15 Resume Mistakes

Have you ever worked on something important, felt it was perfect, submitted it with confidence and only then discovered you made some fatal error? Too late, you frantically search for some recall feature but alas, there’s none to be had!

Your resume could be just such a document. The only thing worse I suppose is being totally oblivious to your mistake(s) and continuing the practice of sending out flawed resumes. Yikes! Could this be why you’re getting very little or no positive results?

Having no way to provide feedback on your personal resume without seeing it, I’ve listed here some common mistakes I see on resumes. Check your own resume and see how you compare.

  1. You mistyped your email. Just last week I came across a resume with the word, ‘professional’ as part of the email but it was on the resume as, ‘professinal’. No one had caught it as they reviewed her resume, as the mind sees what it thinks rather than what the eyes see.
  2. Bullets don’t line up. Get out a ruler if it’s a hard copy or click and hold down the left mouse button on the ruler in MS Word to draw a straight line on your resume where your bullets are. Do they line up or are they off?
  3. Inconsistent use of periods. Look at the end of each line on your resume which starts with a bullet. Do you have periods at the end of some lines and not on others? Get in the habit of not using periods; period.
  4. Irregular capitalization. Nouns should be capitalized and so make sure any job title has a capital letter at the start of each word if there is more than one as in, ‘Customer Service Representative’.
  5. Dates don’t line up. Look at the dates on your resume. Are the dates all over the place or are they uniformly lined up on the extreme right where they should be? Lining these up makes it easier on the eyes; your resume is less cluttered.
  6. It’s all about you. If your resume starts off talking about what you want, stop! Employers want to know how you’ll benefit them, not the other way around. How is hiring you profitable?
  7. You added the dreaded, ‘s’. When you add a simple, ‘s’ to the end of a word, it can change the language from 1st to 3rd person. Suppose you communicate effectively as a skill. See how there is no, ‘s’ at the end of the word, ‘communicate’? That’s you talking about you. Add an, ‘s’ and it reads, “communicates well” and this is 3rd person; someone else talking about you. This suggests you didn’t write your own resume; someone else is talking about you. The entire resume now comes across as less than authentic.
  8. ‘Responsible for…”. Don’t start a line with, ‘Responsible for…”. Being responsible for something doesn’t indicate whether you are or were actually good at whatever you are referencing. It only indicates you are/were responsible for it. Maybe you actually performed terribly, but hey, you WERE responsible!
  9. Photo included. Get your photo off your resume and do it now! A growing number of people in Human Resources automatically dismiss resumes with photos included because they don’t want to expose themselves to claims of bias or personal attraction based on appearance.
  10. “References available upon request.” It’s a given that you’ll provide references when asked to do so. Including this on your resume is outdated.
  11. Repeating yourself. Look at the first words that begin your bullets. If you see the same word repeated, (sometimes even on consecutive lines) alter the words. It’s boring to read when you start multiple lines with the same words.
  12. Your qualifications don’t match. Job postings for the most part list desired qualifications. So pull one out that you applied to. Look at your resume and see if what they asked for was what you gave them. If yours don’t mirror the ad, no wonder you didn’t get an interview.
  13. Spelling errors. I get it. If spelling is an issue for you, it’s hard if not impossible to know when you make a mistake. Using a spelling and grammar check is good but a second pair of eyes is also recommended; as long as those eyes belong to someone with excellent spelling and attention to detail themselves.
  14. You included personal data. Get your age, sex, marital status, religion and nationality off your resume. By the way, is your age easily guessed in your email of all things? Yikes!
  15. You named your resume what? When you send your resume, people at the other end see what you called it as they move to open it. You didn’t call it, ‘My 2nd best resume’ did you? Someone I worked with did. Let’s go with a combination of job title and company name.

Okay 15 general tips for you to read over and more importantly use to improve your own resume. Maybe cleaning up your resume can be your goal for today. Resolving a job search barrier every day is a great way to feel you’re making positive moves to increase your odds of getting interviews and getting hired.

