resume mistakes

Your resume is your best chance to make a great first impression on potential employers. As such, it’s important to ensure that your resume is error-free and paints you in the best light possible. However, even the most qualified candidates often make resume mistakes that hurt that all-important first impression.

Resume styles and expectations are continually changing, requiring job seekers to take a fresh look at and sometimes completely rewrite their resumes for each career step.

What should be included?

What should be excluded?

What is the most appropriate resume format?

While these seem like relatively simple questions on the surface, they carry much more weight when you consider that an ineffective resume can prolong your search far longer than it needs to be and can be the cause of missed opportunities.

Unfortunately, many job seekers make the same mistakes repeatedly, severely damaging their chances of landing an interview.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the twelve worst resume mistakes you can make and how to fix them. By avoiding these common pitfalls, you’ll give yourself a much better chance of impressing hiring managers and getting your foot in the door.

1) Failing to Proofread

Writing a resume is only the beginning of the story.

No mistakes will send your resume to the bottom of the pile faster than spelling and grammatical errors.

Once you have outlined all of the facts of your work experience, the next step is to edit and proofread as if your future life depends on it. Because in the eyes of the hiring manager who will review your application, it does.

Proofreading your resume should be done as if under a magnifying glass. Take the time to look for spelling errors, punctuation misplacement, grammatical errors, and formatting inconsistencies.

Doing so will ensure that your resume is cleaner-looking and more professional sounding. Subsequently, you become a viable candidate for the job of your choosing.

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2) Not Making It Personal

Many people make the critical resume mistake of sending a one-size-fits-all, generic resume. Unfortunately, one size does NOT fit all.

You may have written an otherwise perfect resume, but if it isn’t appropriately focused for the position you are targeting and you haven’t taken the time to customize your resume to address the requirements relevant to the job, you won’t get the interview.

Customizing your resume to the specific company you hope to join or the job you wish to fill shows that you’ve done your homework.

It sends the message to the reader that not just any old job will do because THIS job is the one you are the perfect candidate to fill!

So do your research. Read the job description carefully. Understand what makes the company tick and what it will take to shine in the area in which you will be working. Then spend a few minutes tailoring your resume for the position.

3) Using Boring Language

Nothing will turn your resume from a winner into a dud faster than vague, boring content. So as you work on editing and perfecting your resume, consider opening the thesaurus and expanding your vocabulary.

In particular, familiarize yourself with as many verbs as possible. Action verbs help to sell your potential to prospective employers. They are powerful words that can make a strong impression and help you to stand out from the crowd.

When writing your resume, use action verbs to describe your accomplishments and skills.

Action verbs help paint a picture of what you have done in the past and what you can do in the future. They also help to add interest and variety to your resume, making it more likely to capture the attention of a potential employer.

But do avoid the resume mistake of repeatedly using the same dull, common verbs such as managed, developed, and increased. Instead, pull out a thesaurus and find more dynamic verbs.

Verbs to Improve Your Resume
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Verbs can help transform your lifeless resume writing into a piece of persuasive prose, positioning you for success.

4) Including Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Filling your resume with irrelevant details is a common mistake to avoid.

Remember that your resume is a marketing piece meant to promote you as the ideal candidate for a particular job.

You do not need to, nor should you, include every detail of your background and qualifications. Instead, include only those aspects that are relevant and that help to promote you for the type of position you are currently targeting.

For example, suppose you are applying for a nursing position. In that case, the fact that you took software programming classes and held a part-time, temporary programmer position is probably irrelevant. Therefore, you should consider leaving these details out or including them as just a footnote in your resume.

On the other hand, if you are applying for a technical sales position in which your technical background might be a plus, you should consider including it.

Besides diluting the focus of a resume, irrelevant data may cause additional problems for you, as it may leave the reader with the impression that you do not understand their needs and the nature of the position you are going after.

Everything in your resume should have a purpose and support the main focus. And that leads us to the next common resume mistake…

5) Forgetting the Employers’ Needs

Your resume is not about you. It is about the prospective employer and what you have to offer that employer.

The best and most powerful resumes illustrate by example how you can meet the employers’ needs and will do so in a way that will be more effective and profitable than your competition in the job market.

Writing a resume such as this requires you to research the needs of the employers (or types of employers) you are targeting.

One of the most common examples of forgetting the employers’ needs is the old-fashioned resume objective statement.

By definition, an objective statement tells the hiring manager what you want from them. An example of what you should not write is this: “Seeking a business analyst position with a growth-focused company that provides opportunities for advancement.” This sentence is nothing more than a self-centered statement that is all about you and what you want.

Instead, write a profile section–also known as a professional summary section–that sets the focus for your resume while calling out the qualifications and accomplishments that show how you will meet the employers’ needs.

In many cases, these will be the qualifications that demonstrate how you will contribute positively to their financial bottom line and/or the overall efficiency and performance of their organization.

Objective Statements are Common Resume Mistakes
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6) Focusing On Just Baseline Qualifications

Baseline qualifications are the qualifications that are required for a job. It is essential to show in your resume how you meet them. But these are the same qualifications that most of your competitors in the job market will also have.

Yes, these qualifications are likely important resume keywords and should be in your resume. But among the most common resume mistakes is thinking that just stating you have these qualifications is enough. Instead, include resume accomplishments that “prove” you have them.

To differentiate yourself, stand out, get the employer’s attention, and generate invitations to interview, your resume must go beyond the baseline to illustrate how you and the value you offer in the workplace are different and special.

Do you have an uncanny ability to solve problems with outside-the-box solutions?

Maybe you are an expert at redesigning business processes to increase efficiency.

Perhaps you stand apart in your ability to build extraordinarily strong, loyal, enduring customer relationships.

