7 Common Mistakes You Might Be Making on Your Résumé

By    January 7, 2014

Resume mistakes

It’s hard to make up stuff like this.

One HR professional received a résumé with this objective: “To work for someone who is not an alcoholic with three DUI’s like my current employer.” Another résumé was written in Klingon language from “Star Trek.” Still another résumé contained a “Skelze” section rather than a “Skills” section.

All of those outrageous examples were cited in a 2013 study by job website CareerBuilder.com about mistakes on résumés reviewed by hiring managers and HR professionals in the U.S. Fortunately, most blunders on résumés aren’t nearly that extreme.

Nonetheless, folks in the position to screen job applicants do catch plenty of résumé boo-boos. And these folks wish jobseekers would invest more time in crafting their résumés, rather than cranking them out in a robotic and sloppy manner.

A sharp-looking résumé is just as important as a sharp-looking suit.

– Michael Morgenstern, head of hiring, The Expert Institute

“Just sending your résumé out shotgun-style isn’t the best way to get a
 job,” said Joey Price, CEO
 of Jumpstart:HR, a provider of HR services for small businesses. “It actually makes it look like you didn’t take the time to read the 
position description, which is already one strike against you with ‘lack of
 attention to detail.’”

Here are seven résumé mistakes you might be making that could wreck your chances of snagging your dream job at a startup like SpareFoot (or anywhere else).

1. Your Résumé Is Poorly Arranged.
Unless you’re a graphic designer or someone in a similarly creative career, skip the fancy fonts and crazy colors. Also, in the experience or accomplishments section, prudently use bullet points that start with strong action verbs. Example: Beat 2013 sales goals by 30 percent.

A cleanly formatted, well-organized résumé gets you one step closer to being noticed for the right reasons, according to career counselor Patricia Hinckley.

2. Your Résumé Is Too Long.
Limit your résumé to one page if you’re a few years out of college, SpareFoot recruiter Rachel Morse said. If you’re a more senior jobseeker, you can expand it to two pages.

resume-errors

3. Your Résumé Is Full of Errors.
“You get one chance and one or two pages to put your best foot forward, and there was an obvious missed bullet point or un-capitalized word? Really?” Morse said.

How do you get rid of ridiculous errors? Use spell-check, read through your résumé numerous times, and have other people scour it to detect grammatical mistakes, spelling slip-ups and other problems.

“A sharp-looking résumé is just as important as a sharp-looking suit. A 
clean, professional, typo-free résumé that clearly and simply details your 
education, skills and job duties truly stands out in a pile of résumés,” said Michael Morgenstern, head of hiring at The Expert Institute, which matches businesses with experts in an array of fields.

4. Your Résumé Is Exaggerated.
Don’t inflate your job titles or job descriptions, Morse warned.

“The résumé should paint a very accurate picture of what you did,” Morse said. “The exaggerated description of what you did will only hurt you in the long run or even as early on as the phone interview.”

unprofessional

5. Your Résumé Is Unprofessional.
OK, so your entire résumé might not be unprofessional. But it sure can seem that way if you’ve put down a silly email address.

Erik Bowitz, senior résumé consultant at résumé-writing service ResumeGenius.com, said he’s critiqued tens of thousands of résumés 
during his career, and the most frequent gaffe he spots is the use of an inappropriate email address.

“It boggles my mind that after what must be 
hours of careful formatting, proofreading and concentration, so many people
 still leave such unprofessional email addresses in their contact 
information sections,” Bowitz said.

Two real examples he’s come across: Da69man@—.com and orkslayer@—.com.

“Starting things out on the right foot is important—get a 
professional email address,” Bowitz advised.

How can you make sure your email address stands up to the scrutiny of a recruiter or hiring manager?

“I think the best test to make sure your email address sounds professional
is to ask your grandmother to read it aloud and ask her what she thinks,” Bowitz said. “If
 she has to ask you it’s meaning, then it’s probably not professional 
enough.”

wimpy

6. Your Résumé Is Wimpy.
Career coach Darrell Gurney said one of the big problems he sees with résumés is that 
they spew a bunch of jargon. Plus, he said, they often lack details about measureable and “easily graspable” accomplishments that show the candidates are truly exceptional. Gurney said a résumé should promote a jobseeker’s personal “brand”—what sets him or her apart from everyone else.

The Expert Institute’s Morganstern said you should put yourself in the shoes of whoever’s reading your résumé.

“We want to see
 that you’ve read the job description, understand the job that you are 
applying for, and utilize your résumé to best show how you are qualified
 for the job and why you fit the company culture,” Morganstern said.

7. Your Résumé Is Not Targeted.
Robert Dagnall, president of résumé-writing service 
ResumeGuru.com, views this as a fundamental flaw in a lot of résumés. Think of what a potential employer wants, not what you want, he said.

“Too many résumés begin with some clichéd statement about ‘seeking a challenge.’ No employer cares about challenging you; they care about what they need and whether you can deliver that,” Dagnall said.

A jobseeker should analyze the job description before submitting a résumé, he said, and examine other jobs that the company has posted. Furthermore, you should get up to speed on the company by reviewing its website, blogs, media coverage and social media accounts (especially LinkedIn).

“Ideally, your résumé should be a sales proposal that spells out in clear, simple terms the value you can deliver to a specific company—and offers proof of performance to back up your claims,” Dagnall said.

 

John is editor of The SpareFoot Blog. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

  • Erik Bowitz

    Hey John, looks like you’ve compiled quite the collection here! This without a doubt has to be one of the most well-rounded resume mistakes guides I’ve seen, good work!

  • Lucky13X

    I wonder if the person who sent “To work for someone who is not an alcoholic with three DUI’s like my current employer.” ever realized that saying such things about your current employer to your prospective employer is not a smart thing to do.

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