Your resume is your first opportunity to make a strong impression on potential employers. It serves as a crucial tool in securing job interviews and advancing your career.
However, many candidates unintentionally make mistakes on their resumes that can hinder their chances of success. In this article, we will highlight 15 common resume mistakes that you should avoid at all costs.
Table of Contents
15 Common Resume Mistakes You Should Avoid
1. Typos And Grammar Mistakes
More than six out of ten resumes sent out in the United States contain spelling mistakes.
Imagine you proudly list “perfectoinism” as one of your top skills on your resume.
This could easily sabotage your chances of landing the job!
To avoid shooting yourself in the foot, take the following steps before submitting your resume:
- Run your resume through Grammarly or a similar tool to identify and correct any spelling mistakes. These tools can be helpful, although not entirely infallible, in catching errors.
- Take your time and read your resume slowly, or consider reading it out loud. This approach can help you spot awkward phrasing or areas where improvements can be made. Remember, while Grammarly can assist with obvious errors, it’s not a foolproof solution.
- Seek a second set of eyes. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to review your resume and catch any mistakes that may have slipped past your own scrutiny. Fresh perspectives can uncover errors that you might have become blind to.
2. Including Irrelevant Experiences
It is essential to include experiences and skills that are directly applicable to the job you are targeting. Let’s say you are applying for a marketing coordinator position.
To make a strong case for yourself as the ideal candidate, your resume should primarily emphasize experiences and skills related to marketing. Your work experience section should highlight roles and responsibilities specifically in marketing or closely related fields.
For instance, you wouldn’t want to mention your previous job as a lifeguard unless you can demonstrate how it is relevant to the marketing coordinator role.
Instead, focus on highlighting marketing internships, digital marketing campaigns you were involved in, or any other experiences that showcase your marketing acumen.
Similarly, you should refrain from listing skills that are not directly applicable to the marketing coordinator position. While you might have exceptional culinary skills, they won’t contribute to your candidacy for this role and will take up valuable space on your resume.
One possible exception to this rule is if you are a student, recent graduate or career changer. If you fall into one of these categories and have limited relevant experience, it’s acceptable to include some unrelated experiences in your work experience section.
3. Not Backing Up Your Claims With Data
Your resume is not the place to be abstract. If you have specific results to back your claims, make sure to include them in your resume.
Let’s compare these two examples:
“Improved customer support”
– and –
“Implemented a comprehensive training program for new hires, leading to a 20% improvement in customer satisfaction scores within three months.”
Which statement do you find more convincing?
Undoubtedly, the second statement holds more persuasive power. Why? Because it is highly specific. It provides precise details about the applicant’s accomplishments, including the actual results achieved, the actions taken to achieve those results, and the timeframe in which they were accomplished.
When mentioning any type of experience in your resume, we recommend the following:
- Clearly describe the outcomes you delivered, preferably in numerical terms.
- Explain the specific actions you took to attain these results.
- Specify the duration it took to accomplish these outcomes.
4. Sending Out the Same Resume
One common mistake many job seekers make is failing to tailor their resume to match the specific requirements of the job they are applying for.
Using a generic, one-size-fits-all resume may seem convenient, but it can significantly diminish your chances of landing an interview.
When you don’t tailor your resume, you miss the opportunity to highlight the most relevant skills, experiences, and achievements that align with the job description. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for candidates who demonstrate a clear understanding of the position and how their qualifications align with it.
Imagine you are a copywriter with expertise in tech manual writing and lifestyle blogs. Now, let’s assume you are applying for two different positions: technical writer and YouTube script writer for a travel channel.
If you are targeting the role of a tech writer, the primary focus of your resume would be your technical writing skills. On the other hand, if you are applying for the position of a lifestyle writer, you will need to focus on your creative writing abilities.
A generic resume would fail to address the specific requirements of each position and could hinder your chances of landing an interview.
5. Picking the Wrong Format
There are 3 different resume formats you can pick from:
- Reverse-Chronological: the traditional resume with a focus on work experience. In this format, you first list your most recent experiences and work your way to the earlier ones.
- Functional: this format is more focused on your skill-set rather than work experience. It’s great for recent graduates or career changers that don’t have a lot of work experience to include their resumes (yet).
- Combination: a mix of the other two, where equal emphasis is placed on work experience and skills.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with picking a functional or combination resume, the reverse-chronological one is the most used format. In most cases, it’s the best choice overall.
At the end of the day, recruiters world-wide are familiar with it and are more likely to recognize it.
If you use an alternative resume format (e.g. functional), the hiring manager may be confused or assume that you don’t have work experience.
6. Filling Your Resume With Vague Skills
“Excellent communication skills.”
“Strong leadership abilities.”
And out favorite –
What do these three skills have in common? They can be claimed by just about anyone.
Many job seekers, including recent graduates, tend to fill their resumes with fluff skills like these in an attempt to impress employers or add perceived value to their applications.
However, the issue with including these generic skills is that they occupy valuable space without providing substantial differentiation. Recruiters have encountered these skills repeatedly and have become accustomed to seeing them on resumes. Consequently, they may overlook or dismiss them.
