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7 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making (and How to Fix Them)

Topics: Career Advice

When it comes to resume mistakes, everyone knows the big ones: don’t make typos, don’t use an unprofessional email address and don’t include irrelevant information like your hobbies, age or marital status.

If you’re an experienced job seeker, you probably also know some of the other potential deal-breakers, like including an objective statement instead of a resume profile, or using acronyms that won’t mean anything outside your current job.

But there are other ways to work against your own best interests when refreshing your resume. If you’re looking to change jobs soon — or just want to keep your resume updated in case something promising comes along — avoid these resume mistakes:

1. Sending in the Same Resume to Every Job Opening


If your job search is fairly targeted, it can be tempting to send out the same resume for every job opportunity. Don’t do this. Even if you’re applying only for jobs with the exact same job title, in the same industry, with competing employers, you should write a customized resume for every opening.

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Why? Because employers don’t like to think of themselves as being one of many. They want to believe that they’re unique. As a result, they put a lot of time and energy — and money — into differentiating their messaging around things like corporate values and culture.

If you send out the same resume for every job, you’ll miss a chance to show that you’re interested in this specific job, not just any open job in your field. Spend some time learning about what makes this job and employer different from the others. Read their corporate website, paying close attention to how they describe their values and culture. Keep these in mind when you tweak your resume and cover letter.

2. Not Matching Your Resume to the Job Listing

gender pay gap
JD Hancock/Flickr

Re-read the job description in the ad and make sure you have a handle on what the hiring manager is looking for.

“Employers will usually only spend a few seconds deciding if you are a good enough fit for a job to warrant a more thorough review of your resume and cover letter, so you need to make sure that it is immediately obvious that you have many of the skills, experiences, and qualities that they value most highly,” writes Alison Doyle at The Balance Careers.

Look for areas of overlap between your experience and qualifications and the ones mentioned in the ad. Then emphasize those keywords on your resume.

On the other hand, don’t keyword-stuff.

“If you deliberately stuff keywords into your resume or use a bunch of annoying buzzwords, it will be painfully obvious to the recruiter — not to mention a big turnoff,” writes Ronda Suder at TopResume. “Use keywords wisely and incorporate them into your resume so they make sense and flow naturally. Consider having someone else read your resume to see if any of the keywords you’ve used stand out in an unforgiving way.”

3. Including Outdated Experience

old-fashioned technology

Want to look old? Include outdated job titles and skills on your CV. Sure, at the time you were proud to land that webmaster job. But that time was 1998 and keeping it on your resume is just helping the hiring manager discriminate against you without getting caught.

It’s also a good idea to cut anything that no longer pertains to your current professional goals. Career paths tend to zig-zag and that’s fine — but you don’t need to walk a potential employer through the twists and turns before you even get a chance to land an interview.

If you’re trying to avoid age discrimination, it’s also a good idea to avoid other tip-offs that you’re older than some of the other candidates. These include graduation dates, outdated software packages and a lack of social media profiles.

Also, if you’re still using two spaces after a period, now’s the time to change that. Job seekers who grew up in the post-typewriter age use one space, not two. If you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons, it’s best to follow suit.

And if that makes you grit your teeth, at least you can take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. (Warning: salty language from Team Two Spaces.)

4. Getting Too Creative (Especially for Jobs in Traditional Industries)

resume gaps
Antonio Guillem/Getty Images

Knowing that you only have seconds to get a hiring manager’s attention, you might be tempted to do something more creative than the usual printed page. But before you start trying to figure out how to make a professional-grade infographic with the free software on your laptop, consider: can you do this well enough to stand out for the right reasons?

“If not done really well, a creative resume could go terribly wrong—I’ve seen (and tossed) more than one resume that used bad clip art, a rainbow of colors, or unfortunate photography and did far more harm to the job applicant than good,” writes Adrian Granzella Larssen at The Muse.

Even if expertly produced, creative resumes can backfire if the applicant is looking for a job in a more traditional industry. So, if you’re looking for work in finance or insurance, your best bet is to stick with the tried and true.

5. Not Updating Every Time You Gain a Skill

two-page resume
AndreyPopov/Getty Images

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of adding skills to your resume as you acquire them. You might not remember all that you’ve learned and accomplished when the time comes to start looking for a new job.

A master resume file can help you keep track. Use it to list every class, major project, promotion and achievement. Then, whittle it down when you customize your resume for a job opportunity.

In addition to keeping this file, you might also want to heed this advice from Reddit user dannyisagirl:

To add to this, I actually keep a spreadsheet with other information that might not be put on a resume. Things like the full dates that I worked there, actual titles I held, actual duties vs ‘resume duties’ (a list of keywords that could work while remaining honest/accurate), pay rate, managers/superiors/good co-workers names and full titles, physical addresses and phone numbers, the real reason why that is no longer my job.

Not nearly all of it is always necessary nor will a good chunk of it ever actually be seen by an employer, but it can help jog a number of memories as well as help you think of better spins on negative experiences. Especially if you’re a nervous babbler like me.

I like to keep it updated with every job I’ve ever had. And keep it updated as time goes on. Also keeping LinkedIn updated and accurate helps too. Especially for online applications where using it instead is an option.

6. Writing Like a Robot

safe from the robots

“…if you write your resume the way countless books and articles have instructed you to, you’re going to sound like a Star Wars Battle Drone or a zombie,” writes Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace, at Forbes. “Standard resume language like ‘Results-oriented professional with a bottom-line orientation’ brands you exactly like every other banana in the bunch. It’s excruciating for a hiring manager to read a resume that sounds like it was the written by a robot rather than a human being.”

Ryan suggests writing what she calls a “Human-Voiced Resume” — one that sounds more like a human talking to another human, and less like an algorithm spitting out boilerplate. This kind of resume focuses on storytelling and demonstrating that the job seeker can solve the hiring manager’s problem. It’s easier to read and more persuasive than a list of data.

7. Including Personal Social Media

social media

We get it: you spent a long time building up that audience and you’d like to show off your social media skills. But including your personal accounts can backfire in a big way, no matter how impressive your following. An obvious exception: if you’re applying for a social media marketing position, and your accounts are on-brand.

“Candidates who tend to think their personal social media sites are valuable are putting themselves at risk of landing in the ‘no’ pile,” says Tina Nicolai, executive career coach and founder of Resume Writers’ Ink, speaking with Business Insider. (On the other hand, she notes that it’s a good idea to include your professional social media accounts, such as LinkedIn.)

Highlighting personal social media accounts that are unrelated to the job can make it look like you’re unprofessional or less than serious about landing the job. But there’s another potential issue, too: you could draw the hiring manager’s attention to material that won’t boost your candidacy.

It’s a good idea to clean up your profiles before you job search, so that those party photos don’t wind up on a recruiter’s screen. But just in case you fail to lock down your accounts completely, you don’t want to be the one who drew their attention to your weekend fun.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the worst resume mistake you’ve ever made (or seen someone else make)? We want to hear from you. Share your stories in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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