Goddam it! by wokka.In several of my classes this semester, public relations  students are writing resumes and cover letters as one of their assignments. I tend to see the same errors over and over again.

Here are some of the common errors I find:

Appearance / Overall

  • Having any typos, misspelled words or grammatical errors (some employers will discard your resume if any mistakes are apparent)
  • Not using same header for all cover letter, resume & reference page
  • Failing to include your custom LinkedIn URL
  • Using different fonts for no apparent reason

Cover Letters

  • Focusing on yourself, not the needs of the potential employer
  • Too many self-focused statements; starting too many sentences with “I”
  • Forgetting to sign letter (scan your signature to place into electronic cover letters)
  • Not stating what you can do for the employer in clear terms.
  • Not including an enclosure line (such as: Enclosures: Resume & Reference Page)


  • Longer than one page (it’s possible to “earn” more pages once you’re established in your career)
  • Not including strong action-verbs (too many “to be” verbs)
  • Providing too few keywords related to the PR field
  • Including “responsibilites/duties included”
  • Writing in first person (“I”)
  • Writing in complete sentences, rather than powerful, short phrases
  • Burying your education at the end of the resume
  • Not mentioning your education at your current university
  • Not describing your major and anticipated graduation date
  • Including high school, even though there are no relevant honors/awards/achievements
  • A low (below 3.0) GPA is listed
  • Extremely short (you can list relevant coursework if you have little related work experience)
  • Leaving to unclear to the potential employer exactly what you accomplished in your work history
  • Including too much information about the employer (all you need it company name, city & state — no need for full address, supervisor name, etc.)
  • Dates listed in chronological, not reverse chronological, order (you should list most recent information first in each section)
  • References listed directly on resume itself (they should be on a separate page)

Reference Page

  • Not using same header as resume & cover letter
  • Not including all necessary information (name, company name, title, full mailing address, phone number & e-mail address)
  • Fewer than three references listed

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7 Responses to Common Errors in Resumes and Cover Letters

  1. […] Common Errors in Resumes and Cover Letters by Barbara […]

  2. Professor Nixon, this blog post is extremely helpful to students writing resumes! I’ve written resumes before for temporary or part-time jobs that I believed were adequate resumes. However, after reading your post, I’ve realized that there is so much that I need to change about my resume. First of all, my current resume exceeds one page because it includes a lot of extra information that is not necessary. Also, it includes many things that I was involved with in high school. Now that I’m a junior in college, I really shouldn’t include many activities in high school unless they are especially extraordinary and are quite pertinent to the job I am applying for. After reading this post, I really must go revamp my resume!

  3. […] Common Errors in Resumes and Cover Letters-Barbara […]

  4. Dr. Nixon,

    I am so happy that you addressed cover letter and resume issues in your blog post. Lately, I have become very interested in developing my resume and cover letters to a high professional standard. In my opinion, your resume serves to give potential employers a quick snapshot of all your professional achievments. I also view resumes as a sort of “golden ticket” which allows you to gain access to the professional job market. It is therefore imperative to have a clean, error-proof, and comprehensive resume in order to sell yourself as a valuable employee.

    After reading this post, I have two questions. First, what are examples of types of “Public Relations keywords” we should use in our resumes? Also, how should we begin to cut down our resume if it is longer than one page? What should we leave out?

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