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Avoid These Common Resume Mistakes: 12 Tips

Avoid these resume mistakes, build the best resume possible and get the job you want using these tips.

Ho Lin Profile
By Ho Lin 7 minute read

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In today’s competitive job market, you need to present yourself in the most professional and competent manner possible in order to increase your chances of being hired. Employers are looking for the best of the best. They can afford to be picky when the competition is fierce. One of the most important ways to give yourself an edge is to write a compelling resume that gets noticed.

What you put on paper is your first impression to potential employers, so it’s important to make sure your resume doesn’t include any of the common errors that hiring agents see all too often. Whether you’re building a resume with little experience or with a wealth of prior job knowledge, avoiding these common mistakes is your first step to building the best resume possible and obtaining the career you desire.

1. Poor spelling and grammar

Typos, lack of punctuation, and poor grammar are the most obvious mistakes that will get you flagged as a job candidate who doesn’t pay attention to detail. These mistakes are also the things that will get your resume discarded immediately, thereby eliminating any chance of you scoring a job interview. However, so many people continue to send out resumes with glaring errors. To avoid this mistake, have a friend or family member read over it. A fresh pair of eyes will be more likely to catch errors. You may also want to consider reading your resume out loud to be sure it flows smoothly and makes sense. Having a grammatically perfect resume is not only achievable — it’s required.

2. Missing keywords

The best resume examples will always include a place to put key terms related to the job you’re applying for. Each resume you write should be tailored to the position for which you’re applying. One crucial aspect of this is to look for keywords from the job posting you should place in your resume. For example, if you’re applying for a graphic designer role and the job post mentions specific software, it’s to your advantage to mention the same software in your resume (whether it’s as a skill or a previous job experience that utilizes the software). Recruiters will scan incoming resumes quickly and are on the lookout for these words. Some companies will even use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that scans resumes for keywords. If keywords are missing, your resume will not move to the front of the line.

3. Unrelated objective or summary

Along the lines of customizing each resume for the desired job comes the idea of making sure your objective or summary statement matches the job description for which you’re applying. When the first statement on your resume is unrelated to the advertised position, it raises red flags for hiring personnel. It is advised that the career objective relates to the industry and how accomplishing your career goals will be applicable to this job role.

4. Vague and general details

Recruiters may see thousands of resumes in a year’s time. They likely see the same tired, generic phrases used over and over. Avoid overused terms and phrases, and instead, be specific in your wording. Choose an active language, rather than passive. Show the hiring manager what you’ve accomplished in past positions, utilizing specific numbers or achievements to demonstrate your competence. Avoid being modest. Modesty and tired old phrases are sure to get you overlooked. Follow these tips in order to build your best resume possible. A strongly written resume is one of the best tools in your arsenal for getting the job you desire.

5. Including unrelated work experience and skills

Before you begin writing your resume, take a good look at the job description that you are applying to. As you are listing your work experience and skills, be sure they are specifically relevant to that job position. You want to not only highlight your career experience but you also want to be sure that your list of skills and achievements allow the hiring manager to see that you could be an asset to their organization. Avoid listing past job positions that are not relevant and could take up too much space on your resume. You don’t want a hiring manager to glance at your resume and zoom in on any irrelevant information. You could be passed up from moving to the next phase of the hiring process.

6. An unprofessional email address

This should be obvious but hiring managers still come across a questionable email address every now and then. An email address you might seem cute and clever to some may rub others the wrong way, and give te impression that you’re not a candidate who takes the job search seriously. Instead, create a professional-looking email address that simply includes some variation of your full name. It’s even a good idea to create a separate email account to keep track of job applications and job search communications. A professional email address featured on your resume and application will ensure you come off as a serious job candidate.

7. Resumes that are too long or too short

While a one-page resume has advantages, don’t cut short your work experience, skills and education just to fit everything on one page. If you have a lot of impressive skills and work achievements, you run the risk of leaving off something that helps you stand out from other job candidates. However, you also don’t want to create a resume that is super long because you think you need to include every bit of career history, including information that might not be as relevant to the job you’re applying to. If yur resume exceeds one page, feel free to continue onto a second page. Remember, above all, you should only list experience from the past 10 to 15 years.

8. Using the same resume for all job applications

Even though job postings for your industry may be similar in some ways, you should never submit the same resume for multiple jobs. A generic “one size fits all” resume won’t help you stand out from the competition or highlight your best credentials for each job. Instead, tailor your resume based on the specific job description. Feature your job skills that match those skills listed. This will also help you pass ATS scans and take you to the next step in the application process. The extra effort you put into tailoring your resume will show hiring managers what you can offer their company.

9. Visually distracting

With so much competition for the role you are applying for, the hiring manager has limited time to read each resume from top to bottom. With one chance to make an impression, be sure that your resume is easy to read and as professional looking as possible.

Choose an easy to read, 10 or 12 point font like Calibri, Cambria, Times New Roman or Arial with 1.15 line spacing. Be sure the margins are even on all sides. Divide your resume into clear heading sections and bold each section heading. Focus on creating a resume format should be on readability for the hiring manager.

10. Featuring a photo of yourself

Unless you are applying to a job role where a photo is a necessity (i.e., acting work), it isnt ncessary to include a photo on your resume. In fact, some hiring managers may even consider a photo unprofessional. Rather than a photo, use the extra space on your resume to focus on more pertinent career experience or skills that can help get your resume noticed for the right reasons.

11. Outdated contact information

Can you imagine that your dream company wants to interview you for the role you applied for but your contact information is outdated or has a typo? Not only is that an unfortunate missed opportunity but it also gives the impression that you’re not detail-oriented. You can avoid that from happening by carefully proofreading your contact information – data that is often taken for granted as being correct. Make sure you’re listing your most recent phone number, email address and current place of residence.

12. Including salary requirements

There is never a reason for a job candidate to disclose a salary requirement on a resume. There will be opportunities to discuss salary as you make your way through the application process. The mere mention of a salary expectation on a resume could escalate your resume to the discard pile. The ideal time to discuss salary is during an interview only when the hiring manager directly asks you the question about compensation.

Ho Lin Profile

Ho Lin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and editor with two decades of experience in content strategy, creation, and development. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and his background includes experience aiding military veterans as they transition to civilian careers.

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