Life & Work Skills

8 Common Resume Mistakes to Avoid


Judging a book by its cover may not be fair. But, judging a person based on their resume? That’s an entirely different ballgame.

In most cases, your resume is the first impression you’ll make on prospective employers. It’s their quick look into your skills, achievements, and professional background. Obviously, your goal is to keep your resume out of a recruiter’s wastebasket and make it into that prestigious “interview” pile.

How the heck do you manage that? A well-written, thorough, and simultaneously concise resume is your golden ticket. If you’re overwhelmed with the task of sitting down and crafting this seemingly daunting document, I really can’t blame you. But, there’s no need to stress!

You’re great at what you do, and I know that your resume will reflect that. So, let’s turn the tables and focus on the things you definitely don’t want to do when it comes to writing your resume. Here are eight resume faux pas that you want to stay far, far away from.


1. Failing to Include Specific Accomplishments

Think of your resume as your chance to showcase all of the things that make you a smart, skilled, and beneficial employee that this company simply can’t live without. What was the key word in that sentence? YOU. Yes, your resume is all about you. So, you don’t want it to read like a job description filled with only soft skills and vague, generic terms.

Instead, your resume should include specific accomplishments, statistics, and facts about your individual qualifications. Did you increase sales by 60% in your last position? Did you manage the copy for a website with one million monthly page views? Were you the go-to person for your company’s President or CEO? You’ve done great things! So, you not only want to mention them, but also back them up with hard facts and figures. It brings strength to your resume, and clearly illustrates the value you provide.


2. Making it Cluttered and Difficult to Read

You’ve heard it a million times, and now you know it’s true: recruiters are busy, busy people. Whether they’re utilizing an applicant tracking system or not, they still need to take the time to sort through whatever pile of resumes that eventually lands on their desk.

You need your resume to be attention grabbing, but also easy to skim. As a rule of thumb, keep the “30 Second Test” in mind. This rule states that recruiters generally spend 30 seconds or less glancing over your resume. What does this mean for you? You need to make it incredibly simple for them to immediately glean the information they require without needing to dig for it.

Make use of bold headings for sections like your career summary, key skills, professional history, and education, so that this information jumps right off the page. You can also use bullet points and clean, structured formatting to further add to your resume’s simplistic visual appeal.

Finally, pay close attention to your text. Those cramped, microscopic fonts and 0.2-inch margins don’t make your document very readable. Use at least a size 10 font and ensure that you’re properly balancing text and white space for an even appearance.


3. Stating Anything About References

This recommendation is still the subject of some debate today, especially amongst those that are from a more traditional school of thought when it comes to career documents.

But, I’ll throw this out there. You don’t need to say “References Available Upon Request” at the bottom of your resume. At this point, most recruiters assume that you’ll have references ready to go if they ask for them. After all, you likely won’t make a great impression if you respond with, “Oh, shoot, I don’t have any references!” when they request that you send them a roster.

There’s no need to take up precious resume real estate with this useless phrase. But, do make sure to have an updated list of solid references — and their contact information — ready to go for any prospective employers. And, as always, make sure that your references are aware they’ve been listed, so that they’re prepared to brag about you when the opportunity arises!


4. Sacrificing Content for Length

I know you’ve heard this at least 100 times: “Your resume should only be one page!” Well, I’m here to tell you that sentiment doesn’t always ring true.

Never feel pressured to cut important chunks of information out in the interest of achieving that elusive one page document. If you have 15 or 20 years of career history, you’re probably going to need more than one page to detail your experiences. The same goes if you have tons of related internships, associations, and volunteer work that you think are important to share.

Of course, you don’t want your resume to be a dictionary-sized manifesto detailing every slightly important thing you’ve ever done. But, you want to make sure to touch on all of your highlights!

If you end up needing to extend over one page, here are a few things you should keep in mind:


  • Ensure that your additional page(s) is at least ¾ full, to avoid a dangling sheet that looks like a sloppy afterthought.


  • At minimum, include at least your first and last name on every additional page, just in case the pages get separated. You can also include your contact information at the top of each page to be on the safe side.


5. Being Misleading and Dishonest

I totally get it — you want an outstanding resume that will impress hiring managers and guarantee an interview. So, it can be tempting to embellish the truth here and there, especially if you don’t have a ton of years of professional experience to highlight.

Remember when your parents would always tell you that honesty is the best policy? You may have rolled your eyes and brushed them off. But, the importance of honesty still holds true, especially when it comes to your resume.

While it may not seem like a big deal to claim that you’re proficient with WordPress when you really know nothing about it, or add in a college organization that you were never actually a part of, it’s best to never lie on your resume. Being misleading simply won’t end well for you. Either you’ll be caught in your lie and have to deal with an embarrassingly tarnished reputation, or you’ll end up in a position that you don’t have the competencies to fulfill.

You want to set yourself up for success. Lying on your resume definitely won’t accomplish that.


6. Forgetting About Key Words

In this digital age, many businesses utilize applicant tracking systems to sift through their first round of resumes. What is an applicant tracking system? Think of it like the spam filter on your email. It helps out recruiters and hiring managers by automatically sorting out any candidates whose resumes don’t match the desired skills and education.

How can you make it past this evil robot’s discerning eye? KEYWORDS. You already know that you should tailor your resume to each job you’re applying to, and injecting appropriate keywords is a huge part of this process. I recommend printing out your desired job description, and then highlighting the words that you see popping up frequently. Whether you see general words like “collaboration” and “leadership” or more specific things like “Wordpress proficiency” and “Photoshop expertise”, you should go back and insert some of these vital terms into your own resume.

However, remember that honesty is always the best policy. Don’t pad your resume with skills and words that don’t actually apply to you just to get through the system. The truth always comes out!


7. Neglecting to Proofread

There’s nothing sloppier and more unprofessional than a resume that’s riddled with typos, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes. So, you absolutely need to go through your resume with a fine-tooth comb before sending it anywhere.

There are plenty of tricks you can use to save yourself some embarrassment and catch every last error:


  • Read each sentence of your resume aloud. Then, read that same sentence again. This will help you break the document into smaller, more manageable pieces, as well as encourage you to pay close attention to every last word.


  • Read your resume backwards — from the end to the beginning. Reading something in the wrong order can be difficult, so you really need to focus. And, when you’re focused, you’ll probably catch those typos!


  • Pass your resume off to a friend with a great eye for grammar. They’ll be able to spot the errors that your eye may have skipped right over.



8. Maintaining an Unprofessional Personal Brand

You did it! You impressed the hiring manager and now they want to contact you to ask for references or set up a phone interview. They check your resume for your contact information and see that your email address is [email protected]. Or, they call your phone number and are met with a voicemail greeting featuring you and your college friends drunkenly singing Sweet Caroline. Not exactly the impression you want to make on a potential employer, is it?

Before blanketing the world with your resume, take some time to make sure that your personal brand is all polished up. If you don’t already have one, create a professional email address and record a friendly and refined voicemail greeting. Now is also the perfect time to clean up your social media accounts! That toga party picture of you doing a keg stand may have seemed like the ultimate profile photo while you were in college. Now? It’s time to move on.