Top Ten Mistakes to Avoid on Your Resume

It’s deceptively easy to make mistakes on your resume and exceptionally difficult to repair the damage once an employer gets it. Often, in order to weed out candidates for openings that receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applications, a simple spelling error is enough for HR to send a resume straight to the recycle bin. So prevention is critical, whether you’re writing your first resume or revising it for a mid-career job search.

Before you send your resume out, make sure to check it against the following list. If you can avoid these common errors, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition in this very competitive job market.

1. Misspellings and grammatical errors are killers. Spell check then proofread by reading each word aloud. Then have your document reviewed by a career coach or a friend or family member. It’s hard to catch your own mistakes, so having someone else read your resume for you will help.

2. Incorrect or Missing Contact Information: Double-check even the most minute, taken-for-granted details on your resume — sooner rather than later. If you’re not getting any bites on your resume, it may just be that your phone number or email address is incorrect. And if you’re tempted, for some crazy reason, to leave a phone number or an email address off your resume, think again; an employer might come across your resume years down the road and if you don’t have all your contact info there, you may mess a great opportunity. At the very least, don’t make it any harder for a recruiter or a potential employer to get a hold of you.

3. Not including keywords that match the job posting. Your resume should include as many of the same keywords that appear in the job listing as possible. If your resume doesn’t have the right keywords, it most likely won’t get noticed because you won’t appear to be a fit for the job (not to mention, you won’t have much luck getting through the robots).

4. An outdated resume will make you look obsolete. Your resume should be updated for every job you apply for. Be sure to update your skills and education sections, as well as your work history. And if you’ve added certifications or training, be sure to add that as well.

5. Including Too Much Information: Don’t tell your readers everything about each job. Focus on the highlights; keep your document to 2 pages max (you’re unlikely to get anyone to read further anyway, if they’re interested). Use formatting techniques like bullets and short paragraphs to enhance readability. Limit your resume to the last 10 – 15 years of work experience if it would otherwise go on for too long. Remember: you don’t need to include everything you have ever done.

6. 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 or to bide time during the recession while looking for something better or more long-term. 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. And if you create an employment gap by removing jobs, it might make things worse.

7. Writing position descriptions that don’t show what you accomplished: Avoid job descriptions which simply list your duties or responsibilities. Instead write active statements that showcase relevant skills and accomplishments. Make sure the employer can easily see how you added value in your role.

8. Lack of Quantifiables: Related to Number 7, job seekers often omit quantifiables that would substantiate claims about their skills and accomplishments. Instead, they take refuge in murky language like “improved performance” and “led a winning team.” Use numbers or percentages to reflect the improvements you’ve achieved. CPAs can point to specific processes made more efficient and to specific amounts of money saved. IT professionals can list expertise with specific software packages and applications, as well as successful deployments and business-cost savings due to technology enhancements. Operations professionals can talk about cost controls and productivity

9. Graphic Crimes: Photos on resumes are a bad idea since resumes inspire enough snap decisions without having your picture on them. Resume readers are making go or no-go decisions all the time so it’s safest not to give them a reason to pass over your resume by having a superficial reaction to your photo. On top of that is the technical reason for keeping photos off a resume: Namely, graphics files tend to choke applicant tracking system software. Finally, legal issues lead many human resources departments to reject all resumes containing photos to avoid accusations of discrimination.

10. Attempting One Size Fits All: Whenever you try to develop a one-size-fits-all resume to send to all employers, you almost always end up with something employers will toss in the recycle bin. Employers 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.

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