The Seven Deadly Sins of Resume Writing

By Peter Newfield, President of®

The resume is a double-edged sword: If your resume is a strong, accomplishment-driven example of your career experience, it can open doors and bring you new opportunities. But, if your resume is weak, disjointed, and boring it can virtually slam the door on your next career move. Whether you write your own resume or have it professionally prepared, check over your document to ensure that you have not committed any of the following “Seven Deadly Sins” of resume writing.

I. DECEIT - Purge your resume of any false information immediately! Lying about job titles, dates of employment, awards, or inflating statistics, financial figures, or numbers of employees supervised will definitely catch up with you in the end. Do not falsify college or grad school degrees -- if you did not graduate, just indicate the number of credits or years of undergraduate classes you actually attended. More and more companies are doing background checks on prospective employees and they are looking for precisely these types of falsehoods.

II. OMISSION - If your resume contains gaps in years of employment, it will raise questions. If you can explain the time away from employment and feel that it would be important for a prospective employer to know this information, include it in your cover letter. If you did not graduate from college but did take any professional training courses, include this information under the “Education” heading instead of just leaving off any reference to education.

III. INCONSISTENCY - Job hopping and presenting work experience in various fields can be disconcerting and raise a few red flags about your ability to stick with a job for any length of time. If you have moved about and changed fields over the years, it may be in your best interest to group these positions by category (a functional resume style) rather than by date (reverse chronological style). List the category, for example “Pharmaceutical Sales” and then present the related work experience. Then list the next category “Financial Services” with its related job information.

IV. TEDIUM - Resumes are meant to be concise portraits of your career experiences and strengths. You are not doing yourself a favor by rambling on for three pages or presenting your job information in large, wordy paragraphs. Break up the information with bullets to highlight your accomplishments or achievements, key words, and brief descriptions of your day to day responsibilities.

V. SENILITY - Recruiters, HR Directors, and Personnel Managers want to know “What have you done lately?” A strong resume should highlight the past 10-12 years of work experience. Don’t give as much emphasis to your current job as to the jobs you held 20 years ago. Times change, technology changes, and the experiences gained in those after-school and summer jobs during high school just don’t matter any more.

VI. NARCISSISM - Never use the pronoun “I” when writing your resume. Resumes are written in the third person. Do not claim full credit for achievements accomplished as part of a team or group effort. Don’t include personal information on your resume such as hobbies, religious organizations, or marital status.

VII. SLOTH - Your resume could be the equivalent of career gold but if it is presented with typographical errors, or on stained or badly reproduced paper, that is the personal image the prospective employer will be left pondering. It only takes a few minutes to make sure that the document representing your best chances for new and rewarding employment opportunities is clean, crisp, and professional in appearance.

There you have it - the “Seven Deadly Sins of Resume Writing” - ignore them at your own risk!

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Peter Newfield is President of®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for,,, and the former Resume Expert for, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: