7 Common Resume Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix


Answers to common questions about resumes and cover letters

Your resume acts as a standing record of your career history. It can be the reason you land a gig, or get passed on by. If you want to know how to improve your chances of getting an interview and ultimately a job, a good place to start is by avoiding some of the most common resume mistakes.

They’re easy to fix, and the few minutes spent improving them will be well worth your time. Let’s take a look at seven common resume mistakes and what to do to fix them.

7 Common Resume Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix

1. Writing an Objective

Objective statements, which were a sentence or two at the top of a resume declaring your goals, have become outdated. “Objective statements are out of date. Your resume will automatically look more current by including a summary of qualifications instead,” said Toni Frana, one of FlexJobs’ expert career coaches. “Writing an objective statement focuses on what you, the employee, are looking for. What you want to show instead is what key skills you have for the role to which you are applying so the hiring manager can start to visualize you in the role.”

Think of a summary of qualifications as a title for your resume where you list your most impressive facts: years of experience, areas of expertise, keys skills (soft and technical), and descriptors of your work style.

2. Not Updating Your Resume

Another common mistake applicants make is including a summary of qualifications and a list of skills on their resume that doesn’t match the opportunity for which they’re applying.

Candidates should always customize their resume to the job at hand, so that the hiring manager doesn’t have to try to make a leap to understand why they’re even applying or interested in the job. It’s far better to state a clear and consistent message that the job you’re applying for is something you want to do and are qualified to do.

You can start by focusing on keywords from the job description that apply to you and your skills. Without stuffing or adding fluff, add these keywords to your resume where applicable. If a job wants three to five years’ experience and you have four, list that in your summary of qualifications for a quick punch of information that shows you’re qualified.

3. Focusing on Tasks, Not Accomplishments

Turning your resume into a list of tasks and duties is a common resume mistake you don’t want to make. While it is important to list the things you are responsible for at your job, it is possibly more important to include your accomplishments. Simply listing tasks can be frustrating to the hiring manager, too.

“Accomplishments tell an employer that you get the job done. Listing your daily tasks and responsibilities isn’t as powerful as sharing the results of the work that you do!” said Frana.

Sure, you may be responsible for selling your company’s product to consumers, but saying that you’re the third top seller on your team will catch a hiring manager’s attention quicker. Look at the bullet points on your resume and consider how you can reword them to show your accomplishments and successes. For example:

Do this:

    • Increased department revenues by 30%, decreased costs by 18%

Instead of this:

    • Implemented changes to increase revenues and decrease costs in the department

4. Using Stale Buzzwords

Hard working. Team player. Motivated. Raise your hand if you’ve included any of these words on your resume! Words like these become buzzwords because they are used so often and by so many people. Hiring managers are likely to glaze right over these words when they see them in every resume.

Avoid this common resume mistake and think about ways to refresh your resume without these tired tropes. Sometimes the best way to do that is by showing your skills through your accomplishments, just like mentioned earlier. Instead of saying you are a team player, mention a team project you worked on and use some action verbs to show and not tell. Also consider industry-specific buzzwords you may use as well and determine if there’s fresher or newer ways to say the same thing.

5. Not Leaving Enough White Space

Most experts recommend keeping your resume to one or two pages. Anything longer than two pages is going to overwhelm a hiring manager and likely be a strike against you. With limited space, it can be difficult to fit everything, especially if you’re a seasoned worker. While it may be tempting to decrease your font size and widen those margins, don’t.

“Since hiring managers read through a lot of resumes you want yours to be visually appealing to the eye, rather than too wordy. Aim to include the most relevant information for the hiring manger to envision you in the specific role. In addition, you want your font to be the appropriate size. Managing both guarantees the appropriate amount of content and white space that will make it easy on the hiring manager to notice your wonderful accomplishments,” offered Frana.

6. Don’t Forget to Proofread

Yes, this is a sentiment that is expressed over and over and over again. There is a reason for that. It’s tough for an employer to be confident in your attention to detail or to believe you take pride in your work when there are grammatical, spelling, or formatting issues in your application. Better yet, have at least one person you trust proofread your resume.

7. Not Following Instructions

As soon as a job seeker ignores those requests, they have a strike against them. And it’s often a company’s first impression of the candidate. It’s a clear indication of not paying attention to details and/or not being very serious about contending for the role. Simply not following instructions is another one of the more common resume mistakes that can be avoided by just taking a little extra time and care.

The bottom line is that companies want to hire people who show attention to detail, consistency, and passion for the job from day one. By making sure you don’t include these seven common resume mistakes, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

If you’re looking for resume pointers and career guidance, FlexJobs can help. Our team of career coaches can provide expert advice with resume reviews and career coaching.


Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com

A version of this article was originally published on July 27, 2010.