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Top Resume Mistakes to Avoid

As a person who has reviewed hundreds of resumes, I can tell you on average only 1 out of every 50 was without error. In the ‘without error’ category, 1 out of every 75 I’d say was written in a compelling manner and convinced me that person would be an obviously good fit for the position they were applying for and that I felt showcased their talents in a compelling way.


In this post you’ll find my list of top resume mistakes I’ve seen made. Read them and use them! Review your own resume to see if you’ve inadvertently fallen into any of these pitfalls.



Mistake #1: Grammatical & Spelling Errors

Are you confident that your resume contains NO grammatical or spelling errors? Your should be! If you think that an employer wont equate mistakes on a resume to future mistakes on a job, I believe you are mistaken. You have the time and ability to perfect your resume (or if not, let us help) and as such your future employer expects it to be perfect. They may think, well, if the resume, that you’ve had XYZ time to perfect has errors, I can expect if they work here I will see mistakes made as well.


Mistake #2: It’s Boring!

Don’t write benign, truncated, phrases like: “Answered phones,” “Stocked shelves,” “Helped customers.” These can be rephrased in a much more impressive and interesting manner, such as replacing ‘answered phones’ with: “Managed the inbound and outbound calls while utilizing a mutil-line call system.” Or “Communicated directly with clients daily on busy multi-line call system,” for example.


Mistake #3: Formatting Issues

First off, ALWAYS send your resume as a .pdf unless specifically requested to send in another format (such as word .doc) Why is this so important? Because a .pdf will retain all formatting exactly as you set it. By saving your word doc or pages doc as a .pdf it is like printing and laminating it before sending it out, and looks much more polished and professional. Besides the look of professionalism, you will avoid any formatting errors that may occur out of your control if the hiring manager or person viewing your resume is not running the same version of word as you. Additionally, if you are utilizing a program such as a ziprecuriter or other job search company, the upload of resumes saved as .docs are often altered to an unreadable state.


Mistake #4: Not Highlighting Accomplishments

You’ll see as your work experience increases so will your accomplishments at those positions. However, you don’t need to only highlight your honors degree or employee of the month acknowledgment. There are some duties that can be reworded as accomplishments and honestly so. For example, changing: “Handled customer service complaints.” To the ‘accomplished’ version of this duty, if applciable, as: “Exceeded expectations by continuously delivering satisfactory customer service support for the company.” Now, I say ‘if applicable,’ because you should not put ‘exceeded expectations,’ if you did not. Why? Because these future employers will be calling your references and so you never want to be caught in a situation of being untruthful. This will not only take you out of the running of the position you were after but will also burn the bridge to that cultivated reference.


Mistake #5: Too Short or Too Long

A resume should be, on average, one page long. If there is more job experience that needs accounting for two pages is usually acceptable. Any more than two pages is usually considered excessive. Anything that does not fill out a single sheet of paper is considered much too short and will visually tell the employer ‘inexperienced’ even if the content would say otherwise. There is then a delicate balance that needs to be met of fully explaining and selling oneself while being terse enough to hold the hiring manager’s attention.


While these are just the top 5 mistakes, there are of course, many others that can and will be made. This is not a fault to those of you writing your own resumes. I say that because you may not be applying for a position as a writer, you may be applying for say an electrical engineer position and you may by no means be used to writing marketing material (because a resume truly is the ultimate piece of marketing material, next to say a query letter an author would compose.)


Even if you’re well experienced in marketing and writing, writing your own resume is stressful! This is you, writing about you. And oh, off course, while you’re writing about yourself you’re thinking about how much you want that new job, or maybe you’ve just lost or left a job you really liked... it’s all a situation of stress that is not conducive to showing off your best self.


All that said, I hope you can use this blog post as a checklist to review your own resume. See if you’ve inadvertently made any of these common mistakes and try to correct them before you hit send. And if you’re struggling, reach out for help!


Email Jessica@writersfirstpublishing.com or book an appointment for a consultation. Good luck!

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