Career Planning: Resume Taboos to be Broken

Posted by Alyssa Pascarella on Feb 22, 2018 12:00:00 AM

A number that consistently blows students’ minds is the fact that they only have six seconds to grab a recruiter’s attention. That’s how long, on average, a recruiter or employer will initially spend perusing your resume before sorting your application into a yes, no, or maybe pile. Before sending off your resume, read these common taboos and how to overcome them on your resume.

Taboo #1: Over-designing your resume

Although it might sound a little boring to do so, you’ll really be helping yourself out by keeping your resume simple. Now’s not the time to crack your knuckles and put your creative writing and design experience to extravagant use.

resume crumpled

Use plain language and make sure that you use a easy-to-read and consistent font. It’s surprising how many students tap their inner Van Gogh and opt for multiple colors or fonts on their resume which makes it difficult to read and process. Use bold or italicized text sparingly. Remember that if everything is emphasized, italicized or highlighted then, in effect, nothing stands out. View resume templates online for ideas on what works and doesn’t work.

Taboo #2: Using complicated language and vocabulary

When preparing your resume, you should convey your merits – what you bring to the table personally, academically and professionally – without getting bogged down in technical titles and terminology.

Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and bullet point the reasons that you feel you’re qualified for the job or internship. Read over the position’s requirements carefully, check out the company’s website and, if the opportunity presents itself, speak with former or current interns or employees to find out about their experience. This can clue you into what to emphasize in your application.

For example, let’s say that you held a previous internship in which you increased a company’s brand awareness with customers by making social media posts. Let’s also say this was an IT company. Instead of saying that you were a “social media IT manager” explain in one or two plain-English bullet points what you did day-to-day.


  • Produced content for brand's Twitter page, raising awareness of IT issues, and increasing shares by 50% over 2 months. 
  • Reviewed IT trends in the news and shared best articles with followings on Twitter and Facebook. 
  • Mediated and responded to social media comments

Taboo #3: Making your resume too long

You should keep your resume to one page and make it absolutely clear to what position you’re applying. You’d be shocked how often recruiters say some variation of, “geez, that’s great, but what internship is this person applying for?”

Again, remember you only have 6 seconds to capture attention. Don’t add so much fluff that your resume extends into a second or third page. Something important may be missed.

Taboo #4: Keeping your resume generic for all positions

Your objective statement on your resume should be short, concise and tailored to the position that you’re looking to fill. With your objective statement, you want to imagine the most concise way to summarize your previous experiences.

Suppose you’ve spent the last two years as an editor for your college’s newspaper, contributed two political features for the paper, majored in political science, canvassed for local political candidates, and interned with a nationally syndicated political website.

A fine objective statement might read, “Political science major with journalism background seeks to contribute as local politics commentator.” You’re really trying to roll years of previous experience into one digestible chunk for time-strapped recruiters.

Finally, after reading through the company’s website, if you notice keywords popping out left and right, and you feel it’s appropriate to do so given your background, feel free to pepper those into your resume to hold the recruiter’s attention.

Remember, six seconds.

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