The biggest mistake of all continues to be mass producing a resume and handing it to many employers rather than targeting it to jobs you apply to. No matter how many times I say it, for some this comes as shocking.

Let’s Clean Up That Resume

How much can be written on the subject of resumes that hasn’t been covered before? Well, it doesn’t matter and that’s not the point I want to make today. What I do want to advise or remind you of are some of the most common mistakes I see with respect to resumes; mistakes that are made daily. I tell you up front that I’m picky when it comes to critiquing resumes and that’s a good thing if it helps you submit a document that’s error-free.

Let’s get right to it then. Get out your resume and pick up a pencil or pen. As I mention things to look for, note anything that needs attention on your document and then take the time to make the necessary revisions. Here we go….

Let’s start with what ends sentences; periods. These are not necessary at the end of each line that starts with a bullet. However, whether you use them or not, the one thing that is a definite no-no is to switch between sometimes using them and sometimes not. Be consistent. Personally, I remove them altogether. Not a big deal you say? Being inconsistent reveals poor attention to detail.

As for those bullets, make sure they are aligned throughout the resume and the best style to use is the round black dot. Why? Round black dots are sharp, crisp and don’t distract the reader’s eye from actual content. Forget the cute little scissors or the small hammer. Stand out for what you actually have to say, not your ability to click on a bullet.

Watch for that single letter, ‘s’ which can suggest to a trained resume reader that you did not in fact write your own resume. While this may in fact be the case, you don’t want to advertise this as it works against your intent to come across as authentic and genuine; capable of representing and marketing yourself. Add the letter, ‘s’ at the end of a word – typically at the start of a bullet, and the language switches from 1st person (you talking about you) to 3rd person (someone else talking about you). See the difference below:

  • Work well in teams
  • Works well in teams

The first bullet is in 1st person language; the word, ‘I’ is implied at the start. In the 2nd bullet, the word implied at the start switches to, ‘she’ or ‘he’ – as if someone else is talking about you. If you’ve had someone else actually craft your resume, they may have made this error themselves but it’s up to you to pick up on this.

The next thing to look out for is the use of italics. Yep, that entire previous sentence is in italics and this is used often to draw attention to something important. Unfortunately italics isn’t recognized and read by all ATS (Automated Tracking System) software. What it can’t recognize and read gets skipped therefore, and whatever you were drawing someone’s attention to just scored you a fat zero which could be the difference between getting your resume even viewed by human eyes.

As for fonts, stick with a uniform size 12 and I’d suggest using Arial. Look at almost any companies resume guidelines page and you’ll see that size 12 is the overwhelming favourite. It’s big enough to read comfortably yet small enough that you can get what you want to say nicely contained in a tight document. Please don’t vary your font size or styles throughout the resume. It’s hard on the eyes, and while you’ll definitely stand out if you do vary your font, it won’t be in a good way.

Another common mistake is to vary the size of the spaces on your resume. Look at yours now and see if you’ve got a uniform space after each heading on your resume. Some people will have a single space sometimes and a double space at others. Same goes for spaces after job titles and before your bullets associated with that job. In this case, remove the spaces and connect the two. This makes it easier for the reader to see what goes with what, especially when they are reviewing many resumes in addition to yours.

Please pay attention to your spelling and grammar. When proofreading your document, you may actually read what you intended to write rather than what you actually put down. For this reason, proofread very slowly; slower than you would normally read it. When you do this, you brain will pick up more mistakes, and it’s always a good idea to have someone else look over that resume before you send it away. You worked hard on it so take the extra few minutes to give it a real thorough check.

Finally, pick up your resume and look at it objectively. You know what job you are applying for and you know your strengths and what qualifies you, etc. However, look at your document as if you were unfamiliar with this person. Have you made it clear what job you are even applying for? Would you be hooked in the first 5 seconds and be motivated to read on?

