I’ve recruited in four different industries, and currently edit resumes for Indeed.com, and while there are some patterns, I’ve noticed that most resumes have at least five of these very common mistakes.
1. Not Differentiating Yourself
When you remember that your resume is a recruiter’s first impression of you, it’s easier to understand how important it is to create a document that visually showcases the effort you’re willing to put in. If you were willing to submit a resume with ample mistakes, what other work would you be willing to complete with mistakes? Or, if you submit a resume that looks exactly like everyone else’s, or is visually unappealing, what does this portray about you? Not differentiating yourself can be one of the largest turn offs for recruiters, especially for jobs with a large candidate pool.
This also includes using free resources or website that will generate your resume for you – this is typically where most people start, so if you do choose to use these, it’s imperative to create your own changes, or work with a professional to make them.
2. Grammer and Spelling Mistakes
This feeds into my previous point – if you’re willing to submit a document with mistakes, knowing it’s the only work sample they’ll see, what reason do recruiters have to believe that all of your work won’t be mistake-ridden?
3. Not Utilizing an Objective
An objective is your chance to clarify to a recruiter two things – what you’re looking for, and why you’re good at it. It’s important to touch on what you’re looking for because recruiters want to make sure that your short and long term goals are aligning with the positions, and they also want a guarantee that they won’t be hiring again for this role anytime soon. You want to explain why you’d be good for this job and company – what do you look forward to accomplishing in this role? Why are you excited to work for this company? If you’re just looking for a more generalized resume – explain what excites you about the industry.
4. Relying On A Skills Section
Very few individuals should actually use the space to spell out a skill section – mainly technical roles as well as those with very little work experience.
What I recommend instead is to emphasize how you used your skills in the work experience section – it’s much more powerful to show how you’ve learned and used these skills, as opposed to simply stating that you have them without context. In addition, most skills sections I see are highly generalized, and not adding much value or depth to the resume. Would you rather use your valuable space to explain how you learned to navigate ambiguity during your shifts, or just state that you can use Microsoft Office? However you can – find a way to portray your story.
5. Too Many or Too Few Pages
The ‘one or two page’ question is a huge debate amongst both professionals and job seekers alike , but the truest answer is that it depends on the person, their experience, and what they’re aiming for.
Personally – I have different resumes for different role types, one is one page, and another is two. If you have two pages of relevant experience, and you’re using a concise method to explain your role – two pages is great! If you’ve caught a recruiter’s attention with your first page, they will not mind reading a second. This is especially true for applicants interested in more specialized jobs, who have narrow competition.
However, if you find yourself with one full page and your second page is less than halfway full, it’s best to consider restructuring or eliminating a portion.
6. Choosing a Template Based On Looks (Using Multiple Columns)
This one tends to be a huge misconception from job seekers – they think that in order to get the job, their resume needs to check all of the creative boxes. If you are applying to jobs online, and submitting it via an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), it is crucial that you only use one column and try to use a word document, as opposed to a PDF.
When your resume has more than one column, the system is going to still read it from left to right, which means your once beautiful resume has now turned into a completely unreadable document. These same systems tend to respond better to word documents as well. Feel free to keep your creative resumes for in-person networking or email correspondence!
It’s also important to remember that at the end of the day, the contents of your resume is far more important than your design.
7. Using a Picture
Although there have been major strides in hiring biases, there are still ways that you should be protecting yourself and any protected class you belong to. Having a picture of yourself attached to your resume will trigger your recruiter to begin telling themselves a story about you and your life. For example, if you’re a young woman, they may assume you will be leaving to have children. If you’re not Caucasian, they may assume you need assistance immigrating, even if you’re already a citizen.
Bonus pro tip, if you’re in a field or location where you are worried about discrimination, remove your first name. Leaving your resume as your last name, and the first initial of your first name has been proven to help reduce hiring biases.
8. Adding Your Full Address
Similar to your picture, using your full address can give the recruiter too many details about you and your socioeconomic class. For example, at one of my internships, they refused to call anyone from a certain city in for interviews, because they felt that area of town was unsafe. Instead of using your street address, use the overarching city you live in. My resume states that I live in Columbus, even though I’m not living within the city.
