What Are 7 Common Resume Mistakes? [+Tips to Avoid Them]

7 Common Resume Mistakes

A lengthy job search is a familiar struggle for most workers, and no aspect of job seeking is more frustrating than rejection. If you’ve been applying to multiple jobs and you keep getting snubbed or cold-shouldered, then it might be time to review your resume. Most job applicants are guilty of some common resume mistakes, and thankfully they can be easily avoided with a little more awareness.

What are the top common resume mistakes? In this article we’ll discuss some of the most frequent resume mistakes you can make. We’ll learn how to avoid these blunders, to help you perfect your resume and land the job of your dreams.

Visually Unappealing

If you’re wondering why your resume is getting rejected, it might be down to appearances. Although it might not seem as important as content, the design and format of your resume can make or break your application. An unattractive resume could look unprofessional, be harder to read, or be less engaging to the hiring manager.

Here are some resume mistakes to avoid when it comes to formatting:

  • Narrow margins: A resume with small margins appears as though the writer didn’t choose a format or design. It also makes the resume look crowded and overwhelming. 
  • Dense text: No one wants to read a long and detailed resume, and hiring managers often don’t have time to go through every applicant’s resume in detail. A resume with long, dense writing won’t inspire attention or interest. 
  • Spelling and punctuation errors: There is no resume mistake more obvious than spelling and grammar errors. Too many mistakes make the applicant look inattentive, and it could lead to a rejection. 
  • Inconsistent use of bold, italic, and numbering: Similar to the issues with grammar and spelling, inconsistencies with font can look obvious. Make sure you keep the same formatting throughout to avoid this resume mistake. 
  • Unprofessional font and style: A resume isn’t the right time to experiment with style or get creative with fun fonts. A common resume mistake is the failure to use a standard professional font
  • Use of color: An illustrated or too colorful resume can be distracting and appear unprofessional, although it doesn’t affect ATS performance. While too much color should be avoided, some exceptions are job seekers in fields like tech, media and marketing, where visual skills are needed. In such cases, color is not considered a resume mistake; rather, it serves as an indication of your creativity and personal style. If you decide on a colorful resume, avoid using more than four different colors. 

To avoid some of these common resume mistakes, do some research on resume trends in font and design. Professional fonts like Calibri, Verdana, Times, or Arial are always acceptable, and it’s best to avoid too many colors. One-inch margins are standard for resume writing, although it depends on the template you use for formatting. Make sure your resume is consistent in terms of bullets, numbers, bold and italics – pick one style and stick to it. Finally, always proofread your resume for grammar or spelling, or have a friend check it for you, to catch any resume mistakes.

Lack of Focus or Tailoring

A one-size-fits-all resume might be easier for you to write, but it’s a common resume mistake to make just one and use it for every job application. Such a generic approach can result in your resume being less relevant to the specific job posting, making it less ATS-friendly. Every job posting will have keywords that are pivotal to the role. ATS scans your resume for the predetermined keywords, to help organisations sort through and organize applicants faster. Consequently, it’s very important to tailor your resume to each job you apply to, by incorporating keywords from the posting into your writing. 

Neglecting this step might cause you to be overlooked by the hiring manager, regardless of how well-suited you are for the job. If you’ve been frustrated and wondering, ‘what is wrong with my resume?’ this could be it. 

While you don’t need to create a new resume from scratch for each application, leaving space to tailor your resume to the job posting is important. In your job experience section, edit the description of your past responsibilities to incorporate relevant keywords. In the profile or objective section, make sure you highlight skills using important phrases from the job description. 

All in all, tailoring your resume using the job posting’s keywords will help your resume get past ATS and stand out to the hiring manager. Using a general, untailored resume is a mistake to avoid.

Weak Objective Statements

Another top resume mistake is a poorly written objective statement. This portion of your resume tells the hiring manager your goal in applying for this role, as well as your future career goals. It can act as a short profile of yourself, focusing on your unique skills and experience in addition to what you want from the job. It’s a common resume mistake to have an objective statement that is too broad, too long, or too vague. 

Here’s an example of a poorly written objective statement: 

“I’m seeking a position where I can use my skills to support an organization’s success while obtaining valuable experience and advancement in my career.”

Why is it a poorly written objective statement?

This statement is too vague and reveals nothing about the applicant’s unique skills and professional history.

Here's a better written objective statement:

“Data-oriented project manager with 2 years experience in marketing strategy, budgeting, and risk assessment. Seeking to leverage my analytical and leadership skills in a marketing role with a creative and tech forward start-up.”

Why is it a well written objective statement?

This objective provides insight into the applicant’s experience and skills, highlighting what they bring to the role in addition to what they want out of it.

💡Pro tip: If you’re struggling to write a resume with a strong objective, try breaking it down into two parts: who you are, and what you want. Brainstorm your top three relevant skills and/or experience and think carefully about what you’d ideally like to get from the position you’re applying to.  

