With potentially hundreds of other job applicants applying for the same position, your resume needs to be as close to perfect as possible. Your resume is essentially a tool that markets yourself to the potential employers, so your pitch needs to be flawless and effective. Common resume mistakes that could be easily avoided may be costing you the interview.
The problem is that most people don’t look forward to writing or updating their resume. How do you know if you’re doing it right?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are the 27 most common resume mistakes to avoid.
This is quite possibly the worst mistake you can make on your resume. A survey done by Accountemps showed that over 63% of hiring managers would dismiss a resume with even a few errors.
Many rely on Microsoft Word to fix their spelling and grammar but that isn’t enough as Word doesn’t pick up on all errors. Have a friend or professional take a look at your resume to ensure that it’s error free.
An objective statement should never be used on a resume today. This outdated section of your resume should be replaced with a resume summary that tells the employer who you are, your qualifications and how they can benefit the employer.
An objective essentially tells the hiring manager what you want. The issue is that they don’t care what you want, they only care about what they need. They want to know that you’re a good fit for the position and that you’ll benefit the company.
You can check our post here on writing an awesome resume summary.
The majority of companies today use automated software to screen resumes before they ever reach the hiring manager. They’re called applicant tracking systems (ATS) and they pick up on keywords and other information in your resume to see if you’re a good match for the job.
Over two thirds of resumes are rejected at this stage, and many times individuals are qualified but their resumes aren’t optimized. You should include keywords related to your industry as well as the ones you find in the job description.
You can see how your resume performs in an ATS with our free resume review.
Ensure you follow a standard resume format and include a good number of keywords so the system can read it and understand that you’re a good match for the job.
Hiring managers love to see numbers on a resume. It’s more believable when you quantify your experience and it catches attention over plain words. Give quantifiable and measurable results wherever you can.
For example, instead of saying you “increased sales”, you should say “Increased sales by 30% over a 6-month period”.
What if your work experience is not really quantifiable? Impossible. You need to dig deeper and find places you can add some numbers, stats and percentages.
Recruiters and hiring managers only look at your resume for a few seconds. Ensure your resume isn’t cluttered and uneven. You want to use a good amount of white space, headers and bullets to ensure the hiring manager can easily look over your resume.
You should never include references on a resume or the term dreaded by nearly all hiring managers, “References available upon request”.
They expect you to provide references if they ask for them. This will usually happen after the interview when they are considering hiring you or making an offer. You reassuring them you will provide the information annoys them and does more harm than good.
You can check out our post on putting together a references page which include examples and templates.
Your photo should never be included on a resume unless you’re a model. It’s unprofessional, takes up valuable resume real estate and could give away unnecessary information such as your race and age.
Some have their resume filled with colors, designs and graphs to standout. This is a really bad idea for two reasons.
The hiring manager doesn’t hire you because you paid someone to make your resume fancy. It’s also a major turnoff to them when your resume looks like an art project.
Applicant tracking systems could have a hard time screening a resume with designs. This will result in the system rejecting your resume and never being seen by human eyes.
There is no reason to add any links to your social media accounts. The only link that’s permissible is your LinkedIn profile. Ensure that if you are adding your LinkedIn, your profile is up to date and you have a well-written summary.
If you’re adding any links to a website or some of your work, ensure that the links are working and are relevant to whatever job you’re targeting.
You’re bound to have some experience that’s irrelevant to the position but try to keep it minimal. Many job seekers submit resumes with tons of experience that don’t relate in any way to the position they’re applying for. This is very ineffective and will usually gets your resume in the trash pile.
You have two choices here:
Word your past experience in a way which relates to the position you seek
Use a functional resume format to lead with skills instead of work experience.
Fancy, unusual and outdated fonts like comic sans and Times New Roman should be avoided.
You don’t want to look like every other resume submitted but you also don’t want to use something over the top. Stick to fonts like Garamond, Arial or Serif fonts.
Some ATS will also have difficulty processing certain fonts so stick to well-known and professional fonts.
A Careerbuilder survey analyzed over 2,000 hiring managers to see what words they disliked. Here are some of the words they hate seeing on resumes.
Stray far away from these words and include strong action verbs like achieved, implemented and managed.
If you’ve been out of school for a few years or already have relevant work experience, then you should leave your GPA off your resume.
You should also keep your GPA off your resume if it’s under a 3.5. Many say to include your GPA if it’s over 3.0 but that’s bad advice. Why? Because there are potentially hundreds of other applicants you’re competing with who may have a better GPA.
