Skip to main content
OLC logo

OLC Editor

SFU Staff
Co-operative Education

Image reads, "Rejected" in red block letters, with a large X over the word "resume"
Similarly, telling employers what you've done is generally not good enough. Communicate your accomplishments by using action verbs such as exceeded or increased. Quantify your achievements if possible.

If you want to nab that dream job, your first step is to get  an interview. But in order to get that interview, you'll need to capture the employer's  attention.  Your résumé is your first  chance to make a good impression to a potential employer.  A poorly-written résumé will almost certainly  be put in the "No" pile.

Recently, I've worked  with Kate Aldcroft, Career Advisor at SFU Business Career  Management Centre, in getting my résumé updated.  Kate has had a few years of experience as a  recruitment manager before coming on board with SFU Business. Because her  insights have helped me tremendously, I've asked her to share some of the most  common mistakes she has seen applicants make with their résumés.

Make sure you avoid these  common mistakes that Kate identified (and the additional "don'ts" below) to  increase your chances of getting that interview! 

1. It's Not Customized

There's a misconception that only cover letters need to be tailored for every  position. The fact is that a generic résumé will not meet the needs of all potential employers. For example, your  "Profile" needs to match the qualifications posted for a job. Since each employer has different needs based  on their corporate culture or history, sending them a generic résumé may give  them the impression that you're not the right person for the job.

2. There are Grammatical and Spelling Errors

Be attentive to every small detail in your résumé. If you rely on Spell Check on MS Word, beware: the software catches most errors, but it may  not catch common conventions. 

3. You Didn't Mention Your Transferable Skills

As a student, you might find  yourself applying for jobs that you haven't had previous experience with.  Communicate clearly what skills from your  previous positions transfer to the posted position. Similarly, telling employers what you've done is generally not good enough.  Communicate your accomplishments by using action verbs such as exceeded or increased.  Quantify your  achievements if possible.   

4. You Didn't Mention Extracurricular Activities

Kate emphasized that employers value volunteer work. Employers are also eager to know if you've been involved  in your community or around your campus. Your work experience alone will not  get you that interview, so don't short change yourself by omitting  extra-curricular activities.

5. The Formatting is Poor

Remember, you only have a few minutes to convince  potential employers to invite you in for an interview. Make sure you guide your  readers' eyes by using clean, attractive formatting.  If you're not sure if your formatting is good enough, print out your résumé and read it as if you've never seen the  document. You can also ask a friend or a  career counselor to go through your printed résumé to see what other formatting  changes you can make.

Although these top five reasons are common, below are some other resume don'ts to keep in mind:

Don't Exaggerate

You'd want to communicate your achievements, but you should also make sure that  you're not exaggerating.  If you've  accomplished a task with a team, be specific with your contributions and  explain how your work contributed to the overall group objective. However, be  very clear that it was a team effort. Also, Kate cautioned that you might be asked to justify  numbers in your résumé, so be prepared to explain achievements that you've  quantified.  

Don't Include an "Objective"

The use of an  "objective" section is outdated and impractical. Firstly, it may be redundant:  if you've applied for a position, then your objective was to land that  position. On the flip side, having an objective that's too broad - e.g. "To get  a job in Marketing, Communications, PR or Event Planning" - may communicate  lack of focus and may thus turn off potential employers. Kate recommended including "Profile" or "Skills Summary" instead of an  "Objective". In this section, include a customized list of achievements and  skills that match what the employer is looking for.

Don't Use Personal Pronouns

As a general convention, you'd want to avoid pronouns such as I or my.  As a document, your résumé is strictly only about you, so there's no need to  use personal pronouns.

Don't Include Your High School Information

If you are currently in university, it  follows that you've finished high school. So, there's no need to include this  information in your résumé. According to Kate, you should include information from your  high school only if a.) You've accomplished something extraordinary during high  school, or b.) You have work experience from high school that's less than 5 years old.

Don't Include References

You should bring a list  of references to the interview that you can leave with the employer - however,  a list of references shouldn't be in your résumé.  Also, save some space in your résumé by omitting  the line "References available upon request".   Employers assume that you will provide references when they request it.

Don't Use Fancy Fonts

Use a clean font. Use a font size that's not too big or too small. Avoid using a font size of less than 10. You should  use different font sizes to highlight certain sections of your résumé, but Kate  recommends avoiding the use of more than three different font sizes. 

Don't Use Contractions

Because you want to  maintain a more formal tone in your résumé, avoid contractions such as don't, haven't and I've.

Don't Include a Link to Your Blog or Twitter

If you're one of the growing number of job-seekers who maintains a blog in order to enhance your online  image, you might be tempted to include a link of your blog in your résumé.  Kate, however, recommends playing it safe and not including the link to your  blog in your résumé.  (An exception to  this rule might apply if you're applying for a position that directly relates to blogging or social media.)

Instead of providing the URL to your blog or to your Twitter  account, Kate recommends providing your LinkedIn account in your résumé.  In your LinkedIn profile, you may choose to  include the links to your blog or to your Twitter account if you believe that  these will enhance your image. 

Don't List an Unprofessional Email Address

Some of us have an email address that  reflects our interests (e.g. In your contact  information, it is best to use a more professional email address such as one  that includes your name. In a competitive job environment, every little detail  counts. Impress potential employers by avoiding the pitfalls outlined here and  increase your chances of getting an interview!

Do you have other don'ts to share?  Post them in the comments below.

Beyond the Blog

  • OLC Editor Nov 5, 2012
    Like to recommend this item
    visibility  9


OLC logo

OLC Editor

SFU Staff
Co-operative Education
The OLC Lead Editor manages content submissions, provides feedback on content submissions and assists with the development of content with contributors.

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

tower in ottawa
Increasing Your Chances of Working for the Government

With the stability and the opportunities that a government position provides, it’s not surprising that a lot of students are interested with working for the government. The What Can I Do in Government session gave students an opportunity to network with a panel consisting of alumni, current students and managers who are experienced in working for the public sector. Read on for some insights and tips that the panelists provided!

a portrait image of a woman smiling and looking into a distance
Self Discovery

In the changing labour market there are increased opportunities for seeking your own Co-op placement through a Self-Directed Work Search. In this 3 steps blog series by our career advisor Heather Williams, learn about how to successfully conduct self-directed work search from self-discovering to landing an informational interview.

Image reads, "Rejected" in red block letters, with a large X over the word "resume"
Five Reasons Why Your Résumé Might Get Tossed Out (and Other Resume Don'ts)
Seeking, Resumes, Career Exploration, Professional Development, Student Success

Your résumé is your first chance to impress a potential employer. A few avoidable mistakes, however, might force a potential employer to toss out your résumé in the “NO” file. What are the most common mistakes applicants make with their résumés? Avoid these common pitfalls to increase your chances of getting an interview!

You Might Like These... Seeking

A photo of the author
The 201st Application

It’s been two months and 20 days since my first day of my Co-op term at Westcoast Family Centres, but I still find myself waking up every other day in utter disbelief that things worked out!

a group of people mingling and clinking glasses during an office party
Start Building Your Network

The second article in the “Self-Directed” series explores ways to be resourceful about your job search and begin building your professional network.

Man writing notes on paper at a desk with a macbook on the side
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Co-op

Thinking about doing a co-op term but not sure how to have a successful experience? Starting a co-op term for the first time can be daunting. Here are a few tips to make the best out of your co-op opportunity.