These are all differentiators that would make a powerful and unique value proposition. Determine what is unique and special about you and promote it in your resume.

7) Overlooking Results

Including achievements in your resume does help you avoid one of the most common resume mistakes: focusing on job responsibilities.

But accomplishments alone aren’t enough either.

Another of the most common mistakes many people make is forgetting about the results of their accomplishments.

Every resume accomplishment has three parts:

  1.  the challenge faced,
  2.  the actions taken, and
  3.  the results of those actions.

The results are the impact of the accomplishment which can often be expressed in numerical terms. In other words, how your achievement made the employer money, saved them money, increased efficiency, or some other measure of performance–complete with the actual dollar figures or percentage of increase that go along with these accomplishments.

Numbers are not just eye-catching and illustrative. They help lend credibility to your resume. Results are essential; leaving them off can be a resume mistake that adds weeks or months to your job search.

Avoid Focusing Resume on Job Responsibilities
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8) Submitting a Resume That Is Not ATS Compatible

Of all the resume mistakes, failing to make sure your resume can be entered into applicant tracking systems (ATS)–the databases that employers and recruiters use to track applicants through the hiring process–is the one that could harm your job search the most.

Many employers use ATS to screen resumes and weed out candidates who don’t meet their requirements. If your resume is incompatible with ATS, it may be entered into the ATS with errors. In the worst cases (for example, if your resume is in the wrong file format), it could be rejected from the ATS.

This can be a major setback in your job search, so it’s important to take the time to make sure your resume is ATS-friendly.

Of course, technology is continually advancing, which means that the requirements to ensure your resume is ATS-friendly are advancing and changing too. Therefore, the smartest move is to hire resume help and work with a professional resume writer knowledgeable about ATS standards.

9) Not Including the Right Keywords

Related to ATS compatibility is another of the most common resume mistakes: not including the keywords that will help your application be pulled from the ATS when the recruiter searches for a job candidate.

Resume keywords are the words and phrases that recruiters use to search for applicants. They can include job titles, specific skills, or other words and phrases that describe what the hiring manager is looking for.

Keywords are often listed in the job posting, and including these in your application helps to ensure that you are considered a qualified candidate. There may also be other keywords that are important to your industry or profession. Even if you don’t see these in the job ad, leaving them out of your resume would be a mistake. So, be careful to use words that accurately describe your skills and experience.

By including the right keywords, you can help ensure that your resume makes it through the initial screening process and gets seen by the right people.

10) Thinking That the Way Your Resume Looks Doesn’t Matter

When it comes to first impressions, appearances matter. Your resume is your chance to make a great first impression on hiring managers.

If your resume design looks messy or unprofessional, hiring managers aren’t going to want to spend any time reading it.

If you are working with a professional resume writer through Distinctive Career Services, as you can see from these resume examples, we’ll ensure your design is both eye-catching and ATS-friendly.

If you decide to go it alone and don’t have graphic design experience, using an ATS-friendly resume template such as these resume templates for Microsoft Word is a smart idea.

11) Limiting Your Resume To One Page

When it comes to resume mistakes to avoid, this is one that might come as a relief to you. It is about page length.

Were you taught that no resume should be longer than one page?

If you are an experienced professional with more than a couple of years of work history and have tried to comply with this outdated rule, you know it is nearly impossible to meet.

There was a time when job seekers, regardless of how much professional experience they had or what professional level they had achieved, were told that they must always limit their resume to a single page.

This might be good advice for new graduates seeking their first job or for other young professionals with limited work history, as these example student resumes illustrate. Some blue-collar workers might find that a one-page resume is best as well (check out these blue-collar resume examples).

But this is bad advice for most job seekers.

Of course, you should ensure that your resume is on target, that every piece of data serves a strategic purpose, and that the writing is concise and to the point. But it is virtually impossible to provide anything but the rudimentary details of a career (at least one longer than a few years) on just one page.

Two pages are not just common with resumes; they are necessary to use the CAR resume approach and provide the details of your achievements that will differentiate you in the job market.

Further, in a majority of cases, two pages are expected. Providing just a single-page resume that is missing achievements and is nothing more than an outline of experiences may actually work against you. This mistake can hurt your credibility and leave the impression that you don’t understand what the employer is seeking, not to mention that you either don’t understand or don’t care about current business trends.

12) Including an Unprofessional Email Address

Another common mistake that can cost you the job is using the wrong email address. This might seem like a small thing, but it isn’t, and among the resume mistakes to avoid, it is one of the easiest.

But what do we mean by the “wrong” email address? Here are a few common errors.

  1. Using an outdated email such as an @aol address or an @hotmail address. Age bias is real, and using an email address such as one of these reveals on your resume that you are an older job seeker.
  2. Using an unprofessional email address such as partyguy@ or singleandlooking@, those that reveal hobbies such as lovefishing@, political affiliations like diehardconservative@, or personal family info such as smithfamilyof5@.
  3. Using your work email from your current employer.

Your email address is one of the first things recruiters will see, so it’s essential to use one that looks professional. Something simple, such as, is best, and you may even consider creating a professional email address used only for career and job search purposes.

Moving Forward Free of Resume Mistakes

Do these resume mistakes sound familiar? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the number of changes you need to make as you move forward?

Don’t be. Just take one step at a time, correcting first one mistake and then another. Even better, seek out help in crafting the perfect resume. If you have questions about how our professional resume writing service works and how it might help you, book a free resume writing consultation with us to learn more.

Remember that the ultimate goal of a resume is to convince the person in charge of hiring that you are the perfect candidate for the position and land you an interview. Therefore, take the time to double-check, identify, and correct every mistake before you send your application, and be confident that you’ve done your best.

About the Author: Michelle Dumas

Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. To learn more about the services offered by Distinctive Career Services visit

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