Are you in the process of updating your resume? Whether you're applying for a new job, switching industries, or re-entering the workforce after time away, having an up-to-date and polished resume is essential.
But even the most experienced professionals make mistakes on resumes that can cost them the job.
Here are 10 critical, yet often overlooked, resume mistakes job seekers should watch out for.
- Grammar Mistakes
- Unrelated Job Experience
- Resume Length
- Distracting Design
- Lack of Personalization
- Lies or Exaggerated Claims
- Personal Information Disclosure
- Unprofessional Email
- Missing Contact Information
1. Grammar Mistakes
Your resume is likely the first impression you’ll make on a hiring manager. One surefire way to get yours in the “Reject” pile is by having grammar mistakes throughout.
The reason why this is so important is that it speaks to your attention to detail and can hurt your credibility as a candidate. Mistakes can also be distracting to readers – you risk them focusing on your mistakes rather than the value of the content itself.
Proofreading will be key in preventing mistakes on your resume. You should also:
- Run it through a writing app like Grammarly, Hemingway Editor, or Microsoft Word, which will underline typos, awkward sentences, and more.
- Have a friend review your resume.
- Walk away from your resume for at least an hour and come back to it with fresh eyes.
2. Unrelated Job Experience
You know the worst kind of storyteller? The one who keeps stopping along the way to add meaningless details that only distract from the core story.
Your resume is telling a very important story. If a piece of information isn’t supporting this story, remove it. This can be job experience, skills, and hobbies.
“But what if I’m making a career switch or have limited experience?” In either of those cases, focus on highlighting transferable tasks and skills – i.e. areas where your desired and past jobs intersect.
3. Resume Length
Some studies suggest that hiring managers spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume.
With a very little window to grab their attention, you want to consolidate your resume and ensure it only includes the most pertinent information.
The rule of thumb is to limit your resume to one page. With clever formatting, there’s a lot you can fit on there without it looking busy.
On the flip side, say you have limited job experience, you should still aim to fill up that page. Include details on your educational background and inclusion in relevant clubs and organizations. You can also include projects that you have created or contributed to.
4. Distracting Design
With resumes, less is often more. Although creative design can grab a hiring manager’s attention, if it’s too busy, they will struggle to focus on the content.
Distraction design includes:
- Multi-colored resume – Instead stick to one color, two at most with the second serving as an accent color.
- Picture of yourself – Leave that for your LinkedIn page and fill that space with more relevant experience/skills.
- Unusual font – Stick to the classics like Arial, Helvetica, and Tahoma. They’re easy to read and professional.
- Down-top design – Eye-scanning studies have found that in the West, people read using an F or E pattern. Design your resume with this in mind, unless your resume will be designed for a non-Western audience.
5. Lack of Personalization
One of the worst things you can do when job seeking is sending the same resumes out to every company.
To increase your chances of moving to the next round, personalize your resume based on the job description. Better yet, have several resume buckets based on the type of role you’re looking for.
Say you’re looking for a content strategist role but you’re also open to senior content writer and content lead positions. In that case, have three versions of your resume, with targeted keywords for each position.
For a strategist role, your resume will focus more on your skills in content ideation, optimization, and execution whereas a lead position may focus on your leadership and collaborative skills.
6. Lies or Exaggerated Claims
When you’re crafting your resume, your goal is to present your best self. You select action words and highlight your highest-impact work.
But there’s a key difference between highlighting your strengths and inflating them.
In such a competitive job market, the temptation sure is there. But the truth is, exaggerating or lying will only harm you in the long run. The first harm is that you risk getting hired for a job you’re underqualified for, which is a waste of time for both you and your employer.
The second reason is that it’s a fireable offense and if your employer realizes you lied about something on your resume, they reserve the right to terminate your employment.
The truth is always the best way to go.
7. Personal Information Disclosures
Your resume can be seen by hundreds of people while you search for a new role. With that in mind, safety should be a priority.
This means not putting any personal information such as:
- Home address – Only provide city and state.
- Demographic information such as age, sex, political and/or religious affiliation
Leaving these details out will also prevent bias from hiring managers as they review your resume.
Although it may seem like a plus to include industry jargon in your resume, this could be a big mistake.
Jargon can confuse and distance readers from what it is you are trying to say, making your resume fuzzy and hard to understand. Rather than using terms that may be exclusive or exclusive to certain situations, try conveying your skills and experiences in simple language so they come across with clarity.
This will help get your personality across without any room for misinterpretation or confusion.
9. Unprofessional Email
Everything in your resume has to power to work for or against you. Something as small as an email address can be the decider between you going in the reject pile and you moving to the next round.
In this day and age, creating a new email address is free and simple. Take the time to create one with just your first and last name, adding numbers and/or your industry if the username is already taken.
A professional email speaks to your professionalism and if it contains anything inappropriate – even if done out of humor – it could cost you the job.
10. Missing Contact Information
You’ve done all the hard work to craft the perfect resume, the hiring manager is impressed and wants to reach out to you.
But they can’t reach you because you:
- Forgot to list your contact information.
- Have a typo in your email address or phone number.
- Have an outdated email address or phone number that no longer works.
Don’t let missing or inaccurate contact information be the reason why you don’t get the job.
There you have it – 10 mistakes to avoid in your resume along with tactics to use to get you in the door.