The 10 Worst Resume Mistakes to Avoid
Use these resume tips to dodge common blunders that can sabotage your job search.
You’ve been applying to jobs like crazy, but it seems as though all of your applications have disappeared into the black hole of the Internet. Wondering why your resume isn’t getting you any interviews? We’re willing to bet it’s not because you’re unqualified or just not good enough (which, for the record, you are good enough). It’s likely because resume mistakes are causing one or more fatal errors.
Job seekers, beware! All it takes is just one to strike your job search dead in its tracks. Definitely something entry-level workers need to be on the lookout for when writing your first resume.
Think your resume is perfect and bulletproof? Even the most experienced professionals still find themselves guilty of making resume mistakes. Plural.
With only a mere six seconds to “wow” a recruiter, having any kind of mistake on your resume is not a risk even the most daring of job seekers should take. After all, your resume is the first point of contact you make with a potential employer, so you want that first impression to be a strong, clear demonstration of just how awesome you are at what you do. That’s how you get an interview—and then once you rock that, a job.
1. Typos and Grammatical Errors
Yes, we know, it’s probably the most obvious of all resume tips: It needs to be grammatically perfect. If your resume isn't, employers will read between the lines and draw not-so-flattering conclusions about you, like, "This person can't write," or, "This person obviously doesn't care."
2. Lack of Specifics
Your resume shouldn’t simply state the obvious to a hiring manager. Employers need to understand what you've done and accomplished. For example:
A. Worked with employees in a restaurant setting
B. Recruited, hired, trained and supervised more than 20 employees in a restaurant with $2 million in annual sales
Both of these phrases could describe the same person, but the details and specifics in example B will more likely grab an employer's attention.
3. Attempting the "One–Size–Fits–All" Approach
Whenever you try to develop a generic resume to send to all job ads, you almost always end up with something employers will toss in the recycle bin. Your lack of effort screams, “I’m not particularly interested in your company. Frankly, any ol’ job will do.”
Employers want to feel special and want you to write a resume specifically for them. They expect you to clearly show how and why you fit the position in a specific organization.
4. Highlighting Duties Instead of Accomplishments
Your resume needs to show how good you are at your job, but it's all too easy to slip into a mode where you simply start listing your duties. For example:
- Attended group meetings and recorded minutes
- Worked with children in a day-care setting
- Updated departmental files
That’s more or less an echo of your job description. Employers, however, don't care so much about what you've done as what you've accomplished in your various activities. One of the most basic resume tips is to go beyond showing what was required and demonstrate how you made a difference at each company, providing specific examples. They're looking for statements more like these:
- Recorded weekly meeting minutes and compiled them in a Microsoft Word-based file for future organizational reference
- Developed three daily activities for preschool-age children and prepared them for a 10-minute holiday program performance
- Reorganized 10 years worth of unwieldy files, making them easily accessible to department members
Need help? Ask yourself these questions:
- How did you perform the job better than others?
- What were the problems or challenges faced? How did you overcome them? What were the results? How did the company benefit from your performance?
- Did you receive any awards, special recognitions, or promotions as a result?
5. Going on Too Long or Cutting Things Too Short
Many people try to squeeze their experiences onto one page, because they've heard resumes shouldn't be longer. By doing so, job seekers may delete impressive achievements. Other candidates ramble on about irrelevant or redundant experiences. Despite what you may read or hear, there are no real rules governing resume length. Why? Because human beings, who have different preferences and expectations where resumes are concerned, will be reading it.
That doesn't mean you should start sending out five-page resumes, of course. Generally speaking, you usually need to limit yourself to a maximum of two pages. But don't feel you have to use two pages if one will do. Conversely, don't cut the meat out of your resume simply to make it conform to an arbitrary one-page standard. When writing your resume, ask yourself, "Will this statement help me land an interview?" Every word should sell you, so include only the information that elicits a "yes."
6. Bad Summary
Many candidates lose their readers right at the beginning, with their career summary. Employers do read this portion of your resume, but often they plow through vague pufferies like, “Accomplished professional seeking career growth." Such statements are overused, too general, and waste valuable space.
Give employers something specific and, more importantly, something that focuses on their needs as well as your own. Example: "An accomplished marketing manager that developed award-winning campaigns for Fortune 500 clients that contributed to 50% increase in stock value.”
7. No Action Verbs
Avoid using phrases like "responsible for." Instead, use action verbs. Not only do these words help to show off your initiative, they also help punch up the overall tone of your resume. For example:
- Resolved user questions as part of an IT help desk serving 4,000 students and staff.
- Increased organic search visits 20% year over year
- Developed a comprehensive onboarding program for new hires
8. Leaving Off Important Information
You may be tempted, for example, to eliminate mention of the jobs you've taken to earn extra money for school. Typically, however, the soft skills you've gained from these experiences (e.g., work ethic, time management) are more important to employers than you might think.
9. Visually Too Busy
If your resume is wall-to-wall text featuring five different fonts, it will most likely give the employer a headache. So show your resume to several other people before sending it out. Do they find it visually attractive? If what you have is hard on the eyes, revise.
10. Incorrect Contact Information
I once worked with a student whose resume seemed incredibly strong, but he wasn't getting any bites from employers. So one day, I jokingly asked him if the phone number he'd listed on his resume was correct. It wasn't. Once he changed it, he started getting the calls he'd been expecting. Moral of the story: Double-check even the most minute, taken-for-granted details sooner rather than later.
Follow This Resume Tip
There are plenty of pitfalls to duck and dodge when writing a resume, so when you finally have it in good shape, you'll want to get it seen by the right people. Need help? Upload your resume to Monster for free so that recruiters can find you for awesome job opportunities. Consider it an insurance policy for your resume.