12 Worst Resume Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

resume mistakes

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Your resume is the first thing hiring managers see when you apply for a job (and it’s arguably the most important part of your job application).

One of the fastest ways to lose the interest of an employer is by submitting an ineffective, poorly-written, or unprofessional resume.

Avoid making the resume mistakes below to make sure you come across as professional, capable, and ready to tackle any challenge the job requires.

Top 12 resume mistakes

Here are the top 12 mistakes job-seekers make when writing their resumes.

1. Not tailoring your resume to each position

Not only can hiring managers tell if you’re sending out the same generic resume with every application, it’s also a missed opportunity to demonstrate that you have the specific skills and experience they’re looking for.

Different companies have different needs, and a well-written resume shows recruiters how you can help meet those needs.

Instead of sending out a generic resume to each job, check the job description and the company website for inspiration and specific keywords to include in your work experience section.

2. Including a photo on your resume

Including a photo on your resume is usually not recommended for North American job seekers because it’s generally seen as strange or unprofessional.

But, what truly makes adding a photo a resume mistake is that it could cause your application to be automatically rejected. Some companies have policies in place that prohibit them from accepting resumes with photos, as employers want to avoid being accused of appearance-based discrimination.

When putting your resume together it’s best to avoid photos entirely, just to be safe.

3. Using clichés

You want your resume to convince recruiters that you possess unique skills and traits that would make you an asset to the company. Too many overused phrases and buzzwords make your resume appear unoriginal.

Here are a few examples of overused resume buzzwords words to avoid:

  • Hardworking
  • Team player
  • Ambitious
  • Self-starter
  • Enthusiastic
  • Flexible
  • Exceptional
  • Go-getter
  • Results-driven
  • Proactive

A more effective way to demonstrate these traits is to include action verbs in the work experience section of your resume. Here’s one example of how to use action verbs:

“Facilitated technical training sessions for 150+ new employees”

4. Grammar and spelling errors

For competitive positions with many highly qualified applicants, a simple typo can make the difference between you getting the job or someone else. If your resume contains grammar and spelling errors, it might lead employers to think that you’re careless or not serious about the job.

This is one of the most common resume mistakes, so set aside some time to carefully proofread your resume before you send it out.

5. Using unprofessional fonts

It can be tempting to use unique-looking fonts on your resume to set yourself apart from other applicants. However, many non-traditional fonts can be difficult to read or make your resume look unprofessional.

You should avoid any intricate or decorative fonts like Courier, Impact, Papyrus, and (especially) Comic Sans. Additionally, using any handwritten style fonts like Lucida Handwriting on your resume is a mistake because they’re difficult to read.

6. Making your resume too long

Making your resume too long is one of the most common resume mistakes, and one that often drives hiring managers crazy.

Hiring managers have a limited amount of time to spend on each application, so when they come across a resume that lists every job you’ve ever had, their eyes glaze over.

The best way to fix this is to make sure you only include information that’s directly relevant to the position you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying to an office job it’s best to cut that dishwashing job you had in college from your resume because the skills you gained are unlikely to be transferable.

Ultimately, unless you have more than 10 years of work experience, your resume length should be one page.

If you’re not a recent graduate entering the workforce you should omit any of the following information from your resume (unless it’s relevant to the job you want):

7. Exaggerating your abilities

Exaggerating or lying on your resume is one of the most severe resume mistakes you can make.

If your exaggerations are exposed during the hiring process, you’ll come across as untrustworthy which could cost you the job. Lies can be easily revealed through conversations with your references or a quick look at your social media.

Even if you get the job after lying about your qualifications, you might end up being unable to meet your employer’s expectations if you lack the skills required to perform the tasks demanded of the role.

It’s much better to be honest about your skills and experience rather than going into a job unprepared and being fired.

8. Not formatting your resume correctly

Not only is it important that the content of your resume impress employers, your resume’s formatting also needs to look good. From the colors you use to the page margins, it’s essential that your resume layout is easy to read and professional-looking.

A disorganized or improperly formatted resume is an immediate turnoff for many employers, and sends the message that you don’t have strong attention to detail. This can quickly ruin your chances of getting a job (even one you have the right experience for).

To make sure your resume is organized and easy to follow, use an established format like the chronological resume. This format presents your experience in a logical manner and is the most popular choice among job seekers.

Additionally, make sure all the spacing and design elements of your resume (such as horizontal lines and headings) are consistent and look professional. Broken or otherwise sloppy formatting makes your resume look quickly put together and gives the impression that you don’t care about the job.

For example, here’s a resume from a highly qualified candidate whose resume is poorly formatted (note the uneven margins, inconsistent font sizes, and misaligned icons):

an example of a resume formatting mistake

9. Focusing on your job responsibilities, not your accomplishments

“Responsible for,” “tasked with” — hiring managers see passive phrases like these on resumes all the time. The problem is that these phrases are generic and don’t frame your experience in terms of what you actually achieved.

Instead of presenting prospective employers with a comprehensive list of the responsibilities you had at your last job, pick out a few particularly impressive accomplishments for your resume.

Employers want to know if you’re good at what you do. Convince them by giving specific examples of times when you excelled in the workplace, and remember to back up some of your achievements with hard numbers.

Here’s an example of how to write an accomplishment-focused resume bullet point:

“Spearheaded a new email marketing campaign strategy, resulting in a 12% increase in open rates”

10. Disclosing personal information

Although it’s illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of religion, ethnicity, age, marital status, sexual orientation or disability, it’s still commonplace in the United States.

Adding personal information that isn’t relevant to your qualifications puts you at risk of being discriminated against due to recruiters’ potential conscious or unconscious biases, so you’re better off not disclosing this information at all.

12.  Disclosing your salary requirements

While it’s good to understand your own value as an employee, you should avoid putting your salary requirements on your resume unless specifically asked to do so.

At the initial hiring stage, you want to focus on what you can do for the company, rather than what the company can do for you. You’ll get the chance to discuss salaries later (typically after or during the interview process).

If the first thing hiring managers find out about you is how much money you expect to make, you’ll likely look more focused on the salary than the actual work you’ll need to do, which leaves a negative impression on most employers.

Not making your resume ATS-friendly

Have you been applying to dozens of jobs but haven’t heard back from any of them? It’s possible that your application keeps being rejected by ATS software.

Many large companies like Walmart or Amazon rely on applicant tracking system (ATS) software to automatically weed out applications that don’t match the criteria.

If your resume doesn’t contain the keywords and experience the ATS software is looking for, your application could be rejected before it’s even seen by a hiring manager.

To ensure that your resume gets past the ATS and into the hands of a hiring manager, make your resume ATS friendly by choosing a simple resume template and including industry-related keywords in your resume.

Additionally, remember to refrain from using images and tables and to stick to basic fonts to further increase your chances of getting through ATS software.

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