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Top Resume Mistakes to Avoid

As a person who has reviewed hundreds of resumes a month on average during the occasional hiring boom, 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 led me to think that person would be a good fit. There were however many resumes ripe with errors who I did think could be a good fit (if only they also paid more attention to detail). Usually I would only schedule interviews with those who I thought would fit the job well and whose resumes were without error. Although sometimes I would honestly call a few of the error-laiden candidates and schedule interviews if the candidate pool wasn’t big enough. Why? Because by the law of averages above: out of 100 resumes received, aka out of 100 potentially perfect-for-the-position job seekers, only one person would be called in for an interview. But when a position is well sought after and 1,000 resumes are coming in you bet people skip right over you on the first grammatical, spelling, or formatting error they come across.


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.


Mistake #2: It’s Boring!

Don’t write benign 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, send your resume ALWAYS 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 is often altered to an unreadable state.


Mistake #4: Not Highlighting Accomplishments

I think there is a place for noting duties, especially if your work experience is more limited. You’ll see as your work experience increase so will your accomplishments at those positions. However, you don’t need to online highlight you 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 as long as there are people writing resumes. 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 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.) Furthermore, 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. That being said, use this blog post as a checklist and review your own resume after reading this. See if you’ve inadvertently made any of these common mistakes and see if you can correct them Before you hit send!

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