Resume faux pas: What you should and shouldn’t do

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Dec 3, 2008 in Career, Resume |

Yesterday I read Five things you should never put on your resume by Lindsay Olson.

I plan on completing my required six-credit public relations internship this summer and have been spending a lot of time working on my resume.

What you shouldn’t do

Olson’s first suggestion is to avoid giving out personal data. To determine if something is necessary on your resume, ask yourself, “Is this relevant to the position or organization?”

Olson also said not to list every job you’ve ever had. If you haven’t had a lot of experience, your resume might look a little empty. On my resume, I only list jobs that are relevant to PR or can be tied to PR. For example, I did list my former job as a carriage driver. Why? The job taught me a lot about communication. I gave horse-drawn tours around town, and my interpersonal communication skills developed dramatically.

I’ve heard a lot of controversy about how many pages your resume should be. I was told several times to keep it just one page. After talking with the PR internship coordinator at CMU about the, I extended my resume to two pages. I agree with Olson though–more than two pages is too much.

Olson advises against using personal pronouns. To avoid this, I used bullets. With bullets, you can cut down “I wrote and edited articles” to “Wrote and edited articles.” It looks cleaner and you are not distracted by the “I.”

I partially disagree with Olson on one thing though. She said not to include your references on your resume. I didn’t include mine on my resume, but I do have a separate sheet of references that I include with my resume.

Jim Wojcik, the internship coordinator for the PR program at CMU, advised the public relations writing class to include references for several reasons.

  1. You want to make things easy for the person reviewing your resume.
  2. If they want to consider you for the position, but they don’t want you to know yet, they might decide against you because you didn’t include references.
  3. They might not want to bother contacting you to get reference, so you might not get the job offer.

What you should do

  • Get a professional e-mail address. Get Addresses like make you sound unprofessional, so trash them.
  • Make sure your objective, if you include it, addresses what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. They don’t care that you want experience. They care that you can do the job right.
  • Mold your resume to fit the job you are applying for. Don’t apply for a graphic design job and emphasize your great writing skills.
  • Include all contact information so they can decide on the best way to contact you.
  • I’ve heard dome disagreement about including GPAs. If it’s under a 3.0, I definitely would leave it out and focus more on real experiences. If they really want to know, they’ll ask you.
  • Proofread it. Ask several others to proofread it. You don’t want them to laugh at you because you said you major in “pubic relations” (a mistake that spell check will not catch).
  • Ask yourself, “Is this relevant to my career in PR?” This means your job at Taco Bell in high school, your membership in AA and your subscription to Cosmopolitan should be left off the resume. They probably shouldn’t be mentioned in the interview either.

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Lindsay Olson
Dec 3, 2008 at 8:18 am

Hi Rachel,

Nice follow up post! I agree with you it is okay to include reference on a separate sheet if you are an entry-level candidate. Mid-level and executives shouldn’t list references – particularly if the candidate is currently employed. It’s asking for trouble and questions your loyalty with your current employer.

If you are entry-level though and you have little work history and PR related accomplishments, your references become much more important. Putting them on a separate sheet unattached to your resume though is much better than filling up valuable real estate on your resume.

Rachel Esterline
Dec 3, 2008 at 8:34 am


Thanks! That’s a great point. If I were working as an executive, I might be cautious about including references.

Thanks for commenting.



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