Biggest Resume Mistakes People Make & How to Avoid Them

by Belinda Elliott

As a career coach I read a lot of resumes, so I see the many common resume mistakes that people make.

Let’s explore some of the biggest mistakes and how to avoid them.

Common Resume Mistakes To Avoid

The biggest mistake I see people make is thinking of their resume as a job history or a record of all their work experiences. 

Yes, a resume includes your work experience, but it is primarily a marketing document. It is your personal advertisement to an employer designed to get you an interview.

If you’re wondering do you need a resume for your first job, these tips can help you market yourself effectively.

This means the resume must be tailored to each position – don’t send the same resume to every company. Each one should be customized using the job posting that you found. 

The second most common resume mistake that I see is a lack of accomplishments. Many people merely list their job responsibilities. This highlights what skills you have used, but not the results of those skills. 

Did you save the company money? Improve a process? Invent a new product? 

Employers are looking for quantifiable results. Your resume should demonstrate the ways you made an impact for the company.

According to CareerBuilder, 24% of hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds looking at a resume. 

This means your resume should be concise, easy to scan and well formatted. Many of my clients’ resumes are too long and not well organized.

What makes a perfect resume?

In reality, there is no perfect resume. Resumes are not one size fits all! But there are some best practices you can follow to make your resume stand out from the crowd and even get you noticed in the hidden job market.

Create A Professional Summary

Begin your resume strong with a professional summary. One mistake job seekers make is to list an “objective,” a sentence that basically says you want to use your skills for XYZ company. Duh! 

That’s why you are sending a resume. Instead, use that space to summarize the value you bring to the employer. 

Here is an example:

Skilled and compassionate nurse manager adept at building and leading teams that offer the highest level of care for patients. Special expertise in budgeting and strategic planning.

Tactic For Success

Since your resume provides a first impression, you want it to be a good one. One area people overlook is their email address. Even if you must create a new one just for your job search, use a professional email – preferably your first and last name. Fun addresses like don’t convey professionalism.

Focus On Accomplishments

As previously mentioned, you want to show the impact you have made in various positions. These impact statements often focus on time or money, but not always. 

If your position isn’t one that makes (or saves) money for the company, think about how you can quantify what you do. 

If you provide customer service, how many people do you help each week? If you work at a help desk, how many tickets do you resolve per day? 

Have you led any large projects? What have been your biggest accomplishments in each role?

Customize the Content

When I help people create a resume I ask them to send me the job posting. This is because you want to use the same language found in the job ad. 

Tailor your resume so that it highlights any skills you have that are the ones the company is seeking.

Should I hire a professional?

I have friends who have paid large amounts of money to have a resume professionally written for them. 

This can be worthwhile for CEOs and other high-level executives, but for most of us it is not necessary. If you are willing to invest some time in research, you can create a nice resume.


Format Your Resume For Applicant Tracking Software

Employers have started using applicant tracking software (ATS) to track the many resumes they receive. This software scans resumes and selects those that are a good match for the job.

Trend On The Rise

Jobscan found that 99% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS of some kind. Since a computer will scan your resume before it gets to a person, you need to ensure it is ATS friendly. The safest format to use is a Microsoft Word document. This will get you one step closer to landing, and acing, a video interview.


Additionally, follow these practices:

  • Avoid images, text boxes, or tables – The software turns everything into text and cannot read images or graphics, so this info will be missing for the employer.
  • Match the language of the job posting – If the software is looking for “experience with Excel,” then “proficient with spreadsheets” would not be flagged as a match for the position.
  • Use a universal font – Fonts like Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman are easily accessible and used by most employers.
  • Upload the file in the format requested – Unless an employer’s application instructs you to upload a PDF or other file type, it is best to save your resume as a .docx file.

What are 3 things you should not put on your resume?

Resume “rules” can vary by country–and sometimes by industry–but for most US industries you should avoid adding your photo, hobbies and references. 

Photos can invite bias or discrimination. Hobbies are usually not relevant to the position.

As for references, employers will ask for these later in the process if they decide to move forward with you. Adding them now only takes up valuable space.

Speaking of space, aim for a one-page resume. Those with 20+ years of experience may require two pages, but don’t exceed that. Remember, you are selecting the most valuable highlights to market yourself.

Wrapping Up

With some online research and dedicated time and effort, you can create a great resume.

Don’t forget to have a friend proofread your document–two pairs of eyes are better than one!

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Belinda has been a professional writer for more than 20 years and serves as a career coach in her community helping job seekers with all aspects of their job search. Her educational credentials include a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a master’s in journalism.

About the Author

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Belinda has been a professional writer for more than 20 years and serves as a career coach in her community helping job seekers with all aspects of their job search. Her educational credentials include a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a master’s in journalism.
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