Top 5 Resume Mistakes to Avoid

There are several common mistakes that can send your resume straight to the rejection pile. It’s not exactly fair, but with some careful attention and the following examples of 5 things to avoid when writing your resume, you can increase your odds of being contacted for an interview.

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1. Your resume is more than one page.

Regardless of whether you are just entering the workforce, or have been working for 15 years, your resume should never exceed 1 page. Be selective with the skills and experiences that best apply to the position at hand to keep your resume targeted to the job posting and easy-to-read.

With hundreds of resumes crossing their desks, recruiters must evaluate them quickly, spending an average of six seconds scanning a resume. Knowing that you have very little time to grab a recruiter’s attention, restricting yourself to a one page document forces you to present only the most relevant information.

Can I adjust the margins on my resume?

Sneaky tricks to beat the page count didn’t work in school and they definitely won’t work with a hiring manager. Not only will they see through the attempt to get more information onto the page, but exceptionally small page margins will also make your resume more difficult to read, and ultimately more likely to end up in the trash.

Resume format guidelines to improve your chances:

  • Keep margins at least 1 inch on all sides.
  • Keep font size at a minimum of 11 points.
  • Be consistent with punctuation and how you write the dates of each job.
  • Be concise: list your achievements and responsibilities in bullet-point format.
  • Be specific: use quantifiable examples of the success you achieved in each role.

2. You didn’t proofread your resume and cover letter.

Is “careless” the first impression you’re looking to make on your potential new employer? Even though mistakes happen all the time in the real world, a typo on your resume is a clear sign that you either didn’t bother to proofread, or that you did, but failed to catch a mistake. That kind of mistake isn’t encouraging for future employers who want to ensure they’re hiring someone whose work they can trust.

To avoid grammatical and spelling errors, make sure to recruit several people to proofread your resume. Friends or family will do, provided they are attentive and have a firm grasp of the English language.

And be sure to double check consistency in your use of past and present tense. Remember: present tense should only be used when describing the responsibilities of your current job.

3. You included subjective traits.

Have you used any of the following descriptions?

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Team player
  • Hard worker
  • Results-driven
  • Detail-oriented

If so, prove it! Not only are these expressions overused, they’re completely subjective. Even if you really are a hard worker who is results-driven, unless you can provide quantifiable proof, the statement doesn’t belong on your resume. Stick to listing accomplishments with concrete evidence that proves these skills.

As so many people hold inaccurate perceptions of their quality of work, employers in general will disregard subjective claims on a resume. Looking to impress? Hit them with facts — hard numbers and supporting evidence prove why you’d be a great addition to their team.

Ask yourself: “what have I achieved that demonstrates the skills this hiring manager is looking for?” For example, a promotion may demonstrate your work ethic, while managing a large number of colleagues will prove your leadership skills.

4. You didn’t tailor your resume for each specific job you applied to.

Tailoring a resume may seem like a daunting task when applying to multiple jobs, but the added work is sure to pay off in the end. A generic resume lends the impression that you have blindly applied for a position that you may or may not be qualified for, thus limiting your odds of being contacted for an interview.

To start tailoring your resume:

Read and understand the job description: what responsibilities stand out about the position? Are any requirements repeated? Which duties relate to your experience at your current or past position?

Organize your resume based on relevancy to the position: regardless of whether it’s your education, a past job or a recent certification, make sure your most relevant experience is listed first. There’s no rule that says your resume must be in chronological order so it’s completely acceptable to organize your resume in a way that highlights your relevant experience for the hiring manager.

Align your past experience: how can your existing experience be revamped to better align with the requirements of the job? For examples of ways to alter your bullets to emphasize certain soft skills, check out this article by Muse.

5. You lied, exaggerated or misrepresented your work or accomplishments.

Lying or “padding” your resume is a common technique amongst job hunters to make them seem more qualified for a job than they truly are. Though it may seem easy to get away with, if your lie isn’t unveiled through social media or the interview process, chances are your references will call out your bluff.

Bottom line? Don’t pad your resume!

There’s a point of no return between “spinning” your skills and experience a certain way and falsifying your achievements. Not only do you risk being blacklisted from the company if you are caught lying, but you will also ruin your relationship with your references.

Your resume is the first and often only impression an employer will have of you. It can instantly make or break your chances of being contacted for an interview or disregarded for the position entirely. If you are looking to increase your odds in the hiring process, avoid making any of these common errors on your resume. You may be unable to control a hiring manager’s decision, but you can control your resume and how it portrays you as the best candidate for the role!

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