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11 Resume Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Chances of Getting Hired

Pamela Fay
August 165 min read
Person holding resume with red pencil

We learn valuable lessons from our mistakes. But resume mistakes? You need to avoid them at all costs. There’s a lot of competition out there — and because recruiters and hiring managers have so little time, they first look for an expedient excuse to reduce the number of applicants. So, when there is only one job and dozens of resumes, the tiniest error can be cause for elimination.

The following are ten resume mistakes that are easy to make. However, the good news is that once you know what to avoid, you’ll stand out among other applicants who didn’t take the time to get it right. Before applying for that dream job, read through this list and ensure your resume avoids these fatal flaws.

1. Incorrect Contact Information

You may not think it happens — but according to recruiters, it happens more often than you might suspect. You may read the main body of your resume over and over again; after all, it’s the most important part. But don’t neglect the small details, like your phone number and email address. In addition, make sure that your email address is professional, including only your name, initials and numbers.

2. Poorly Formatted for the Automated Tracking System (ATS)

If your resume goes through an ATS before it gets to a human, you must pay careful attention to where you put your content. Do not create your resume with a header. The ATS may only read the main body. For this same reason, don’t use fancy formats, columns, images and charts. They confuse automated systems. Label your sections clearly with standard resume language.

It’s also essential to submit your resume as a .pdf file which preserves your resume design. Avoid sending your resume as a Word document as this can alter the formatting when a recruiter opens the file on their computer.

3. Failure to Customize

You don’t need a whole new resume for every job application, but make sure that you customize the content based on the job specifications. Don’t assume that you can get away with one resume just because two jobs have similar titles. Include the exact title in your summary at the top of the resume. Use the keywords and phrases used throughout the job description. Take the time to tailor your skills to match what the employer is seeking.

4. Typos and Grammatical Errors

Your typo could go undetected. However, if the reviewer sees it, a small mistake could signal that you didn’t care enough to get it right. So read and reread your resume —read it backward — then give it to a friend to edit again. It’s best practice to use bullets rather than complete sentences; however, you can still use a grammar checking application, like Grammarly, to catch errors. It will flag words that are often conflated, such as principle and principal, affect and effect, etc.

5. Listing Duties, Not Accomplishments

Most recruiters and hiring managers understand the duties associated with your past job. What they really want to know is how well you did it. Here’s your opportunity to sell yourself. Let’s say you wrote the weekly status report. Rather than simply listing this as one of your responsibilities, consider the benefits to your employer. Instead, you might say:

Collaborated weekly with the team members to provide stakeholder updates, thereby mitigating risk and ensuring timely delivery of 95% of departmental projects

6. Too Much Information

Leave out the personal details. This includes photos, date of birth, ethnicity, marital status, social security number and your street address. In addition to taking up space that could be put to better use, these details open up employers to liability. By law, they should not take these factors into consideration when making hiring decisions. Certain industries, like acting and modeling, may request a photo. And if you are applying for a job in certain countries, like France, Belgium and Spain, it’s customary to include one. But, for most U.S, Canadian, and U.K. jobs, leave it out.

Note that it is typically frowned up to include a headshot in your resume if you live in the U.S. This can cause hiring managers to have initial bias and discrimination for your appearance, ethnicity and gender. However, in other parts of the world, headshots are welcomed.

7. Quirky Humor

Unless you’re applying for a job as a comedy writer, humor has no place on a resume. Keep it professional. What you consider funny, others may find offensive, tone deaf or in poor taste. If the recruiting message or job description is written with humor, then add a touch of wit to your cover letter. Just make sure it is funny and harmless, and limit it to one line. Save the resume as a place to showcase your experiences and skills.

8. Your GPA

Your workplace accomplishments should tell an employer everything they need to know. It’s old news, and besides that, proven to be a poor indicator of future career success. If you just graduated or are currently in school, you can include your GPA if it is exemplary, say over 3.5. Otherwise, what happened in college, stays in college.

10. Keyword Stuffing

When you customize your resume, you’ll want to include the most important keywords used in the employer’s job description. Be sure to use them correctly and naturally, however. ATS may pass your resume on for human review, but if the hiring manager sees that you are using the words out of context or unnecessarily, your resume will not make it any further.

Also, do not try to use white text to trick the ATS. The least sophisticated ATS can’t read the invisible keywords, while the most advanced will flag your resume for elimination. Even if your resume manages to get by ATS, most recruiters know how to detect the deception. Besides, it’s highly unethical and will brand you as untouchable for that position and any future spots.

11. Poor Presentation

You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to resumes, looks do matter. It’s not about fancy flourishes, however. Your resume must be clear, readable and easily scanned with a simple and effective design.

If you get too creative, your resume will stand out, but not in a good way. The objective is to get that recruiter or hiring manager to take a closer look. Make it easy for them. Use quality white or ivory paper, include plenty of white space, eliminate the dense paragraphs, and use a font, like 11 pt. Calibri, that’s made to read on screen.

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Sources: Jobscan - Here’s Why You Should Not Include a Picture on Your Resume in 2021 Forbes - This is the only time you should include a GPA on your resume