In addition, sometimes if you use your full address, recruiters will see how long it takes you to get to work from your location. If they deem it to be too far of a commute, they are less likely to bring you in for an interview, even if you’re totally willing to make the hour commute each day!
9. Inappropriate or Out of Date Contact Information
I don’t see this one quite as often – but it has definitely given me the most laughs. Before you send in your final resume, make sure that your contact information is 100% correct, some recruiters may be willing to do the extra work to get a hold of you if not, but most will not.
Additionally, please, please, please use an appropriate email address. The one you made at the age of 16 that you’re embarrassed to tell the cashier? Leave that one off.
10. Not Customizing for Different Roles
If you’ll be applying to different types of roles, it’s critical to have several resumes, all highlighting different areas. Even if you don’t have very much work experience, you want to highlight the transferable skills from your previous roles, and explain how you can use them in the newest role.
For example, let’s say you’re applying to both a cashier position and a stock person, at similar stores. For the cashier role, that’s customer facing, so you’ll want to talk more on your communication and relationship building skills. As for the stocking position, you’ll want to describe in more detail how much you were expected to stock, what goals you met, your efficiency, etc.
11. Holding On to Irrelevant Experiences
This one is tricky – you don’t want to have gaps on you resume, but you also don’t want to tote around jobs that are over 10 years old that now don’t have relevance to the newest roles you’re applying to.
Typically, if your older jobs are no longer relevant, I recommend removing them. However, if you have some similar and dissimilar jobs sprinkled throughout, it’s safer to keep them all. If you have more than two pages, however, I recommend changing your work experience to “Relevant Work Experience”, which will signal to the recruiter that there are more experiences not included.
12. Not Using Your Work Experience to the Fullest Potential
This by far is the biggest issue I see on 95% of resumes. We’re frequently taught to simply explain what our day to day roles were in our previous jobs, which does not do justice to the work that went into it. This is an easy fix if you use the STAR format for each of your bullet points.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Here’s why it works – you’re giving the reader context by describing the situation, explaining your given task, diving into detail about what knowledge, skills, and abilities it took to complete the task, and backing it up with your quantitative result.
Let’s say a cashier lists on their resume
- Rang out customers and bagged their items
Walking through the STAR format, we’d see –
S – What is the type of store, types of customers? Are you working as an individual or team?
T – Cashing out customers
A – To do this, you need to have a great customer facing demeanor, communication, and be efficient in your bagging
R – How many customers per hour? Per day? What’s your average transaction amount?
Then your transformed bullet would look something like –
- Rang out customers in a busy grocery store by maintaining a friendly and approachable demeanor, ringing and bagging items efficiently, and serving X amount of shoppers per hour
Doesn’t this sound much better? If you received two identical resumes, but one had the old description, and another had the STAR format descriptions, which would you choose?
13. Assuming Your Reader’s Understanding
Another common mistake I see here is not listing specifics – if the job description says you’ll be using a certain software/method/technology/etc., you need to state that you used it, mimicking their language exactly. While it may be obvious to you that this software was essential to getting your job done, it won’t be to everyone who lays eyes on your reusme. You shouldn’t leave any of your experiences talents up to interpretation – if you’ve got it, flaunt it!
14. Not Telling Your Full Story
I see this most frequently with working parents, or other caregivers who had to leave work at one point or another to care for someone else. Recruiters are highly skeptical of career gaps, so it’s best to include what gap you took, when, and why. This is also a great place to include any skills you learned while away from the workplace – if you’re a stay at home parent for a year, you’ve now learned how to budget, manage time, and loads of patience.
This also goes for anyone who took time to travel in between roles – I think this looks amazing on a resume! You took a huge risk and experienced several cultures and worldviews, if you’ve done this, definitely include it!
15. Not Clarifying Short-Term Roles
This can be a huge kicker if you work several temporary or contract roles. Leaving out that it was supposed to be short term can make it appear that you’re job hopping, when in reality, your job was just complete! Make sure if it was an internship, contract, or temporary role to include it directly in your job title.
*This article was originally posted on WilledWomen.com