In such an uncertain and competitive job market, there's never been a more important time to polish your resume (even if you aren't on the job hunt right now).
Before you get started, take some time to think about your strengths, weaknesses and goals. Also keep in mind who your competition is and what unique skills you have that might set you apart.
Once you've given these things some thought, it's time for the most important — and perhaps trickiest — step: Putting it all on paper. Here are the five biggest resume mistakes to avoid (along with examples of what to do instead), according to advisors at Harvard University's Office of Career Services:
If you want a professional job, write like a professional. Too often, people ignore the importance of spelling and grammar because the job they want doesn't involve related tasks like editing manuscripts or magazine features.
But spelling and grammar are indicators of two skills that are essential to any job: Attention to detail and communication. They tell hiring managers if you're diligent in your work and can communicate clearly — both verbally and via email — with co-workers, supervisors and clients.
Examples of common errors:
In a passive sentence, the object of the action becomes the subject of the sentence. If that sounds confusing, that's because it is.
Resumes written in passive language can make for a boring read, use too many words, be vague and, worst of all, lead to a tangle of prepositional phrases. For a stronger effect, career experts at Harvard suggest using an active voice and compelling "action" words:
Examples of passive vs. active:
At the very top of your resume should be: Your name (big and in bold), address (to let the hiring manager know where you're based), personal email and phone number (so they can contact you).
In some cases, it may be appropriate to include a link to your website or portfolio. Anything else is just a waste of space.
Examples of what not to include:
A black and white resume with clear headings and spacing will stand out more than a colorful resume with excessive use of boxes and line borders coming from all directions.
Make your resume easy to read and follow by balancing white spaces and using underlining, italics, bold and capitalization for emphasis. When listing details under a section, use bullet points (instead of numbers or letters).
Examples of bad formatting:
Unless you're applying for an executive position, your resume shouldn't be longer than a page (at most two pages).
Note: This does not mean you should abbreviate. Whatever it is, spell it out, or your reader will have no idea what you are talking about.
Examples of what will make your resume longer: