5 Things that Make Your Resume Look Unprofessional

Your work history may speak for itself, and you may know for sure that your target job aligns perfectly with your experience and skills. But your target employers don’t know this yet. And you’ll have a hard time convincing them to hire you if your resume isn’t helping your case. 

In addition to listing all the reasons why you’re smart, dedicated, and a great cultural match, you’ll also have to use your resume as a personal marketing tool. And to do this, you’ll need to focus on style as well as substance. Here are five small, fixable issues that may be hurting your chances by making your resume look unprofessional.

1. Your formatting decisions make your history look thin.

If your text stops halfway down the page and ends in an abyss of bank space, you’re sending the wrong message. What you mean to say is this: “I’m efficient and straightforward. I won’t pad my resume with nonsense and filler words.” But what your employers hear is this: “I don’t have much relevant experience.”

You don’t have to solve this problem by stuffing your resume with fluff. But you do need to make some changes if you want to give yourself every advantage. Delve deeper into your background and draw more connections between what you’ve done, what you know, and what you can contribute to this job. Fill that white space with meaningful information that can set you apart.

2. Your fonts and text decisions are silly.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if your employers notice your text or font decisions at all, something is wrong. Your actual words should come to the foreground, and the way those words appear on the page should fade and become invisible. No colored words, no curly-cue fonts, and no clip art. Keep your total font styles—including different points/sizes, bold text, and italics—limited to four.

3. You’ve referenced your personal life a few too many times.

Try to keep references to your children, marital status, age, lifestyle, and religion out of your resume. This may not be possible, since your job history may include previous employers and organizations of a religious or otherwise revealing nature, but let these previous job titles tell the story—don’t add additional detail on your own. 

4. Your resume contains just one damaging grammatical error.

All grammatical errors are a problem in a resume, but some cause a proportionally higher level of damage than others. Keep a close eye out for: 

  • "Your” versus “you’re”
  • “They’re” versus “their”
  • Mixed metaphors and misapplied aphorisms (like “taking the bull by the horns of a dilemma,” “for all intensive purposes,” and “escape goat”)
  • They and them instead of “he or she” and “him or her” 

5. Your resume and/or cover letter are a little too negative.

Review your documents for any phrase that sounds angry, accusatory, apologetic, or even just a little bit sad. Then edit the statement or take it out altogether. For example, change “I wasn’t satisfied with my last position” to “I learned a great deal during my last position, and now I’m ready to move on.” (Hint: simply changing “but” to “and” can sometimes transform the tone of a compound sentence from negative to positive.) 

Your Resume Is Your Ambassador & Your Advocate

Your resume will meet your potential employers long before you do, so make sure it represents you well. Gain your reader’s trust by keeping your document organized, professional, and visually appealing. Get help from the tools and templates on LiveCareer

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