Look if you’re going to do a resume, do it well. These are just some of the picky small things that could damage your presentation. The good news is they are quick fixes for the most part and easy to clean up. All the best when crafting yours!

What Your Resume Reveals About You

Ah once again, another look at the resume. There are so many articles on the internet about how to make a resume that gets results one would think there is nothing new to say. The truth is however, that there is a constant influx of people looking at making a resume for the first time, as well as people who are just plain ignorant of the problems in their existing resumes, that the topic can be talked about for a long time yet.

I’m going to share some unflattering things that your resume actually reveals about you in this blog. Those reading resumes and making decisions on whom to invite for interviews don’t worry about hurting the feelings of the person behind the resume submitted. They after all, are trying to hire the right people for the companies they represent. Who doesn’t get to the interview stage is of zero interest to them.

As you read the points I’m going to make, remember one basic truth; your resume is your personal marketing document. Anyone who reads it assumes it represents you at your best; that the words you’ve elected to use are well-considered. As this document is the first thing an employer sees from you it represents the best you’re capable of when it comes to your ability to express yourself. If you make mistakes on it therefore, the chances of you making the same kind of errors when working for a company increase dramatically, so it should be error-free.

Spelling mistakes are seldom forgivable. I say seldom instead of never, because there are some jobs where a person will only be required to use their hands and their head, never having to communicate anything in writing. Poor spelling might suggest you have a poor education. In North America, grade 12 is often the minimal educational requirement. You can get a job of course with less, but you’ll find you’re limited in terms of advancement without upgrading. Spelling errors of common words could also reveal a learning disability.

If you are applying for a job where your work goes external, it is critical that you have zero spelling mistakes. Your work will be part of the company image projecting forward, and no company sets off on a mission to promote themselves with spelling errors, as it sends the wrong message to clients and possible consumers.

Where you’ve included your phone number on your resume, have you actually inserted just before it the word, “Phone”? Believe me when I tell you that people reviewing resumes can identify a phone number or an email for that matter without you needing to put the words, “Phone” or “Email” first. Using the same logic, would you put the word, “Name” before yours? Of course not.

A regular thing I’ve picked up is talking about yourself in the third person. When you do this, it sends a message to the interviewer that the resume before them was not created by the person named at the top. That could lower your credibility. If for example a bullet of yours starts off, “Possesses organizational skills”, it’s as if someone else is talking about you. You can almost hear the word, “She”, or “He” before the first word in the sentence. If you were talking about yourself in the first person you’d say, “Possess organizational skills”. What’s inferred but not stated is the word, “I”. First person is correct, third person is not.

Building on the previous point, it is also a general practice to avoid the use of the word, “I” entirely on the resume. This differs on a social media platform such as LinkedIn, where your profile can make use of this word.

Now to tenses; past, present and future. I’ve witnessed this glaring mistake on resumes from some very well-educated people. If you yourself find the point I’m about to make obvious and somewhat offensive, realize that there are many out there for whom this will come as new information and not something they were aware of. Is the example that follows, something that has happened in the past or the present?
ex. “Supervise six employees.”

Without the addition of the letter, ‘d’ the word, “Supervise” is present tense; something you currently do. Add the, ‘d’ and it becomes, “Supervised” and refers to something you have done in the past. The problem comes when the word you may be using is present tense, such as, “Supervise”, but the dates connected with the line on your resume are in the past. In other words, the dates are in the past but the words you are using are in the present. Employers I speak with have told me this tells them that the person may 1) not have the intelligence to know the difference, 2) Notices but can’t be bothered to fix it or 3) may have literacy issues. Past jobs use past tense, current jobs use current tense.

Finally, check all your bullets. Are you putting periods at the end of some lines and none on others? This inconsistent use of periods might reveal a lack of attention to detail. If you are going for an Administrative job, you’ll be counted on to catch these things in the work of others, and yours therefore needs to be free of such mistakes.

Check out your own document for these mistakes. The good news is they are easily fixed.