6 Resume Tweaks I Didn’t Realize Were Tacky Until My Late 20s

When you are young, you receive a lot of bad advice about applying for jobs and getting your foot in the door at companies. One of the worst pearls of wisdom I ever received was to take the first job I got out of college. Now that I am through an MBA program and starting to get serious about my career prospects, I would love to share a few lessons I have learned about resume pitfalls over the years.

1. Using color

I paid $10.99 for a fancy red resume layout at one point. And it was a great resume for getting me into graduate school. However, my mentor took one look at it and told me to change it back to normal. Unless you are applying for a UX designer role, avoid using color. I used to think that making my name red, purple, or pink would catch the hiring manager’s eye. However, all this says about me is that I know how to push the font color button on Microsoft word. Let your qualifications speak for themselves. No extra splash of orange is needed!

2. Picking a unique layout

Because I am dangerously overeducated, I struggled to organize my resume in a way that could fit every single accomplishment I ever achieved. My resume used to have three bulleted sections with vertical dividers to contain my main skills. All this did was make it more difficult for the ATS system to read my resume. I have three words for you; keep it simple. Cramming as much information into as little space as possible is not impressive. It is obnoxious. Find a uniform layout and work with it. This brings me to my next resume mistake.  

3. Adding too much white space

I am not sure how I made it this far before a mentor finally told me that you need to use equal amounts of room for all sections, titles, and bulleted lists on your resume. The amount of white space you use on your resume matters a lot. The way you space items between your resume demonstrates your attention to detail or lack thereof. Please avoid using giant white spaces between different sections on your resume. One or two pages does not go a long way, and you need all the real estate you can get to list your skills.

4. Choosing flippant verbiage

I know what you are thinking: this one is a no-brainer. However, when you are a freshly minted college grad, it is not always obvious which words sound good to a seasoned professional. These days, you are supposed to craft your job duties in terms of results, not responsibilities. I strongly recommend doing a quick Google search on power verbs. Enough said.

5. Any use of italics

Just don’t do it. I considered italics to be the gold standard of resume writing during college and graduate school, but I was wrong. All this does is make your writing harder to read and puts confusing emphasis on details that will, more likely than not, be skimmed over. Numbering and bolding specific items are more effective ways of making information stand out. When in doubt, don’t italicize anything.

6. Making your headings giant

Not every job title, university, or club needs to be in size fourteen font. You only need to use one font size bigger for all titles except for your name. Additionally, your name and title for your header should not be abnormally large. A good rule of thumb is to aim for two font sizes bigger than whatever font size you choose for your job titles. 

You want to stand out when applying for jobs, but in a good way. Your resume is a tool to get you past the ATS system and into an interview with the hiring manager. It is okay to be quirky and weird. However, it is best to wait until an in-person conversation to let your personality shine. When crafting your resume, keep it classy and as professional as possible. Good luck out there!