Wrong Words Chosen

One of the most common resume mistakes is the use of buzzwords. These are trendy but unprofessional action words that can have a negative impact on your application. There are different types of buzzwords that can be a mistake on a resume. 

  • Subjective words such as ‘creative’, ‘hard-working’, and ‘motivated’ aren’t specific enough.
  • Overused buzzwords such as ‘team-player’, or ‘results-driven’, are so common on resumes that they have now lost all meaning. 

The other problem with buzzwords is that they can exaggerate your ability or your qualities. It’s important to choose a word that best represents you. Opting for specific, targeted terms that align with both your profile and the job posting is more effective than relying on overused, vague buzzwords.

It’s important to acknowledge that certain buzzwords may be unavoidable and not necessarily considered resume mistakes. Instead of completely avoiding them, incorporate them sparingly and always make sure that the words you use are backed up with supporting evidence. 

For example, the term "Results-driven" is vague and ineffective. It should be used to support the demonstration of achieving a measurable outcome aligned with a predefined target.

The phrase "Results-driven financial analyst" is considerably less impactful than the specific accomplishment: “Utilized data analytics to reduce costs by 18% in the first quarter.”

Irrelevant Information or Lack of Details

Another top resume mistake is to include details that are irrelevant or redundant. This demonstrates a lack of attention to detail and is immediately noticeable by hiring managers. 

Here are some examples of irrelevant or redundant information you should leave out to avoid a big resume mistake. 

  • Personal information: Your age, street address, and photo of you are unnecessary to include. However, exceptions exist, particularly in the entertainment industry, where a professional headshot may be required. In that case, make sure to include a professional headshot if needed, and avoid using unclear vacation photos.  
  • Complete work history: It’s not necessary to include every job you’ve ever had since you were a teenager, especially as your age and experience grows. It’s a common resume mistake to detail your time bussing tables at a local restaurant in high school. Unless directly relevant to the position you're seeking, it only introduces irrelevant clutter to your resume.
  • Inadequate balance of achievements and responsibilities: Another resume mistake is to write abundant information about your previous responsibilities and leave no detail about your achievements. Have you introduced a new filing system? Helped your organization cut costs? Implemented a workshop or a new hiring practice? Make sure to include what you’ve achieved at work. 
  • Unnecessary details about references: Avoid adding irrelevant information about your references, like their address or employment information. If you include references in your resume, it’s sufficient to add their contact information, their place of work, and their relationship to you only.  
  • Salary expectations: Adding irrelevant information like the salary you’re seeking is a big resume mistake. Such information will naturally be discussed in later communication with the hiring manager and appears unprofessional when included on a resume. 

To avoid these resume mistakes, remember to proofread your resume to ensure it's as concise as possible. Remove any redundancies and keep your writing short and focused. Lastly, don’t forget to highlight your achievements with quantifiable results. 

No Career Progression

Fresh graduates may struggle to list relevant professional experience on their resume, but someone with more than 3 years of working experience should be able to demonstrate some growth. This doesn’t need to be vertical growth such as a promotion which is something you don’t have much control over. Nonetheless, your career should grow and change over time as you do. The absence of a clear demonstration of career progression is another prevalent resume mistake.

You can demonstrate career growth on a resume by highlighting the evolving nature of your responsibilities and achievements. List any skills training or certifications you’ve accomplished to show your commitment to professional development. There are many different types of career growth, and everyone’s progress will be unique. If you’re struggling to convey growth on your resume, consider making a career development plan to see what changes you can implement. And don’t forget to highlight professional development on your resume, to avoid this common resume mistake. 

Unprofessional Email Address

One of the biggest resume mistakes of all time is using an unprofessional email address. No hiring manager will consider sending an interview invitation to an email address like  [email protected]. Using the same email address from your teenage years or school-issued email addresses is not recommended. 

To avoid this resume mistake, it's best practice to set up a short and mature email address that includes your name and as few other characters as possible. 

Here's a professional email address template you can follow:

  • [Firstname].[Lastname]@mail.com
  • [F].[Lastname]@mail.com
  • [Firstname].[L]@mail.com

💡 Pro tip: The key of having an email address is to avoid special characters or unprofessional phrases. Try to stick to letters, numbers, and dots.

Key Takeaways

Resume mistakes are common problems with easy solutions. What are the top common resume mistakes? Problems such as inadequate formatting, reliance on buzzwords, weak objectives, absence of tailoring, and inclusion of irrelevant details are just a few examples. It’s important to review and update your resume often for the best results, allowing you to align with evolving trends and customize your document with relevant keywords. Seeking feedback from friends and hiring managers is equally important to steer clear of resume mistakes in the future. For additional career and resume advice, follow CakeResume.

CakeResume is a free resume maker and portfolio builder that provides hundreds of resume templates (free download) and various job resume examples to help showcase the best you. Landing your dream job will be a piece of cake!

— Originally Written by Tiffany Quinn —

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