Top 10 Resume Mistakes to Avoid

Don't Make These Mistakes When You're Writing a Resume

Woman working on resume
••• AMV Photo / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Does it matter if you make a mistake on your resume? It does. In fact, the quickest way to get screened out as an applicant is to submit a seriously flawed resume. 

Think about it: Your resume is one of the main ways hiring managers assess you as a candidate. Typos and grammatical errors can make you look unprofessional and unqualified. Another big mistake: submitting a resume that doesn't match the job for which you are applying.

Doing this will knock you out of contention for the job, both by hiring managers and the talent management software they use to screen resumes. 

Review more information on the most common resume mistakes and tips on how to avoid them.

Top 10 Resume Mistakes

1. Misspellings and grammatical errors are resume killers. Spell check then proofread by placing a finger on each word. Catching your own errors is hard. Try printing your resume out, changing the font, or copying it into a blank email. These strategies help you see your words with fresh eyes, which can help with catching errors. Reading it out loud is another option for catching mistakes. Or, ask a career coach, friend, or family member to review it for errors. 

2. Not including keywords that match the job posting. Your resume should include the same keywords that appear in the job listing. If your resume doesn't have the right keywords, it most likely won't get noticed because you won't appear to be a strong fit for the job.

3. An outdated resume will make you look obsolete. Your resume should be updated and targeted for every job you apply for. Be sure to update your skills section as well as your work history.

Check to be sure that skills, especially the computer and technical skills, listed on your resume are current.

4. Including too much information. Don't tell your readers everything about each job. Focus on the highlights; keep your document to one or two pages unless you are applying for a position within academic and research settings. (In that case, you might want to create a CV in place of a resume.) 

Use formatting techniques like bullets and short paragraphs to enhance readability. Limit your resume to the last 10 to 15 years of work experience. You don't need to include everything you ever did.

5. Writing a resume objective which doesn't match the job. Avoid using an objective statement which doesn't correspond well with the focus of the target job. Many job seekers now leave an objective off their resume or use a profile instead. If you include either, make sure it underscores your interest in the type of work for which you are applying.

6. Including a career summary that doesn't match the job requirements. Don't use a mismatched ​summary of qualifications at the top of your resume. Your key skills in the summary should match many of the job requirements or else leave it off.

7. Writing position descriptions that don't show what you accomplished. Avoid job descriptions which simply list your duties or responsibilities.

Instead, write active statements which showcase relevant skills and accomplishments. Make sure the employer can easily see how you added value in your role.

8. Leading your paragraphs with mundane or irrelevant duties. Start with the hardest hitting statement which shows that you have key skills related to the job at hand.

Otherwise, your reader might just skim by that description.

9. Not quantifying accomplishments. Avoid empty self-congratulatory phrases by quantifying accomplishments or providing other concrete evidence to support your assertions. Numbers, like people managed, sales figures, etc., are always helpful. 

10. Being too modest. Share any awards or recognition you have received in a matter-of-fact manner i.e. "Promoted to associate director after increasing annual donations by 25%" or "Received team player award at three annual company-wide awards ceremonies." While you don't want to seem boastful, your resume is the appropriate place to share accomplishments.

 

Top 5 Resume Grammar Mistakes

Most resume mistakes fall into the #1 category for this list: grammatical errors or typos. Brad Hoover, CEO of the automated proofreading service Grammarly, reports that there are five errors on a typical job seeker's resume, and most of these issues — nearly 60% — are grammatical. The most common errors seen in resumes are: 

  • Hyphen use (e.g. entry-level)
  • Verb tense (e.g. led vs. leads)
  • Formatting (e.g. inconsistent fonts or different styles of bullet points)
  • Education information (e.g. misspellings or incorrect apostrophe use in bachelor's degree or master’s degree)
  • Careless spelling mistakes (the most commonly misspelled words are simple words such as "and" "planned" and "materials”)

How to Avoid Resume Mistakes

Reread and edit your resume. At the very least, be sure to read your resume over once before submitting it for an application. However, it is very hard to catch your own mistakes. People tend to see what they intended to type (and not necessarily what's actually on the page). One tip is to read your resume and other application documents from the bottom up (or, from the last page back to the first page). This keeps you from focusing too much on the content and layout of the page, and more on any sentence-level errors. Rereading your documents out loud can also help you catch errors.

Ask a friend. It is always a good idea to ask a friend or family member to look over your application before submitting it. Unlike you, they will be looking at your materials with a fresh set of eyes, and may spot errors you do not.

Utilize online resources. On a personal note, I signed up for the free trial of Grammarly, then bought the annual version when my trial was up. It's definitely catching more mistakes than when I just used Word's spelling and grammar checker. Now, I use Microsoft Word's checker first, then run Grammarly to catch the rest of my errors. You can also use Grammarly's online grammar check for free.

More Mistakes to Avoid: Top 10 Job Search Mistakes | Top 10 Job Application Mistakes