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The 10 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your Resume

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

You’re looking for a new job and have settled down in front of your computer to update your resume. In addition to adding details for your latest role, take a look at your draft in its entirety and be sure not to make these common mistakes!

1. Not listing accurate contact info (with links!): Be sure your contact information is up to date. In addition to listing a current phone number, consider setting up a free email address with a variation of your name and include it as a hyperlink in your resume. Don’t use your work email address in your resume unless you’re applying for an internal role or university address at all. Additionally, you don’t need to list your full physical address. City and state are sufficient.

And one more thing! Detail included in headers, footers, or text boxes within a document is NOT read by applicant tracking systems (ATSs) – these are tools recruiters use to collect pertinent info from resumes they’ve received and help identify suitable candidates. Be sure to include this crucial contact information in the body of your document.

2. Dishonesty: Never lie or embellish on your resume. If a potential employer calls one of your former employers, be sure that detail listed in your resume matches what the company tells them.

3. Using 8-point, single spaced font so you have room for everything you want to say: Use a font that’s a minimum of 10 points and stick to options that are easy to read (Think Arial and Calibri). Along the same lines, use no more than 2 different fonts within your resume. You can increase readability by incorporating a different font for your name and the section headers. White space and bullets can also be used to emphasize key info and draw the reader’s eye to the most important points.

4. Not including a title or opening summary: The top third of your resume is critical in making a first impression to a hiring manager. In addition to your name and contact information, include a title that summarizes your professional capabilities. Are you a project manager? Note that! Do you have a PMP or graduate degree? List this info right behind your name so your expertise is readily apparent and be sure to also note it appropriately elsewhere in the resume.

Following this title, include a description of your professional capabilities. What do you bring to the role? How many years of experience do you have? What sets YOU apart from other candidates vying for the same job? This can be set up as a paragraph or bullet points—the goal is to call out how your experience has positioned you to drive results in a new role.

5. Not outlining your skills: Also called Core Competencies, this section is placed after your opening summary and provides a snapshot of your skillset. Be sure to look through the job description of the role you’re pursuing and insert skills applicable to you. Consider including “soft” skills as well. Do you work with multiple departments to execute projects? List “cross-functional collaboration.” Are you fluent in Spanish? Call that out! And consider listing your technical proficiencies as well. If you are in the IT space, you may also need a separate Technology Skills section.

6. Copying your job current description into the text for your role: As you’re sitting at the screen trying to figure out where to start, many job seekers reference their current job description to gain inspiration. (You know, that info you pull out as you’re writing your performance review each year?) Don’t copy it into your resume.

It’s your achievements, not your duties, that set you apart from other candidates applying for the same role. Think about ways you promoted business success. What did YOU do that delivered results? Did you develop new business to increase revenue? Note that and be specific. How much did you boost revenue? If you’re not comfortable listing a dollar amount, consider other ways to emphasize your impact. Can you say your work significantly surged revenue instead? Qualitative and quantitative wins both count!

Your performance review can be a good resource to jog your memory of key wins. Leverage that info as you’re gathering pertinent information. Additionally, if your manager included a great description about your work, consider including that in your resume as an “Endorsement.” Incorporating quotes from others emphasizing your expertise or key strengths could make your document stand out.

7. Limiting your resume to one page: The days of the one-page resume for experienced professionals are long gone! Let me be clear: I’m not saying you should submit a resume that extends to five pages or include EVERY project you’ve ever worked on. Limit your draft to two pages. This provides space for you to incorporate specific detail about your accomplishments without making a hiring manager’s eyes glaze over.

There are exceptions to this rule. If you just graduated college and are looking for your first professional role, a one-page resume could be the best option for you. For professionals in certain fields (such as academia or research), it may be necessary to stretch to three pages in order to incorporate pertinent information about publications, speaking engagements, or patents.

Regardless of which option applies to you, the following tips apply to ALL resumes: Use action words, write tight, and be succinct while providing relevant detail.

8. Listing your high school diploma: Only list your high school diploma if you haven’t completed any additional education or training. For all listings in the “Education” section, list the degree you earned as well as the institution name. Consider including training and certifications as well.

9. Including “References Available Upon Request”: You do NOT need to list this in your resume. The company will reach out to you if they want to contact others about your work. You should have a list of people, their titles, and their contact info readily available, though. Be sure you’ve reached out to the people you’ve included on your list to let them know that you’re providing their information. The last thing you want is for them to be surprised when they get a phone call!

10. Listing every job you’ve ever held: Typically, a resume should outline about 15 years of work experience (if you’re a recent graduate that doesn’t mean you should list every part-time job you’ve held, select those most recent and applicable to your career path). Anything prior to that should be condensed into a “Select Prior Experience” section, including solely your job title, company name, and location.

I couldn’t resist including one additional note, bringing me to my 11th and final mistake.

11. Not leveraging LinkedIn: The intricacies of LinkedIn are best left to a different post, but there’s one point that is particularly important in relation to your resume. Personalize your LinkedIn address (learn how here) and include that info with your contact information.

Even if you rarely use LinkedIn, recruiters do! Keep that in mind as you begin applying for roles and be sure the information listed in your LinkedIn profile is accurate and current. One final bonus point? Your resume and LinkedIn should work in tandem – not be duplicate content!

Have any more questions? Reach out to us here!


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