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How To Screw Up A Resume – And How Not To – Part 2

See Part 1 of this post.

Grammar and Spelling Errors Galore

Of course, this one is a standard in How To Write Resumes literature, but it’s an often ignored and underestimated aspect of writing a successful resume. In this student’s resume, it was riddled with grammar and spelling errors; too many in that it was unforgivable. Sure, this resume was in the student’s second language, but he is an MBA and should know better than to pass off shoddy work.

The problem with poor grammar and spelling is that it makes it harder for someone to understand what you do and who you are. Odds are, a professional with a bad resume doesn’t have a clear understanding of their value proposition and career profile and thus cannot properly explain him or herself in clear and succinct language. Spelling and grammar problems only add to that problem.

How not to screw up your resume:

I’ve written resumes for Arabs and Asians who could barely speak English, but despite the language barrier these professionals saw the value of hiring someone with the capacity to understand their work and the ability to communicate that in the appropriate language. I have a French resume and had mine looked over by professionals each time I made a change.

If you’re not a strong speller or writer, it’s OK – you most likely have skills in other important areas. I know CEOs and executives with dyslexia and manage to forge strong careers for themselves. The key point is to know when to get help and to allow others with better language skills to fix your mistakes when you don’t know how.

Rambling, Unclear Job Summaries

If my student’s resume was just plain ugly, but had strong bones – I wouldn’t have been so shocked or dismayed. Unfortunately, it made no sense. The job summaries were unclear, they were full of jargon (which a lot of recent graduates love to throw in because it makes them sound smart), and rambled. I could only imagine how irritated a recruiter or HR manager could get by looking at it.

It wasn’t that this student’s job was unclear to me – it is quite simple, but the way he wrote it confused the heck out of me. I’ve written resumes for doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers and other technical careers whose level of expertise and skill go above and beyond my level of comprehension, but I always manage to swing the content around so that someone who goes in with absolutely no idea what that person does comes out knowing simply and fully the purpose of their job.

How not to screw up your resume:

When writing resumes, we must consider the audience: recruiters, HR managers, and networking contacts that most likely have no idea what we do, but have only a basic understanding of the role. These gate keepers are the people who usually get the resume before the person who truly does understand the job you’re applying for (aka your potential boss). If you write your resume in confusing language and use acronyms without first spelling them out, you’re most likely going to get stopped at the gates and refused entry.

Of course, you want to use industry terms that signify your comprehension of the job you want, but poor grammar, confusing language, unclear explanations means that you don’t know how to communicate in simple, relatable terms.

Keep your language concise, clear, and specific. If you’re having trouble, read out your resume to a friend who doesn’t really understand what you do. If they can’t understand it, then you have to rewrite it. The moment that they can understand it and in turn explain it to someone else, you’ve reached your goal.

Bad Attitude And Poor Excuses

This student sent their resume to me on the invitation that I would look at it for free with no obligation and give critiques to those who wanted the advice and insight. This student sent theirs in, I reviewed it, and sent back the following summarized response:

  1. I spent a lot of time working on my resume layout. A resume is personal and it represents me. I won’t be using your (recommended) layout.

  2. I had X Person, X Person, and X Person at my job look it over and they all approved it.

  3. I have enough work experience already, so I won’t be adding any more.

  4. I have a full time job and I don’t have the time to work on it (any further).

First, when someone, anyone, who normally gets compensated for what they do and do it for free for you as a favor, the normal response is to say Thank You even if you don’t intend to use the advice or information. As a coach, I always tell my clients they can either take or leave what I say, because ultimately they’re the ones calling the shots, so I’m used to hearing no thanks. It’s OK! But when something is so bad –  like a mechanic saying that you really need to change a tire because you’re running on a flat –  that it’s obvious – it’s time to pull your head from where the sun doesn’t shine and listen to reason.

How Not To Screw Up Your Resume & Get The Career You Deserve!

I get that you spent hours working on your resume – in fact, I respect that. The problem is we can get so invested in a project simply because of all of the hours we put into it that we fail to see and accept that we’ve gone off into the wrong direction. It stinks to hear and face the cold truth that a resume or cover letter that we worked hours one just don’t do the job. I usually tell my clients that they’ll know that their resume is bad when they’re not getting calls. If you’re not, it’s time to get back to the drawing board and get some help.

Heck, I recently wrote a resume for a single mom who had – I am not exaggerating – twelve jobs in the past two years because she had to constantly quit due to a lack of quality childcare. I formatted it and wrote it in such an effective way that she managed to get calls and a new job in just a couple of weeks after months of struggling and wondering where the next paycheck would come from.

Sure, your boss, boss’ boss and some other boss gave you the OK for your resume. Thumbs up! It doesn’t mean that they can properly write in English, have an understanding of what you want out of your career and life, and (if they’ve been at the same job and/or position for ten to fifteen years) know how competitive the job market really is. It certainly doesn’t hurt to get your colleagues and superiors to look at your resume and to give you tips, but be warned to not invest all of your confidence in their approvals until you’ve got a professional to look at it, specifically recruiters, career coaches and resume writers like myself, and qualified HR professionals.

If you have enough experience to get you to the next level – awesome. If you don’t, get to work. Again, be sure to clarify and specify your current and past experience in such a way that it’s meaningful, convincing, and insightful as to how you can be a benefit to an organization.

Sometimes, we have bad situations and even with the best of situations we have bad resumes. We have to face the facts and learn to accept that something can and must change in our strategy – and arrogance needs to be checked at the door before that can happen.


  1. Keep your resume layout simple, clean, and legible – let your words paint the image of your experience and don’t let the layout stand in the way.

  2. Remove anything that can lead to discrimination: photos, birthdate, age, etc.

  3. Ensure proper grammar and correct spelling.

  4. Write clear, specific job summaries and specific and measurable accomplishments and contributions.

  5. Put aside your ego, get professional help when necessary, and keep an open mind to your job searching materials and job search.


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 #executivemanagement #careerdevelopment

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