Few mistakes on resumes are overlooked by hiring managers and recruiters so it is mandatory to have a perfect looking and reading resume. An HR colleague of mine told me that if her name is spelt incorrectly, she tosses the resume.

Take special care to avoid the major turnoffs so that you remain a contender at least until the last word of your resume is read. Here are what the Human Resources professionals I’ve worked with say will sink a candidate’s chances.

Lying or Stretching the Truth

The resume is a legal document. If you are caught lying on your resume, even if it is 10 years into your employment you can be terminated on the spot.

  • If you did a task or project with a team or assisted a superior, state that at the end of your accomplishment statement. E.g.) Did such and such an action, as part of a team OR assisting the Vice President.
  • Taking credit for work that you were minimally involved in will come back to bite you if you aren’t prepared to describe in detail your specific role and the result or benefit statement.
  • Exaggerating your authority, size of your staff, the percentage or dollar amount you achieved. Using percentages to indicate revenue increases can be misleading, use dollars most often.
  • If you didn’t complete your degree state “completed 3 years of a 4 year Engineering degree.”
  • If you are over 20 years old with a post secondary education you don’t have to mention your high school education. If you have worked for several years you don’t have to mention a lack of high school education, however, if you are asked if you have a high school diploma and you don’t, be prepared to address that issue.

Regurgitating Information

  • Your cover letter should not be a regurgitation of your resume.
  • Your resume should not regurgitate the verbiage of the job posting. Certainly use key words from the posting but do not copy phrases word for word in the cover letter or resume. Readers are looking for your key words that portray your personal magic.


  • Not one typo, grammatical error or spelling mistake will usually be tolerated. Mistakes indicate sloppy work and a lack of attention to detail.


  • Keep the years you worked at every company, or the time you took off to travel the world or raise children, honest. If you want to stretch the time, omit stating the months. Leaving out months is perfectly acceptable and usually preferred with longer term employment in particular.
  • Contract work should state the months if the stint is less than two years.
  • Omit the dates of graduation from post secondary education and it might send up a red flag, but leaving it in might deter the reader as well. You have to decide what is best.
  • If you took time off to raise children, provide elder care, go back to school, travel the world, were unwell or unemployed (personal leave) put that in the time line of the resume as a one liner.
  • Make sure your resume is up to date and that you don’t go back too many years, usually 10-12 years back in employment history is sufficient.

Missing Information

  • Make sure all the numbers are in your phone number and that your email address is absolutely accurate.
  • Refrain from titling your co-ordinates. You don’t have to label, Cell phone: Home Phone: email address:, etc.


  • Underlining is unnecessary. If you want to highlight one word here and there use bolding.
  • Refrain from colored graphics unless you are a graphic designer and you have a logo or company name you need to present.
  • Don’t shade sections in grey. When resumes are printed the wording in these sections may not be legible.
  • Keep the resume to two pages preferred, three if you have had a very busy and accomplished career. Publications, computer platforms and extensive education can be put on an Addendum page, as page 3.

Personal Information

  • Do not attach any pictures, or offer personal information that would be cause for discrimination. Video links are acceptable as it is the choice of the reader to click on the link, whereas a photo attached to the resume is too blatant.
  • Do not attach your references to your cover letter or resume. Wait until you are asked to provide this information and then ensure all the necessary phone numbers and email addresses are correct and up to date. Indicate whether the phone numbers are their home or work numbers.

Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer



Author of Networking: How to build relationships that count and How To Get a Job and Keep It