Instead, focus on specific, tangible skills that can be supported by relevant experience.
7. Saving Your Resume in the Wrong Format
On average, employers look at resumes for six to seven seconds. This means that they will hardly have any time to re-format your resume.
Typically, we recommend saving your resume in a PDF format, as it preserves the layout of your resume without any alterations like Docx may cause.
However, some recruiters may specifically request a Docx resume, particularly if they utilize less compatible applicant tracking software. If the job advertisement explicitly asks for a Word file, be sure to submit your resume accordingly.
8. Giving the Wrong Name to Your Resume File
This may seem like a minor detail — but you’d be surprised how often recruiters have to look at resume files like “Peter_resume_3_final(02)”. The best name for your resume file is:
[first name-last name-professional title-resume]
For instance: [Peter-Johnson-writer-resume]
This simple step ensures that your resume stands out, allows employers to easily identify your application, and increases the chances of your resume being reviewed promptly.
9. Making Your Resume Too Long
Another critical resume mistake to avoid is creating a resume that is excessively long. While it may be tempting to include every detail of your professional history, it is important to remember that hiring managers are very busy people.
A lengthy resume can overwhelm the reader and make it difficult for them to identify your key qualifications and accomplishments. To prevent this, focus on including the most relevant and impactful information that directly aligns with the job requirements.
10. Making Your Resume Too Short
While a long resume is not a good idea, keeping your resume too short won’t have recruiters lining up by your door either. While it is important to keep your resume concise and focused, an excessively brief resume can leave hiring managers wanting for more information.
If you are a newcomer to the job market or have recently switched careers, your resume may be naturally short. In this case, consider adding other relevant sections to your resume that can help showcase your “fitness” for the position you are applying for:
- Online courses and certifications
- Extracurricular activities
- Volunteer experience
- Hobbies and interests
- Personal initiatives
It’s crucial here to strike a balance between being succinct and providing enough detail to highlight your qualifications and accomplishments.
11. Using an Unprofessional Email Address
Your email address is an essential part of your contact information. Using an inappropriate or unprofessional email address like “email@example.com” can give a negative impression to employers.
If you insist on keeping your personal email box fun and funky, it’s best to create a separate professional email address for job applications: something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. Neglecting Keywords And ATS Optimization
Many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan and filter resumes. Failure to incorporate relevant keywords from the job description can result in your resume being overlooked. Tailor your resume by including industry-specific keywords and phrases to improve your chances of getting through the initial screening process.
For example, if the job posting emphasizes skills like “CAD software proficiency,” “structural analysis,” and “project management,” it is crucial to include these specific keywords and phrases in your resume.
13. Missing a Clear Career Objective Or Summary
A resume objective may not be the funnest thing to write – but it does a good job of giving the hiring manager an idea of who you are and what you are looking for.
Failing to include a concise career objective or summary can leave employers uncertain about your goals and suitability for the role. Craft a compelling statement that showcases your career aspirations and highlights your key qualifications.
“Results-driven marketing professional with expertise in digital strategy and campaign optimization, seeking a challenging role to drive business growth.”
14. Oversharing Personal Information
While it’s important to present a professional image, oversharing personal details like marital status, religious affiliations, or political beliefs can be distracting and potentially bias hiring decisions.
For instance, including a photo in your resume is now frowned upon in most countries.
Stick to relevant professional information and avoid including personal details that are unrelated to the job.
15. Using the Wrong Template
Resume templates are a great tool for building effective and professional applications. Selecting the right resume template is essential, as it sets the overall structure and visual presentation of your document.
It is crucial to choose a template that aligns with your industry, level of experience, and the job you are applying for.
For example, a creative and visually appealing template may be suitable for a graphic designer but might not be appropriate for a more traditional profession like accounting.
Conversely, a conservative template might not capture the attention of employers in creative fields.
15. Lying on a Resume
This should be a non-negotiable: never, under any circumstances, lie on your resume.
Even if by chance you manage to secure the job, you will find yourself in an uncomfortable predicament where you cannot deliver on the skills or qualifications you claimed to possess.
Inevitably, this will lead to termination or resignation, wasting both your time and the company’s resources.
How to Write a Great Resume
Here’s your super quick cheat sheet for writing a great resume: How to Write a Resume – The Ultimate Guide
By following these steps, you can create a strong and compelling resume that grabs the attention of employers and increases your chances of landing interviews.
What Are the Worst Resume Mistakes?
Some of the worst resume mistakes include grammatical and spelling errors, using a generic template, including irrelevant information, lying about qualifications, and making the resume too long or too short. These mistakes can hinder your chances of securing job interviews and leave a negative impression on employers.
What If I Made a Mistake on My Resume?
If you realize you made a mistake on your resume, it’s best to address it as soon as possible. If you have not submitted the resume yet, correct the mistake by editing the document. If you have already submitted it, you can send a revised version with a brief explanation to the employer or recruiter, acknowledging the error and providing the correct information. It’s important to be transparent and take responsibility for the mistake, demonstrating professionalism and attention to detail.