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  • Leslie Juvin-Acker

How To Screw Up A Resume – And How Not To – Part 1

Oh Lord. Seriously Lord, help me. This month, I saw one of the worst resumes in the past six years of professionally writing and consulting on resumes. I’d seen some bad ones over the years but we always managed to turn them around, but a student’s resume just took the cake for me and his attitude about it made it even worse. It was so shockingly bad, I couldn’t resist showing it to other professionals for their opinions. Here’s why:

Bad Design

When I saw this resume with giant words – I mean giant, like a size 150 font giant – in four different types of fonts that did not even look like they went together, I cringed. Everything was so BIG, mix and match-y, and so distracting.

The color scheme was a strange lime green and black. I’m usually a fan of using color in resumes, especially for visually distinguishing sections to make it easier for the reader to skim, but this color scheme was just too bizarre when paired with the four different fonts. It was all so distracting that I had to strain my brain to focus on the actual content and even after reading the whole thing, I can only think about how ugly it was.

I showed it to one of my graphic designer partners who helps me with a lot of communications business projects and he had two words to give me: “Visual vomit”.

How not to screw up your resume:

I’ll lay it out there: I’m not a fan of heavily designed resumes. They’re distracting and hard to process for recruiters and hiring managers who are skimming hundreds for one particular post. When we consider the fact that most readers spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume before deciding to reject it or read on, we’re wasting precious time with images rather than facts and convincing information.

Poorly designed and ostentatious resumes can also say that you’re hiding behind appearances and may not have what it takes for the job or perhaps have a lack of understanding about your own profile and value offering. Keep your resume simple with a basic and clearly formatted design and focus more on the content: a proper professional summary, skills, accurate job descriptions, listing specific and measurable contributions, and proper grammar and spelling.

Photo, Ages, And Other Potentially Discriminatory Items

This resume had a large photo of the student in business attire standing in front of their city. I couldn’t tell if it was photoshopped or not. When I showed it to a mid-level corporate manager, he looked at it and laughed saying, “It looks like one of those stock photos of a young professional acting like he’s going to take over the city. He’s trying way too hard.”

It’s comments like this that distract from the subject’s work and focuses on their appearance. In old school European resumes, photos were standard form, but these days companies and HR professionals are telling applicants to keep their photos off in order to avoid potential discrimination.

This student also put their age in giant font – at least 75 – next to their name. I couldn’t understand why they would do that. Does he want to say that he’s young and lacks experience? Does he want to say that he’s most likely unmarried and will work for peanuts? I couldn’t put two and two together.

How Not To Screw Up Your Resume:

Don’t put a photo on your resume. You may be gorgeous, healthy, and fit, but someone could easily find something that they don’t like about you – your smile, your hair, your clothing choice – or even worse, your skin color, ethnic background, or sex – and toss your resume out. And just don’t put your age on your resume – whether you’re a young, recently graduated person or a veteran professional. Don’t welcome unnecessary discrimination and let your work experience speak for itself.

To be continued — See part two.


Leslie, Inc. offers solutions for finding happiness through one-on-one coaching, mindful leadership retreats, and digital products. If you’re ready to GET HAPPY, check out Leslie’s guide packs. For more tips on achieving your state of happiness, sign up for Leslie, Inc’s weekly newsletter.

#careeradvancement #resume #outplacement #executivecoaching #jobsearch #executivemanagement #careerdevelopment

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