10 Resume Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

By Maddie Lloyd
Sep. 22, 2022

Find a Job You Really Want In

Even the most meticulous of candidates can let a mistake or two fall through. But just because you don’t notice your mistakes doesn’t mean that they’ll slip by employers. In fact, they’re probably the first thing employers see before they move onto the next resume.

Don’t panic! Even though these mistakes can ruin your chances of getting the job, it’s easy to ensure they never get a spot on your resume to begin with. On that note, here are 10 resume mistakes that could cost you the job and how to prevent them.

Key Takeaways:

  • Make sure you don’t have any spelling or grammar mistakes in your resume, and proof read before submitting it.

  • Leaving out keywords can make your resume get buried in the pile so make sure you put keywords that match the job listing.

  • Don’t use a generic resume that you submit to every job, make sure to personalize it to each job you apply to.

10 Resume Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

10 Resume Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

  1. Spelling and grammar. Typos and grammatical errors destroy the credibility of your resume, plain and simple. If your resume doesn’t have perfect spelling and grammar, employers will assume that you have no attention to detail, that you can’t write, or that you just don’t care about the job. Not a very flattering image.

    Luckily, this mistake has an easy fix: proofread. Look over your resume several times. Use spell-check. Get a friend to take a look at your resume to catch any mistakes you may have overlooked. Heck, read it out loud as a theatrical performance if you have to. Just do whatever it takes to ensure you’re not submitting a resume with your own name spelled wrong.

  2. Leaving out keywords. One of the best ways to get your resume noticed is to sprinkle it with keywords that match the job listing. It shows that you’re a strong fit for the job and that you meet even the most basic requirements.

    Look over the job posting and make note of any and all keywords the employers use. They can be skills, qualifications, or experiences. Make sure to include as many as possible throughout your resume so you don’t get thrown out of the hiring process before you even get your foot in the door.

    Additionally, applicant tracking software (ATS) will parse your resume for keywords, so it’s especially important to mirror language from the job description if you’re applying to a large company. On the flip-side, don’t go crazy and stuff your resume with a bunch of lame, low-value buzzwords like “passionate,” “motivated,” and “hard worker.”

  3. Going Overboard and sharing too much information. If your resume is four pages long, it’s highly unlikely that employers will get past the first page. Don’t tell hiring managers every single detail about every job you’ve ever had, or your resume will probably just end up in the trash.

    Keep your resume to one page. Only include relevant work history within the past 10-15 years. Focus on your most significant accomplishments in each position, and use bullet points with concise sentences to improve readability. Employers don’t need to know your entire life history — just the good stuff.

    You can also ask a former coworker or friend with industry knowledge which information they would cut if you’re having trouble deciding what to get rid of. Generally, the older the experience, the less detail you have to provide.

  4. Writing a resume objective or summary that doesn’t match the job. Many job seekers opt out of including a resume objective nowadays, but if you choose to include one, make sure to explain how you can add value to the company and how it ties into your overall career goals.

    • Don’t focus too heavily on yourself and make sure to show what you can do for the company. Never use a generic statement and be as specific as possible. Being vague or nondescript is a quick and easy way to get your resume thrown out.

    • We recommend using a resume summary statement over an objective 95% of the time. Recent college graduates, those without much formal experience, and career changers might opt for a resume objective instead, but even most people in these groups should go for a summary statement.

    • A resume objective lays out your career goals. A resume summary statement grabs the hiring manager or recruiter’s attention by stating your impressive professional experiences and indicating how you’ll add value to the company from your first day if hired.

  5. Including boring or irrelevant information. Just as bad as including too much information is including details of your work history that are boring or don’t relate to the job. Resumes are not the place to be modest. Use your resume to show off your career highlights and show off why you’re the best person for the job.

    Mention any awards or accomplishments you’ve achieved in your previous jobs — yes, even your “employee of the month” award at your college’s local burger joint. Mention any soft skills you’ve gained in the past as long as they relate to the job. If you think any aspect of your work experience could impress employers, go ahead and include it.

    Leave off the “interests and hobbies” section unless your resume is really light without it. Even then, a section devoted to your interests should be short and be at least somewhat related to your job or skills required for the job.

