With only six seconds to grab a recruiter’s attention, you want to make sure your resume is in the best possible condition and free of mistakes. After all, your resume is your first opportunity to impress a potential employer, so you want that first impression to be a strong and obvious demonstration of why you’re right for the job.
As you start crafting your resume or giving it a facelift, you’ll want to avoid these top resume mistakes. In my experience as a resume writer and career coach, I’ve come across all of these mistakes and want to share the best ways you can correct them to make your resume the best it can be.
Resume Mistake #1: It’s Difficult to Read
Believe it or not, a standard resume with clear headings and spacing will stand out more than a colorful, overly designed resume. Not only is it easier to read, it’s also better suited for ATS (applicant tracking systems) that can’t effectively read or process boxes, graphs, and the like. Recruiters also don’t want to (and likely won’t) read a 2+ page resume. Keep your resume to one page if you have 8-10 years or less of professional experience and no more than two pages if you have 10+ years of professional experience.
HOW TO CORRECT: Balance white space and maximize underlining, italics, bold and capitalization for emphasis. Use bullets and strong action verbs to demonstrate your key qualities and skills.
Resume Mistake #2: You Have an “Objective”
A resume objective is outdated and takes up unnecessary space. Because when you think about it, an objective statement is redundant – you’re applying for a job, so it’s fairly obvious what the objective is!
HOW TO CORRECT: A Professional Summary, Career Highlights, or Achievements section is more impactful. I recommend this type of section at the top of a resume, especially when you changing industries or roles entirely. It will be the first section a recruiter or hiring manager sees and is a great way to illustrate and tailor your expertise for the role you’re applying for. If you choose to go this route, keep it specific, succinct and applicable to the job req. However, if you’re applying for a similar role you’re in, just at a different company, a professional summary or the like may not be necessary and may take up space that could be better suited for your Experience section.
Resume Mistake #3: You’re Using a Photo
While some countries and industries require a photo on your resume, it’s not recommended in the United States due to anti-discrimination regulations. Plus, it takes up precious real estate on your resume that can be better suited to detailing your experience!
HOW TO CORRECT: Save your professional headshot for your LinkedIn profile, which the hiring manager can look up once they believe you’re a strong candidate based on the experience they read on your resume.
Resume Mistake #4: You’re Not Tailoring Your Resume
Gone are the days where you created one resume and used it to apply to a number of different roles. Every job you apply to should use a copy of your resume, tailored to what the company is looking for in a candidate. Employers use ATS to help process the increasing number of job applications. These systems will immediately throw out most candidates who aren’t a close match for the role. According to Inc, only 3% of people who apply online will get contacted by a recruiter (a reason why networking and building professional relationships is so important especially if you’re job searching).
HOW TO CORRECT: Be selective and strategic about what’s on your resume! Understand what the recruiter is looking for and make it clear why you’re the best candidate, highlighting your experience and the value you bring. A great resume should be tailored to the job and type of position that you’re applying for. You don’t have to change every little detail, but the resume itself should reflect the skills and experience that your potential employer would value. There may be times where your previous roles aren’t applicable to the job you’re applying for. Instead of removing those roles (which would leave gaps on your resume), you can tailor the content down to 1-2 bullets instead. If you are applying to a job online, use keywords from the job posting to help get you past the ATS. It can also help to grab the recruiter’s attention once your resume is in their hands. Take note of words repeated multiple times in a job description and make sure those same words are represented on your resume.
Resume Mistake #5: You’re Highlighting Responsibilities, Not Accomplishments
One of the biggest mistakes I see from resumes I’ve reviewed and rewritten are bullets that focus on what someone did in a role vs. the impact they had in that role. Resumes should consist primarily of high-impact accomplishments that sell your qualifications as the best candidate to set yourself apart from your competition.
HOW TO CORRECT: Think of your resume as a sales pitch. Instead of focusing on job responsibilities, highlight your achievements in each of your roles. You want to show your potential employer what you have accomplished so they can understand what you’ll bring to the company and what you can do for them. Make your resume stand out by marketing your expertise and the results you’ve driven. Ask yourself, what were the results of your efforts and how did the company benefit from your performance? Quantify your value using #, %, $ to show the impact you’ve had and can have on the company you’re applying to. I recommend having at least 10 metrics present on your resume to stand out against the text.
- INSTEAD OF THIS: Defined and executed digital marketing campaigns, increasing brand awareness and search engine results while boosting overall traffic and conversion rates
- TRY THIS: Spearheaded development and execution of digital marketing campaigns, serving 5 clients nationwide and generating more than $25MM in annual revenue
Resume Mistake #6: It Has No Personality
In many cases, most applicants for a given job will have similar experience. Adding personality to your resume will help to showcase what makes you different and can also spark a more personal conversation during the interview process. Remember that you are a brand so it’s important to ensure your brand stands out!
HOW TO CORRECT: Consider the things that make you different, such as certifications, volunteer experience, languages you speak, background in a different industry, and/or unique skills that you can weave into your resume. You can include personal tidbits like personal passions or fun facts as these can make you more memorable and relatable. For these, I usually recommend job seekers place those at the bottom of their resume (pending they have the room)! You can also include some color, like making your name and headlines a color that you feel represents what your brand stands for.
Resume Mistake #7: There’s Spelling & Grammatical Errors
If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you need to avoid spelling and grammatical errors altogether. This is the most common mistake you can make but the easiest one to fix!
HOW TO CORRECT: Make sure to have previous jobs written in the past tense and current roles in the present tense. Look out for missing words and extra spaces too. Bullets should be fragmented sentences and not have any periods. Take the time to review your resume once completed and have a trusted person (mentor, coach, or advisor) look over it. If you prefer, you can work with me 1:1, as I offer both resume reviews and rewrites. You can schedule a discovery call with me here.
For additional tips and examples on how to build or update your resume, download Lipstick & Ink’s Ultimate Guide to Crafting Your Resume e-book here.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Senior Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.