Stupid Mistakes I’ve Made on My Resume and the Best Way You Can Avoid Them

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:

Inconsistent Formatting

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:

Capitalization

  • Are bullet points consistently upper case or lower case?

Commas

Periods

  • Are you using periods at the ends of bullet points or not?

Font

  • Is your use of font size and style consistent? For instance, are all of your job titles bolded if you want them to be?

Spacing

  • Is everything spaced evenly? Are the items you want centered actually centered? Are the margins too wide or too narrow?

Dropped Words

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:

PEER EDITING.

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. 

Related

Ten Action Verbs That Will Make Your Post-Teaching Resume Pop

Instagram It: Tailor Your Career Change Resume in Three Steps

Five Skills Teachers Have That Employers Want

Six Things That Will Get Your Resume Thrown in the Garbage by Hiring Managers (Forbes)

Resumes Suck. Here’s the Data. (Aline Lerner)

Lessons from a Year’s Worth of Hiring Data (Aline Lerner)

Instagram It: How to Tailor Your Career Change Resume in Three Steps

Have you heard students talking about the latest updates to their Instagram accounts?

Do you enjoy posting photos to your own Instagram, or follow friends who do?

Whether you love it, hate it, or have never heard of it, you can take a cue from the photography app as you craft your post-teaching resume.

Let me explain:

On Instagram, you crop, add a filter and shift focus before sharing your picture with the world. You can take the same three steps to edit your post-teaching resume.

1. Crop: Cut the parts of your old resume that don’t serve the big picture.

Get rid of details that are no longer relevant to the jobs you want. This involves shortening bullet points, scrapping whole lines and even entire sections of your teaching resume that don’t translate to your target career.

"Crop" your teaching resume to focus on your new goals.

“Crop” your teaching resume to focus on your new goals.

What will hiring managers care about? What won’t matter to them?

Let these questions guide your “delete” button.

For instance, I cut the education and literature courses I had listed as “Relevant Coursework” under the “Education” section of my teaching resume. Except for the time I applied to an academic textbook publisher,  I knew the fact that I’d taken “Methods of Teaching Secondary English” and “Shakespeare: Tragedies and Romances” would no longer interest employers.

I also pared down the descriptions of my two teaching jobs from 8-10 lines each, to 5-7 lines each. This doesn’t mean your descriptions have to be 5-7 lines long, especially if you’ve only had one teaching job. But you should think about how to make your explanation concise and clear to someone who’s never worked in education.

2. Add a filter: help employers see your experience in the right light.

As I’ve said before, teaching has prepared you well for success outside the classroom. But employers need guidance to understand and appreciate the value that you bring.

This step is like choosing the Instagram filter that best suits the image you want to project.

bearoriginalandfilter

Let your teaching experience shine in the right light.

So, instead of using education-speak like “backwards design,” or “Common Core Content Standards,” explain how you focused on objectives and delivered results.

And rather than saying you differentiated instruction, show how you adapted your work for different audiences, or met the needs of various stakeholders.

3. Shift focus: sharpen the details that matter and bring them to the front.

One of the coolest features on Instagram is the tilt/shift button. Basically, it makes parts of your picture blurry while bringing others into focus. I like how it can make an unremarkable photo I’ve taken look compelling and even mysterious.

bearwithts

Not a very artistic example of tilt shift, but those sprinkles do look pretty crunchy.

Applying tilt/shift to your post-teaching resume means a) changing the order of your resume so what’s most relevant stands out, and b) adding specific details to illustrate your qualifications.

So if you’re involved in any projects or volunteer work (including school activities) that demonstrate your interest in your target career, make sure to highlight them. For me, that meant listing my experience as a freelance writer first — before either of my teaching jobs.

And if a job description asks for experience with “juggling multiple projects on tight deadlines,” prove how you’ve done it:

Delivered daily lesson plans, weekly homework grades, monthly progress reports and quarterly grades

Here, specific timeframes (daily, weekly, monthly) help create a vivid picture of the projects you handled simultaneously. As I said in my post on transferable skills from teaching, quantifying your accomplishments is an effective way to apply “show, don’t tell” to your resume.

When it’s done, your edited resume should convince employers that you look exactly like who they want. It should also make you think, “Hey! I look pretty good in that!” — even if you could only see yourself as a teacher before.


If you’ve landed a job after teaching, how did you you crop, filter or shift your teaching resume?

Related

Five Skills Teachers Have That Employers Want

Ten Action Verbs That Will Make Your Post-Teaching Resume Pop

How to Add Experience to Your Resume (Without Adding a Page) (The Muse)

Spring Clean Your Resume (The Muse)

Twenty Things You Should Leave Off Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile (Inc.)

Strategic Portrayal of Transferable Job Skills Is a Vital Technique (Quint Careers)