resume mistakes

These Resume Mistakes Are Sabotaging Your Job Search — How to Avoid Them?

Last edit July 23, 2020

As they say, to err is human. But do the employers tolerate resume mistakes?

Long story short — no, they don’t.

Short story long — most of them are pretty merciless about it. In fact, about 70% of employers say that even minor details like missing contact information or an unprofessional email address are enough to reject a candidate before they even finish reading the resume.

Wow. Harsh.

Of course, spelling and grammatical errors, or missing contact information, are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more. What are other resume mistakes that could cost you a job?

You won't get a job by a mistake.

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1. Spelling, grammatical errors and typos

I’ve already mentioned this and it's something that almost everybody knows. Despite that, many people fail at it anyway.

Typos and grammatical mistakes on your resume can give an impression that you’re a poor communicator or that you simply don’t care. What's more, it can lead to many embarrassing situations.

Here's a story from Quora: A friend once asked me to proofread her resume, which mentioned her coursework in Public Relations. Unfortunately, she had left out the 'l' in ‘Public'. — Tim Converse

How can you avoid a fail like that?

Firstly, use a spell check like Grammarly or Ginger to remove the most obvious mistakes. Secondly, always edit and triple-check your resume. And finally, ask a friend to proofread it (or alternatively, you can use a professional proofreading service).

2. Prehistoric and messy design

Many people simply open Microsoft Word, hit Ctrl-B, and start typing. The result? An old fashioned, black-and-white resume that looks cluttered and is hard to read. 

Give your resume a cleaner, modern look. If you don’t feel like trying your luck as a graphic designer, you can use an online resume builder. Just choose a nice resume template with columns — this will also allow you to fit more content on your resume.

tailor resume

3. Not tailoring your resume to the job opening

It’s tempting to use a single version of your resume for multiple job applications. Unfortunately, a generic resume doesn’t present you as a fit for the position and honestly, recruiters are less inclined to listen to someone who doesn’t put enough effort into customizing their resume.

Remember the golden rule — you should customize your resume to every job you apply to (even if it’s within the same field). In the end, each company is looking for different qualities and skills. 

Leave off all irrelevant stuff and edit your resume with the job description in mind. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should just copy and paste it.

4. Writing a novel

At Kickresume, we often see resumes that are four or five pages long. I, for one, remember a customer who had his resume about sixteen pages long. This is not okay! Would you read it? Nobody would and that's only fair.

Your resume should not exceed two pages. Long resumes are old fashioned and unless you’re an executive level candidate, no one will read them.

It can be tempting to highlight every single task or project you did. But reading about too many projects can easily become overwhelming and have an opposite effect.

Try to shorten your resume. For each statement in your resume ask yourself “So what?” and “Who cares?”.

If you want to share all the details, that’s what your LinkedIn is for.

5. False information

Let’s face it, everyone likes to embellish some of the information on their resume (a bit). In fact, 85 percent of job applicants admit they lie on their resumes. 

There are people who claim to have a degree when they do not. Or job seekers who include a whole bunch of skills that they really don't have.

Trust me, all of these things are definite no-no’s! Lying = you cannot be trusted = no one wants to hire you.

Be really careful about this one because hiring managers can easily verify any information on your resume. These days it takes only a few minutes.

6. Outdated information

What you did as an intern twenty years ago is no longer relevant for a job you're applying for today.

As I've already mentioned, each resume should reflect the position you're applying for. There's rarely a reason to go further back than ten to fifteen years.

Your future employer is generally interested in the recent past and if they need more information, they will invite you to an interview to learn more.

7. Highlighting duties instead of accomplishments

Many people fill their resumes with “what” and believe they're answering the hiring manager's question “Why should we hire you?”. Your what is a list of responsibilities.

Instead, you should share your “how”. Your accomplishments. Here’s an example:

  1. Creating and implementing plans to increase market share. 
  2. Ideation & execution of marketing & sales strategy, impacting brand recall & revenue, including the launch of Kaya’s first hair care products, resulting in 271% increase in sales.

Both of these phrases could describe the same person, but the details and specifics in example B will more likely grab an employer's attention.

Stop talking about what you did and talk about how you did it!

8. Too much information without proof

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. If you’re going to talk about your accomplishments, don't make general claims without providing evidence.

Imagine that you're the director of a company that is looking for a new employee and your task is to select the right candidate. In which case will the decision be easier for you?

When you look at a resume of the candidate who says he “increased the company’s revenue by, like, a lot” or a resume of the applicant who “increased the company’s revenue by 20%”?

We all want to see results. Keep that in mind when writing a resume. If you’re going to boast about increasing sales or improving your team's performance, support these claims with real statistics.

9. Listing obvious skills

Can you work with Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or my favourite one — the Internet itself? Well, let me tell you a secret: It's 2020. Everybody can do these things nowadays!

Never list skills everybody should have. The rule of thumb is to stay relevant and specific. Reread the job description and look for skills that are required for the position. Then simply match your skills to the position you’re applying for.

For instance, if you’re targeting a content marketing role, you can list skills like SEO, Google Analytics, Content Management Systems, MailChimp, etc.

Also avoid using buzzwords like team player, motivated, or results-oriented. This can easily kill your chances. Try to give specific examples. For instance, what have you achieved that demonstrates your creative thinking skills?

You can do better.

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Already sent your resume with a mistake?

Should you freak out? Or should you do nothing and hope nobody will notice?

Depending on the mistake, you have two options:

If it's a minor mistake like a misplaced comma, missing period or a minor typo, you can leave the error be.

But if it's a major error, you can correct your resume and re-submit it as an “updated copy”. If you're not sure how to resend your resume and save face after a major snafu, here's a useful template.

  • Nikoleta Ziskova, Content Manager and Resume Expert at Kickresume
  • Nikoleta Kuhejda
    Content Manager & Resume Expert
    A journalist by trade, a writer by fate. Nikoleta went from writing for media outlets to exploring the world of content creation with Kickresume and helping people get closer to the job of their dreams. Her insights and career guides have been published by The Female Lead, College Recruiter, and ISIC, among others. Nikoleta holds a Master's degree in Journalism from the Comenius University in Bratislava. When she’s not writing or (enthusiastically) pestering people with questions, you can find her traveling or sipping on a cup of coffee.

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