The 13 Worst Mistakes That You Just Can’t Have on Your Resume

When resume mistakes become deal-breakers March 21, 2024 · 9 min read

No matter how many jobs you’ve been applying for, it feels like you’re making no headway; is it time to start looking for the resume black hole at the other side of your email account?

It can be frustrating to think about the reasons you might not be getting interviews when you get no feedback.

One of the likely reasons you’ve not stepped into a successful role is that you’ve made a mistake when writing your resume.

When you’re writing your resume, it can seem like there are reams of do’s and don’t and rules and guidelines to get just right.

However, there may be something you’ve overlooked; a tool you’ve not used yet, and this will make your efforts all for naught.

Want to learn how to not keep making the same mistakes?

We’ve got a load of tricks and hacks to share with you to make sure you are aware of the common resume mistakes to avoid.

Let’s get learning…

1. Bad Grammar and Spelling

OK, so let’s start with the glaringly obvious and give you a chance to facepalm. Your resume needs to be perfect in terms of grammar, spelling, and sense.

With a resume that’s not up to these basic expectations, the hiring manager is going to assume you don’t care enough to get the first impression right or that if you’re too lazy to find ways to get your resume up to spec, will you put in enough effort at work?

Bad GrammarGrammar mistakes make your resume look unprofessional

2. Resume Length: The Devil’s in the Detail, or Lack of…

It’s common for job applicants to try and jostle all their life experiences onto one page since they’ve fallen for the common misconception that resumes should be one page of Letter size.

Things can get brutal in the cutting of details and you could end up losing some relevant and impressive achievements. Conversely, some people get a bit word-happy and go off on a tangent by adding more information and detail than would ever be needed.

Which is the right way?

What is the ideal resume length?

Typically, your resume shouldn’t be over two pages. Yet, your CV may be longer, as it includes more information. Anyway, don’t force things - if everything sits neatly on one page, that’s fine.

On the other hand, don’t get rid of the good stuff just because you’re worried about a “rule” that says resumes should be one page - no such rule exists.

The most important thing is that everything you hand over to the potential employer is relevant. Your resume should be demonstrating exactly why you’re perfect for the role; as long as it fits the bill, don’t worry about using a second page.

3. Getting Skills the Wrong Way Round

Once you’ve decided having a skills section in your resume is right for your application, you need to divide it into hard and soft skills. Make sure you keep that dividing line so your potential employer can see you know what you’re talking about.

Got a lot of juicy, employable technical skills? It’s worthwhile considering using a separate section for them too.

On the other hand, if you’ve not got a bunch of skills to write about yet, cover the ones you do have in your work experience section and highlight them in your cover letter so the hiring manager will still see them.

4. Unnecessary Photographs

There are countries where it’s standard to include a photo of yourself on your resume; for places where it’s not common, it really should be avoided.

To give you a general rule of thumb, you should have your photo on your social media and your personal website, if you have one because this is where a recruiter will expect to find it.

However, when you’re applying in an image-led industry such as broadcast journalism or performing arts, having a photo is fine and often even expected of you.

5. Not Proving Your Point

It’s an easy line to type, to say that you were amazing at your last job.

As they say, “talk is cheap” so you need to pull out some facts and figures to prove your point to the recruiter who’s reading your resume. Give them:

  • Facts
  • Numbers
  • Percentages
  • Statistics
  • Monthly or yearly comparisons
  • Names of awards

So they can see you mean business.

Not proving your point exampleFocus on hard facts and don’t use cliches

Don’t leave things at “regularly achieved customer satisfaction targets”, give it some details, such as: “Achieved 95 percent or higher for customer satisfaction and first contact resolution KPIs every month in 2019”

You can still work in facts even when you don’t deal directly with numbers, for example, “Received four named acknowledgments in Google Reviews as lead ward nurse”.

6. Using a Poor Summary or Resume Objective

When you choose to start with a career summary, you need it to be outstanding so that you grab the reader’s attention.

Using generic language and platitudes wastes your resume space and the recruiter’s time.

Be specific with the points you make, and focus on what the employer is looking for, based on the job listing, as well as what you want.

Here we share what is a good resume summary and how to write a kickass resume objective and provide you with some great examples of both.