No offense, a GPA over 3.0 is great but it doesn’t scream excellence. You should leave it off your resume and emphasize your qualifications or experience.
Your resume should never contain more than one number or an email related to your current or former employer.
You should also include your contact information and page number if you have an extra page on your resume. It doesn’t need to be your full contact information, but at least your name and a page number.
Keep short employment off your resume. It raises questions and suspicion on why you held that position for such a short amount of time. Generally, any position which you held for under a year should be left off your resume.
This doesn’t apply to internships, temp, contract or seasonal positions. It also doesn’t apply if you held a few different positions with the same employer.
Keep anything that’s personal and irrelevant off your resume. Don’t include your marital status, social security number or salary. You also shouldn’t include anything that’s controversial (political affiliations, gun rights or abortion).
Don’t mix past and present tense in your past work experience. All your past work experience should be written in past tense and your current work experience should be written in present tense.
What if you no longer do some of the things you did in your current position? For example, if you “Trained a group of 12 sales associates”, it’s acceptable to mix that in with your present experience.
A cover letter has been shown to increase your chances of landing the interview by 50%. You should always submit a cover letter with your resume unless the job posting specifically says they don’t require one.
Your cover letter should of course be tailored for each specific application. You don’t need to keep rewriting a cover letter but you should always switch your wording around to appeal to each opening. Hiring managers like to see you took the timeout to mention the company in your cover letter and aren’t just bombing a bunch of employers with the same resume and cover letter.
You can read our short guide here on writing an awesome cover letter.
Your resume needs to be focused on achievements and not duties. A hiring manager doesn’t look for a bunch of everyday tasks and duties you did, they look for how you went above and beyond and your achievements.
Take a look at these two examples:
“Found new marketing opportunities to grow sales”
“Implemented various marketing campaigns which saw a 25% increase in sales”
The first doesn’t come off as an achievement as growing sales was a duty the company probably hired you to do. The second example really comes off as an achievement which is what employers look for.
Your resume shouldn’t ever be longer than two pages. Most job seekers should stick to one page if you have fewer than 10 years of experience. Even if you have over 10 years of experience, once you cut out all the fluff, you usually end up only needing a single page.
A resume longer than two pages is sometimes necessary but rare. A scientist or engineer may need the extra pages to show research, publication or past projects.
Lying on your resume is never a good idea. It will usually come back to haunt you when they look into your education, ask your references or you’re unable to perform tasks that you lied about on your resume.
Rounding up your GPA or throwing in a degree you never got could not only get your fired if they find out, but damage your reputation for years to come. It’s just not worth it!
Your work experience should be broken down into easy to read and concise bullet points. Many however, make the mistake of writing too little or too much for each bullet point. Try not to go over one line for each bullet.
You should also avoid writing just a few words. For example, let’s say you had “filed papers.” This could be expanded to “managed filing and record keeping for a 33-person, multi-department office.”
You should avoid including hobbies and interests on your resume that aren’t relevant to the position you seek. This isn’t your Facebook profile; no hiring manager is going to hire you because you like travel or skydiving (unless it’s relevant).
Include interests and activities that in some way show the employer why you’re a good fit. These can include things like blogging on an industry topic or memberships to relevant groups or associations. Other interests that show soft skills such as critical thinking or leadership can also be included.
You can check out our post here on how to effectively include hobbies and interests on a resume.
Many use online resume builders which use resume templates and pre-worded descriptions. This is a really bad idea as a hiring manager who sorts through thousands of resumes could easily spot. It screams laziness!
ATS software may also have a hard time reading resume templates as many are filled with grids and tables which it can’t process.
While it is recommended to use specific terminology for your previous positions, the descriptions should read clearly and concisely. A reviewer who is not familiar with the day-to-day of your past experience will often dismiss this as an attempt to load the resume with jargon. Concise, clearly-written resumes will receive more callbacks.
Listing generic knowledge that everyone should know is a turnoff for many employers. Your employer expects you to know how to use the internet, social media or Microsoft Word.
If you are an expert in Microsoft Word and the rest of the Microsoft Office suite, then by all means specify as much. But simply listing one of them with no indication of proficiency is a no-no that is easily avoided.
If you have work or internship experience listed on your resume from more than 10 years ago, you may want to cut that out. Employers really focus on your most recent experience and skills so it’s important to emphasize it.
There you have it! Avoid these 27 common resume errors and you should be on your way to an interview in no time.
Good luck with your job search!