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Common Resume Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Regardless of whether you’re just starting out, or you’re looking for a new job for the next stage of your existing career path, a resume will be a key factor in helping you reach your goals. And while there’s no single solution to making one that’s universally appealing for every career and every hiring manager, there are some aspects that can either help or hurt your application. Below, we have nine common resume mistakes people make, as well as how you can avoid them.

Spelling and grammar errors

The first mistake may seem obvious, but it’s nevertheless one of the most common. Hiring managers want to see care and attention to detail in candidates, and submitting a resume free of glaring errors is a good indicator of that. Everyone makes spelling and grammar mistakes once in a while, so in order to ensure your final draft is written correctly, be sure to:

  • Read through the resume not only once, but multiple times to catch mistakes your initial read-throughs missed
  • Have friends, family, and/or mentors read your resume to give it a second (or third or fourth) pair of eyes

Only using vague descriptions of past roles

Most hiring managers can intuit the basic responsibilities of a role — you don’t need to put on your resume that as a software developer you wrote code for your company’s website. Instead, talk about your unique accomplishments and actions in the scope of that role. Did you lead a particular initiative within your team? Did your work result in improved metrics for your company? Some ways to strengthen your descriptions of past work experiences are:

  • Using action words such as “managed,” “increased,” ”decreased,” “launched,” and more
  • Highlighting accomplishments such as “redesigned our company’s landing page and increased conversions by 80%”
  • Using specific numbers such as “80%” or “12X”

Not having the right length

When it comes to resumes, you don’t want it to be too long or too short. The general consensus is to keep your resume at about a page in length, and no longer than two pages maximum (and only then if you’ve had several years of experience in the field that have given you much more to include). To keep your resume at the correct length:

  • Don’t use full sentences, instead sticking to the action such as “mentored new team members” rather than “I was assigned to mentor new team members”
  • Focus on what the employer wants and what is included in the job description, in order to avoid additional fluff

Using space for irrelevant or unnecessary items

Resumes should be as concise as possible, or you run the risk of having the above-mentioned “too long” resume and making people weed through superfluous items to find what’s important. Hiring managers don’t need to know about past jobs that have zero relevance to your prospective role, what your high school GPA was, or who your references are. Pare down the content by:

  • Only focusing on past experience that you can directly tie into the role you’re interviewing for
  • Leaving off your references — they’ll ask you for that later and don’t need it on the resume

Having one all-purpose resume

There’s certainly no need to completely rewrite your resume for each and every submission. On the other hand, it can be important to make small tweaks to cater it to specific applications. With one generic resume, you’re taking the chance that it may not align with each of the roles as well as others, so to sidestep this:

  • Create a master template that can easily be edited
  • Check the job description and company website to get a better idea of what they’re looking for, and plug those items into various places
  • Double check to make sure nothing from previous versions was left on that you want to have removed

Having the wrong contact information

Contact info is included on resumes for a reason. The goal is to land an interview — and ultimately a job — so you want to be sure your phone number and email address are on the page, correct, and appropriate for a work setting. Before sending in your resume:

  • Check to see if your contact information is present and correct
  • If your email address is not suitable for work, create a new one that you can use during the interview process

Using jargon and overused phrases

Just as there are certain words (like action verbs and industry keywords) you want to include on your resume, there are also some you want to avoid. Jargon and overused clichés will waste space on meaningless terms that don’t actually tell the hiring manager anything about you and your capabilities, and instead be a turnoff for them. When putting together your resume, be sure to:

  • Look online for common clichés and buzzwords you don’t want to include
  • Replace these with phrases that are specific to your industry and/or your accomplishments, such as referencing times you took initiative at work as opposed to simply calling yourself a “go-getter”

Including too many, or too few, hobbies and interests

While you don’t want to list too many hobbies — the people reading resumes for a graphic design position don’t need to know if you enjoy bike riding — adding relevant hobbies can show your passion and personality, ultimately giving your candidacy an advantage. In the “skills and interests” section:

  • Note activities you’re involved in that tie into your field, such as “tutoring kids in graphic design” or “member of X graphic design committee”
  • Cut anything that doesn’t immediately show how you’d benefit the team
  • List skills you’ve picked up that would be useful in your role and haven’t already been mentioned in earlier sections

Not formatting correctly

Finally, one of the most common resume mistakes that can greatly hinder your job search is poor formatting. You want everything on the page to be as clean and as smooth as possible to read. Otherwise, a messy or busy format can deter someone from even reading it. Clean up your formatting by:

  • Using commonplace sections and bullet points in your descriptions to make everything easily scannable
  • Skipping overly distracting graphics or text placement
  • Using basic fonts, margins, and line spacing to improve readability
  • After converting your document to a PDF, check that nothing has been cut off or moved to a different location than intended
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