What NOT to Write: Ten Rookie Resume Mistakes

Posted: June 26, 2015


One of the frustrating aspects of seeking resume advice is the likelihood of receiving conflicting feedback from different people. Your mom says to leave off your GPA, but your advisor says to list it. Your teacher said that your student dining job is irrelevant, but your supervisor says you should definitely include it. How do you know what recruiters actually want to see, and do they even agree on what is relevant?

One of the benefits of using ECS is that we are directly connected to engineering employers, and our advice is specifically tailored toward what they want to see. (For example, we would side with your advisor and your supervisor in the examples above). Although there certain aspects of your resume that are up for debate...almost everyone would agree that they don't want to see the following items.

  1. Unprofessional or Out of Date Contact Info: Take a quick look at your contact info to make sure it is accurate. It’s best to stick with your OSU email address - but if you choose to use a custom email, just make sure it isn’t anything like lazybear@ or haters.gonna.hate@.
  2. Fancy Graphics or Pictures: The average recruiter spends about ten seconds on the first glance of a resume, so it needs to be clean, efficient and readable. Now is not the time to show off your graphic design capabilities or creative color palette. I’ve never heard a recruiter say, “I wasn’t going to consider that resume, but the Cyan font really drew me in” … never.  These items aren't ATS friendly either!
  3. Typos or Inconsistencies: Not all misspellings can be caught by spell check. For example, my own LinkedIn profile listed me as a student at Ohio Sate for about six months before I realized the mistake. Make sure you diligently proofread for these spelling mix-ups and any inconsistencies in your style or punctuation. Addiitionally spellcheck does not catch typos in words that are all caps.
  4. High School Experience: From one valedictorian to another, I know it’s hard to not let the world know about your four point plus GPA, but unfortunately all good things must come to an end. Unless you have special engineering-relevant high school experience, it should really be omitted beginning your sophomore year. Please pause for a moment of silence …
  5. Every Course that You’ve Ever Had: Most of our employers trust that OSU is going to give you the right classes for your major. Try to limit your coursework to technical electives or just classes relevant to the positions you are applying.
  6. Subjective Strengths: You’re a strong leader with an excellent work ethic? Well I’m a turkey sandwich with a soothing falsetto! Do you see how anyone can just write anything about themselves? If you are going to list a personal strength, it must be backed up with evidence. “Communication skills enhanced through multiple conference proposals and presentations.”    
  7. Negative Info: So your robot went rogue during competition day and actually drove off the course? This is something you don’t need to list on the results of your resume. Emily Dickenson wrote, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” You can’t lie about the experiences that may not have gone so well, but you can include only the more positive aspects of these scenarios (like what you learned, how to improve for next time, etc.).  Probably not what Emily was going for, but you get the point.
  8. Personal Pronouns: Cut out those I’s, me’s and mine’s. This is standard resume style and allows you to put emphasis on the transferable actions, as well as get to the point quickly for a concise read. Instead of pronouns, begin those bullets with strong action verbs (see page 8 of the Student Handbook for a beautiful listing of these verbs).
  9. References: You should have references ready for request, but you do not need to list them on a resume. It is also unnecessary and outdated to say “references available upon request” at the bottom of your page. That’s like saying “Willing to interview if contacted.” It’s just going to be assumed.
  10. Too Many Pages: In general, you should have one page per degree level. This may mean you need to cut older info out to fit everything.  Come in for walk-ins if you are having trouble fitting everything. We know a few space-saving tricks that might help!

Remember, the resume is a first clue to you as a candidate. Schedule an appointment soon to have your resume reviewed by an ECS advisor! We are here all summer!

"Emphasize your strengths on your resume, in your cover letters and in your interviews. It may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people simply list everything they've ever done. Convey your passion and link your strengths to measurable results. Employers and interviewers love concrete data."
-Marcus Buckingham

Category: Resumes