Being a former English teacher and current full-time writer doesn’t make me immune from silly mistakes in my writing — it just makes them more embarrassing. I learned this lesson after finding several errors in my post-teaching resume, ones that you should look out for as you work on your own:
After emailing my resume to someone I had met for an informational interview, she pointed out that the bullets in one section began with lowercase letters, while those in other sections started with uppercase letters.
This might not seem like a big deal, but when I looked at the document again, I saw how unprofessional it looked. I knew the mistake happened because I had focused my efforts on one section and in doing so, missed the big picture: How does my resume look as a whole?
Your resume should reflect your thoroughness, attention to detail, and ability to communicate in a professional way — even if you’re not applying to a writing-related job. So make sure it avoids these common formatting issues:
- Are bullet points consistently upper case or lower case?
- Do lists consistently use the serial comma or avoid it?
- Are you using periods at the ends of bullet points or not?
- Is your use of font size and style consistent? For instance, are all of your job titles bolded if you want them to be?
- Is everything spaced evenly? Are the items you want centered actually centered? Are the margins too wide or too narrow?
Dropped words are also easy to miss in your resume. Even when we reread what we’ve written multiple times, we often gloss over missing words, especially small ones like “to,” “from,” and “that.”
This happens because we’re reading our own writing, and because we tend to scan and skim when reading on screens. Thankfully, my husband caught several dropped words in my resume when he looked at it.
Deleting Lines or Even Entire Sections by Mistake
My most embarrassing resume mistake has been dropping the entire Education section not once, but twice. This serious yet totally avoidable omission was brought to my attention by two readers of two different versions of my resume.
Both times I had been working on adding more detail to the Experience section — and failed to notice that expanding this cell had lopped off the Education cell under it (Word formatting drives me crazy!).
Luckily, the people who noticed this mistake were helping me improve my resume, not evaluating me for a job. Now I make sure that I’ve got all sections — especially the Education section — in place before submitting my resume for an application or sharing it with a professional contact.
So, did you notice my “trick” for avoiding these blunders in your own resume?
(I’ve already mentioned it three times in this post.)
Here it is, in terms that should be familiar to most teachers:
Yes, peer editing — exactly what students learn to do as part of the writing process.
You might be thinking — as I did sometimes — I can do this on my own, or I don’t want to bother anyone, or Do I have to? [in whiny student voice]
The answer is YES. Peer editing is essential to making sure your resume looks its best and doesn’t get thrown onto the “reject” pile for silly mistakes. You’ll be astounded by how many formatting inconsistencies, dropped words or lines (hopefully not sections, like mine), and other errors you can find when someone takes a fresh look at your resume.
As I’ve said before, finding life after teaching requires putting what we teach into practice.
So we’ve got to be willing to get help with our writing, just as we ask students to do.
Trust me. You won’t regret.
BONUS TIPS — straight from my English teacher toolbox
- Print out your resume and break out the red pen. Even better, give the hard copy of your resume and red pen to your peer reader.
- Read your resume out loud. Besides helping you catch errors, this exercise will help you and your peer reader improve the flow, word choice, and clarity of your writing.
Resumes Suck. Here’s the Data. (Aline Lerner)
Lessons from a Year’s Worth of Hiring Data (Aline Lerner)