When you’re job hunting, your livelihood, financial wellbeing and career aspirations are on the line. Yet in the face of these giant stakes, very little is in your control. It’s no wonder the process feels so overwhelming.
One way to reduce job hunting stress is to focus on the aspects of the process you can actually control. One of those things is submitting a high-quality resume.
Developing a resume that will get you noticed is equal parts what you include and what you choose not to include. By avoiding these common resume mistakes, you’ll improve the quality of your resume and increase the odds that your application rises to the top of the stack.
Mistake #1: Emphasizing tasks instead of achievements.
What did you accomplish in each role? How did your daily responsibilities help make or save money, boost efficiency, solve a problem, improve customer acquisition or retention, or otherwise make the company better?
If you want your resume to stand out, you need to go beyond listing tasks and highlight the achievements that make you a valuable employee.
Mistake #2: Poor formatting
Poor formatting can detract from your resume in a number of ways:
- Inconsistent fonts, spacing, or formatting (e.g. bolding some job titles and not others) convey a lack of attention to detail
- Unusually large or small fonts can annoy the reader
- Massive walls of texts will make it difficult for anyone to skim your resume. (And most people who read resumes skim them)
- The way you save your resume can affect its readability. If you’re submitting it as an email attachment, make sure it’s saved as a PDF so the formatting isn’t lost when it’s opened. If you’re submitting via an ATS program, save it as a .doc or .txt to reduce the risk of your resume being rejected by the system
Mistake #3: Not tailoring your resume to the job in question
Taking the time to customize your resume will demonstrate your investment in the position. This can manifest in several ways:
- If the application instructions require you to include specific information in your resume, make sure you include it
- Don’t include irrelevant information on your resume. If you’re applying for a job in finance, for example, that gig as a pizza delivery driver in the 1980s does not merit inclusion
- Utilize keywords from the job description or industry to highlight your compatibility with the role
- Make sure your most relevant accomplishments are near the top of the resume so they’ll stand out immediately when a hiring manager skims the page
"One of the best ways to make your resume stand out is by tailoring it to fit the job you're looking to land," says certified professional resume writer, Rebecca Henninger. "This gives you a big edge over applicants who are sending out a generic resume to hundreds of employers."
Mistake #4: Sharing your address
It used to be standard to include your address at the top of a resume. But in today’s mobile workforce, it’s no longer expected.
In fact, sharing your address could hurt you. If you’re applying for a job that’s out of state or far away and you include your address, your resume might be excluded from consideration. Stick with your phone number and email address.
Mistake #5: Incorrect spelling and grammar
Spelling and grammar mistakes might seem minor relative to a list of accomplishments, but they’re a red flag to hiring managers. These mistakes convey a lack of attention to detail and a failure to invest in top-quality work.
Using spell check isn’t enough to ensure everything is correct. Spell check isn’t going to flag “pubic relations expert,” for example, but that’s a mistake you definitely don’t want to make.
Mistake #6: Lying
This seems like a no-brainer. But every hiring manager in the country has stories of encountering half-truths and outright lies on resumes. Make no mistake: These will come back to bite you. Even if you squeak your way into the job, it will quickly become apparent if you don’t have skills you professed to have.
Even when it’s not malicious, including incorrect information on your resume can be a turn-off for potential employers. It suggests you’re not detail-oriented and undermines your claims of quality work.
Mistake #7: Including “References upon request” at the end of your resume
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re guilty as charged: This line used to be standard. These days, it’s considered to be unnecessary filler. Employers assume you’ll have references available; you don’t need to spell it out. Doing so conveys you’re not up-to-date with resume etiquette.
Mistake #8: Opening with your education
If you just graduated from college or are new to the world of work, ignore this. Otherwise, include your work accomplishments before listing your education. Employers are more interested in your achievements in the workforce than they are in your degree. So keep your work-related information at the top.
Mistake #9: Sharing TMI
Maybe you left your last job because you were constantly butting heads with one of your coworkers, or your boss was a total jerk. That may be the truth, but including it on a resume is going to raise eyebrows. Nothing on your resume should make a hiring manager question your ability to collaborate with coworkers, maintain professionalism, or otherwise commit to the job at hand.
You’d be surprised how many people fall into these traps. That means avoiding these mistakes is a simple and effective way to help your resume rise to the top.