Resume & Cover Letter Tips: Avoiding Awkward Blunders

Many of the damaging resume red flags that can remove candidates from the running aren’t the result of malicious behavior on the part of the applicant. And they aren’t usually careless acts of negligence either, like spelling mistakes. For the most part, these unfortunate blunders are committed by candidates making an innocent bid for a little more attention.If you think these moves can’t hurt your chances, think again. And if believe your level of subtlety will earn you a pass, you may need to take a closer look. Keep in mind that hiring managers view dozens or hundreds of resumes per week, so a move that seems original or clever to a candidate doesn’t always appear that way when viewed through more seasoned and skeptical eyes. Avoid mistakes like the ones below.

Proprietary Information

Of course you know better than to badmouth your previous company or your previous boss in your cover letter. You would never say anything negative about your coworkers or your previous clients, and you would never say anything disparaging or insulting about your industry as a whole.But there are still plenty of ways to get yourself into hot water by sharing too many details about your employment history. Specifically: never share any information that might be considered proprietary or secret. For example, if your employer completed a contract for a high profile client—like a well-known firm, a global brand, or a well-respected university—this isn’t necessarily public knowledge. And it isn’t necessarily yours to share in a resume or job application. Think carefully before you expose client lists, and show the same caution when referring to well-known scandals, product lines, formulas, proprietary algorithms, or any other information that your previous employer would rather not have broadcasted to their competitors.If you decide to obey the letter of the law but not the spirit when honoring non-disclosure agreements, watch out. You don’t have to use the word “Coca-Cola” if you say “one of the two largest cola brands in the world”. But if you do this, it suggests that you’re willing to bend the rules to your own ends, which can be a serious turn-off. Don’t send the message that you can’t be trusted.


Remember: HR pros and hiring managers have been in the staffing business longer than you have, and while you may come and go from the job market several times during your career, they live here all day, every day. They’ve seen every trick in the book, and they can tell when you’re “accidentally” rounding up your GPA or rounding out your previous employment dates to conceal a gap. They don’t usually like that, and most of the time, resume exaggerations are more transparent than candidates recognize.


Keep your personal statistics—including your marital and family status—to yourself. Not only can this information expose you to forms of hiring bias, it can also expose your reviewers to accusations of bias whether they decide to hire you or not. They may give you negative marks for having a family (shame on them), or they may give you positive marks for having a family (again, shame on them for overlooking the candidates who don’t). But you’ll keep yourself and your potential employers safe from this trap if your personal information stays off the table.

Integrity & Propriety Can Keep You In the Running

Keep your resume above reproach by visiting MyPerfectResume and using the tools, tips, and professional guidance available on the site.