  6. Using a generic resume. This is the cardinal sin of resume writing. Employers want to see that you’re the perfect fit for the job, and it’s going to be hard to accomplish that if you submit a vague resume that could be applied to any position.

    You should always customize your resume for every position you apply for. Use it as an opportunity to include your most relevant information and clearly show employers why you’d be the perfect fit for their company.

    Read the job description carefully. Highlight all the action verbs in one color and all the skills and adjectives in a different color. Then, try to use some of that same language throughout your resume, where relevant and appropriate.

  7. Not highlighting your accomplishments. Remember, your resume is not the place to be humble. Make sure to write job descriptions that show what you’ve accomplished and not just your duties or responsibilities.

    Recruiters and hiring managers have a general idea of what various job titles do, so it’s redundant to include basic stuff. For example, if you were a data entry clerk, listing “Input data” as one of your responsibilities is a waste of space.

    Showcasing your skills and achievements helps employers see how you can add value to their company, instead of showing them that you haven’t been jobless for the past three years.

  8. Being passive. Using a passive voice in your resume ultimately downplays your accomplishments. Make sure to use action verbs to make your achievements seem strong and intentional.

    So, rather than saying “Was responsible for organizing company fundraisers,” rephrase this description with action words to make it more powerful by saying “Organized company fundraisers 3 consecutive years.” Voila! Simple as that. Here are some other action words to use on your resume:

    • Achieved

    • Improved

    • Edited

    • Collected

    • Generated

    • Performed

    • Leveraged

    • Designed

    • Created

  9. Not quantifying your accomplishments. Don’t just say you did something; prove it. It might sound impossible, but quantifying your accomplishments on your resume adds credibility, makes your claims more believable, and makes you seem more trustworthy.

    Provide any evidence available to support your accomplishments. Numbers are the easiest and most credible way to add value to your statements — use percentages, sales figures, etc. Quantify wherever you can. It’s easier then you think. You can talk about:

    • Frequency: “Answered 20 emails a day,” “submitted 4 articles a week,” “wrote weekly interval newsletter,” etc.

    • Change: “Designed images that increased CTR by 14%,” “generated 12% increase in leads month-over-month,” etc.

    • Range: “Improved test scores between 11-15 points,” “collected 200-400 new leads each month,” etc.

    • Scale: “Created new workflow process, saving $20,000 annually,” “drove $150,000+ in sales from new traffic in first 6 months,” etc.

  10. Having a Visually Distracting Resume Your middle school instincts may tell you to include a rainbow of font colors, as many different typefaces as you can muster, and some cute clip art to make things more interesting. Don’t give in to these urges. You might think you’re sending a message that says “Look at me! I’m creative!” But in reality, it only shows that you’re unprofessional.

    • Having an aesthetically busy resume is distracting and will probably result in headaches and eye rolls for the hiring managers who have the misfortune to see it. Stick to using black font, one typeface, and clean formatting.

    • ATS also have trouble reading designs and unique bullet point graphics. If you can copy and paste your resume into a .txt document without anything getting messed up, the chances are that any ATS will be able to read it. Otherwise, your resume might get tossed out before a human reader even gets to it.

    • That being said, if you’re applying for a role in the arts (especially the visual arts), then a more creative resume layout may be just what you need to stand out. But for the average job-seeker, stick to the formatting basics.

Final Thoughts

A resume mistake or two can prevent even the most qualified candidates from getting their dream job. These mistakes can make employers think that you’re careless, unqualified, or that you’re just plain dumb.

Let’s not let that happen. Next time you’re customizing your resume for a job, just make sure to steer clear of these 10 mistakes, and you’re sure to land that job offer.

Expert Opinion

What’s the biggest resume mistake people make?

John Davidsson J.D.
Founder Owner
Olympic Resume

Possibly the biggest mistake in terms of writing (or revising) a resume is going it alone. In my professional opinion, one should not create a resume in a vacuum. Engaging a former colleague, a friend, or a family member can be helpful. Working with a career development professional (e.g. career counselor, interview coach, resume writer) can also make a world of difference.

However, one’s judgment is also critical. Do you like your resume? Does the format resonate with you? Are you proud of it? Are you comfortable with what you have included…and also excluded? Reviewing a range of samples may be more helpful than merely trusting a single publication or career site.

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Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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Topics: Get The Job, Resume