like “I” and “we.”

The Fix: Take them out. Trust us on this one.  

Mistake: Having too much space occupied by a job 10+ years ago OR a job that you held for less than a year. 

The Fix: Relevance and recentness counts. Bulk up the bullet points for your most recent job and jobs that you spent the most time in relevant to the job you’re applying for. What matters to you doesn’t usually matter to the person reading your resume. Speak to the job you’re applying for and to the hiring manager reading your resume.  

Mistake: Including vague skills that cannot be tested in an interview such as “great listener” or “fast learner”.

The Fix: Focus your skills on software programs, language skills, technical knowledge, programming capabilities, and related industry knowledge that would be meaningful to an employer. Discuss and highlight your softer skills in an interview.

Mistake: Not including your visa/citizenship status if you have a degree from a foreign country.

The Fix: Add it in. If you are a US citizen or Green card holder, state it.  If you hold a visa, let the reader know this information. If a firm is not willing to or does not have the resources to sponsor a visa, it helps save you and not only time but frustration too. If you are a US citizen or Green card holder, it is in your best interest to let a future employer know that you are legally authorized to work for any employer as the assumption is to default to the thought that you’d require sponsorship (which adds time, costs, and legal responsibilities to the future employer which could potentially preclude you from inclusion in a search).