7. Going Generic

Seen loads of job postings you’re interested in and want to get a head start on the application process? As tempting as it is to go generic with your resume, something that could be good for anyone won’t be great for anyone.

You want the person reading your resume to see that you’ve put the effort in for them by writing a targeted resume.

The expectation is that every part of your document is crafted to show exactly how you’re going to fit into the role at their company.

Take your time and adapt your resume for every job you apply to, ensuring it’s got all the important details the employee needs to know.

8. Ignoring the Keywords

Finding and using keywords is imperative to getting your resume past the automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) used by many employers, and getting your document under the eyes of a human.

Finding the right keywords for your resume is pretty easy; they should all be in the job advertisement.

If you see words or phrases like “manager” and “process optimization”, be sure you use the exact language in your resume. Use them in places where they’d fit naturally and don’t overuse them, otherwise, it starts to look like spam.

Example of good and bad keywords in resumeDon’t forget to include relevant keywords in your resume

9. Bad Format Choices

Everyone’s life and work experience are different, therefore the right resume format will be different for everyone.

There are a few standard resume formats to choose from, depending on your level of experience and work intentions:

  • Reverse chronological works great for people with a long work history;
  • Functional is good when you’ve got technical skills and real-world experience;
  • Combined draws attention to your career highlights and key skills;
  • Targeted resumes are clearly set out for the particular job you’re applying for.

Make sure you decide on a format before you start writing, otherwise your resume will look disorganized and the recruiter won’t be able to find the information they want to find.

10. Forgetting a Resume Headline

Your resume comprises quite a few distinct sections that are all necessary, but possibly the most important one is your resume headline

This is the first thing the hiring manager’s going to see and it sets out your stall as to why you’re perfect for the job.

Your resume headline is a short statement that notes your most important skills and achievements.

Some examples would be:

“Creative Graphic Designer with a Portfolio of Award-Winning Logos”
“Efficient Food Server Offering Exceptional Service and Productivity”

This is a really important part of your resume; without a resume headline, you’re unlikely to make it onto the callback list.

11. Packing in too Much Information

How important some section on your resume is will depend on the industry you’re applying for. For example, education depends on how recently you were in school.

With a long list of educational certificates and achievements, you need to select only the ones most relevant to the role you’re going for.

Example of relevant and irrelevant facts in resumeWrite only relevant facts for the job

Cramming in every training course, seminar, award, and certificate won’t impress anyone and is a waste of space. Is “Office Karaoke Singer of the Year 2014” going to help you get the accounts manager job?

There are times when including your volunteer experience is helpful, and there’s a skill to listing your relevant honors and awards. It’s important to list your licenses and certifications on your resume too, as long as they relate to the job at hand.

12. Not Working Within ATS Software Requirements

The vast majority of companies will use applicant tracking systems to sift through the dozens, sometimes hundreds, of resumes that they get sent.

This means that the first hurdle your resume needs to get over is a computer system that’s looking for some pretty specific stuff.

There’s a skill to getting your resume past ATS software, and we’ve covered it in detail for you.

At this point, just remember that you need to work with the ATS software, no matter how constraining it might feel.

Have a good format, target language at the job title, pepper your resume with keywords, and you should see your application response rate shoot up.

13. Telling Lies

Little errors like poor punctuation or dodgy spelling might grate on a recruiter and make you look less than amazing; a resume that tells lies is a much darker situation.

Neither is going to impress your future employer and although you might not always get immediately fired for your lies, you might face other consequences.

Getting caught in a lie, in a worst-case scenario, could see you not being able to work in your industry or location again.

Know the limits, job hunters!

Making your achievements sound as impressive as they can be is one thing, but an outright lie could stop your career before it even gets going.

Particularly when applying at entry level, it can be tempting to pad things out with some false jobs, but it’s really not worth it in the long run. Better to get a job on your merits.

Summing up…

No matter how long and illustrious your career has been, you can still get things wrong on your resume.

Follow our list of tips and tricks and you’ll be leagues ahead of the other applicants for your dream job.

If you want to ensure your resume is foolproof, you should check out our ready-to-use professional resume templates - you’ll have a resume with a perfect layout and structure in a few quick minutes!
SweetCV team
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