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10 Common Resume Mistakes: What they are, and how to avoid them

Are you applying for that perfect job but not getting any interviews? You may not be aware of this, but mistakes on your resume might be holding you back. Maybe there is a formatting error that means your resume is never even being seen by the hiring team. Or maybe a spelling mistake is compromising your chances. You don't want to miss out on great career opportunities due to avoidable mistakes – so grab your resume and make sure you haven't committed any of these ten common missteps.

1. Don’t include a picture

When you submit your resume for job opportunities, omit your picture. In the United States, a headshot is often unnecessary and frowned upon by companies, as it can introduce bias, detract from the content of the document, and make hiring managers feel uncomfortable. Instead, focus on creating a resume that efficiently highlights your education and work experience related to the position you are applying for. After all, most employers will want to focus on what sort of value you could bring to their organization instead of how good your headshot is. Culturally, this can vary from country to country, so if you are applying for jobs outside of the United States, please be aware that professional norms might be different.

2. Don't use columns or unusual formatting

Employers often use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) to help them sift through the large number of resumes they receive. Unconventional formatting, like columns and unusual fonts, can cause issues when these ATSs try to parse information from applicants’ resumes. To that end, a PDF file is usually the best format for resume submission because you have control over the formatting, and it is universally accepted by ATS parsing technology. Resumes should be clean, simple, and straightforward to allow employers an easy way to assess your qualifications. Unless you’re in a design field, stay away from bright colors or unnecessary images that could detract from the overall message you are trying to convey. Even if you are in a design field, keep colors and images to a minimum and opt to include a link or QR Code for an online portfolio to show off your work. A professional and well-organized resume will enable employers to see what you have to offer without technology getting in the way.

3. Don’t submit a resume with typos and grammatical errors

Proofreading is a key step in the writing process and should not be overlooked or taken lightly. We have seen several candidates ruled out because a hiring manager considers typos to be evidence of a lack of attention to detail. Start by reading slowly and carefully, focusing on each word to catch any typos or mishandled words. Reading documents out loud can also help to catch mistakes. Asking a friend or colleague to take a quick pass is also helpful. Taking the time to proofread carefully is essential and might be the difference between landing the job or being dismissed.

4. Don't use symbols instead of bullet points

It's important to remember that symbols like arrows, stars, checkmarks, and other graphics have no place in a resume. Not only do they look unprofessional and distract recruiters from your relevant experience and skills, but they also might trip up the ATS resume parsing or keyword search software. Even if you think arrows or stars help break up copy more effectively than traditional bullet points, we don’t recommend using them.

5. Don't use an unprofessional email address

Your professional email address is more important than you may think. First impressions can make or break professional relationships, and having an unprofessional email address can send the wrong signal. Fortunately, creating a professional email address is easy - opt for something professional-sounding instead of a nickname or anything too casual. A simple way to achieve this is to use your actual name as the starting point for your professional email address. Take extra care when creating your appropriate professional email address since it can serve as your digital presence. As an added bonus, using a professional email address for a job search will ensure that questions and scheduling requests are not lost in the noise of your primary email inbox!

6. Don't overshare or include personal information

When preparing your resume for job applications in the United States, it is important to leave off any unnecessary personal information that does not relate to the job posting. Even though religion, gender, or marital status might seem harmless, resumes are the wrong place to include any of this information. Your religion has nothing to do with how you will perform in a job and isn't something employers need to know or really should know at all. Similarly, gender shouldn't even be something that is up for question when applying for a job - what matters is how well you will fit the skillset required for the role. Social security numbers and dates of birth should also never be included on your resume, as most employers are not set up to protect that kind of information during the hiring process, and they have no need for that information to begin with.

7. Don't include an objective statement

Crafting a great headline instead of an objective statement is the new way to make your resume stand out. A headline should be concisely descriptive and tailored to each job you are applying for. Avoiding generic statements and focusing on a few keywords that best describe what you can offer the employer shows that you understand the position and the impact you will have. Placing this headline prominently under your name will give recruiters and hiring managers an idea of what you will bring to the organization, even before reading your qualifications. Avoid using jargon or pretentious phrases—more on that below. If crafted properly, a great headline will make a huge difference in your resume.

8. Don't use ‘keyword stuffing’

While keywords play a major role in getting noticed by potential employers, stuffing too many keywords can have the opposite effect. You do need keywords to be found in our searches, but it is obvious when sentences are written strangely to include more keywords than they really should. Instead of attempting to fill up an entire page with keywords, focus on using keywords that are specific to your talents and experiences as you describe your impact. By highlighting relevant accomplishments rather than attempting keyword stuffing, you will ensure your resume stands out in the right way and puts you in the best position possible to land your next job.

9. Don't use jargon

While jargon may seem like the quickest and easiest way to convey that you are an awesome ‘leader’ or how well you ‘think outside of the box,’ it won't help you stand out from other job applicants. Instead, focus on backing up any team or individual skills you have with helpful examples from your own experience. Your experience section should have results and outcomes to show employers that you are a ‘team player’ and an ‘innovative thinker’ who ‘can handle anything thrown at them.’ Use concrete examples that demonstrate why you're the right candidate for the job. Employers will be more likely to choose someone who has effectively demonstrated their skills instead of simply asserting that they possess those skills.

10. Don’t write a book

While your resume doesn't have to be one page, it should be thoughtfully curated so that most of the necessary information fits neatly onto the first page. Being able to convey what you have to offer clearly and concisely is a skill that employers value, as it demonstrates sound judgment when choosing what details are pertinent for the position.

Writing a resume can be tough! While this is not a comprehensive list, avoiding all the don'ts discussed above will make your resume stronger and give you a better chance of landing an interview. Let us know in the comments if this was helpful or if you’ve ever committed one of these faux pas! We’d also love to hear what other topics we should cover. Good luck with your job search!

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