Common Resume Errors to Avoid


Who here despises updating their resume (raises hand)? It can be so tedious and, quite frankly, difficult. But it's crucial to have a stellar resume. A recruiter at my company told me that on average, she receives about 50-70 resumes per week, and that number can escalate depending on what positions she is leading. Not to scare you, but that’s some serious competition.

It must be the writer/copywriter in me, but I actually enjoy editing resumes for friends. I’ve noticed that there are a few common errors that people make that don’t even seem like a big deal, but when you’re trying to land a job, especially if there are quite a few others submitting their resumes, every detail matters. You don’t want to stand out in a negative way—that is, you don’t want a recruiter to catch something that is a major turn off for them and their organization.

I’ve rounded up a list of some common resume errors I’ve seen and have even been guilty of myself. Hopefully these help you fine-tune that resume of yours so you can land your dream job in an instant (well, after some interviews, of course).

You have a plethora of typos—or even just one.

This should seem like common sense, but typos can slip past you even if you’ve proofread a dozen times. Have someone else take a peep at your resume before shipping it off. After you’ve looked at it for so long, your eyes may be glazed over and you could miss typos, and ultimately lose an opportunity because it may seem like you don’t pay attention to detail.

Your education is listed before your work experience.

This is more for people who have been out of college and in the workforce for two or more years. Education is still vital, so don’t remove it, but it shouldn’t be the first section listed on your resume. Potential employers want to know where you’ve been and what you’ve done, so slide your work experience up and move education right behind it. Ditch the GPA unless the company requires it and/or if it’s outstanding, but after you’ve been out of college for a few years, it isn’t necessary.

You use weak verbs in your job descriptions.

As a word nerd, this one kills me. I’m not saying you should flip through a thesaurus and use a bunch of words you don’t know, but try to up your verb game. “Work” and “assist” only take you so far. Do use the thesaurus, but make sure the words fit what you’re going for and your style, as well.

You haven’t updated the verbs in your former job descriptions to past tense.

I have seen so many former job descriptions with present tense verbs. If you no longer work for a company, your verbs should be changed to the past tense. Don’t let this be an oversight!

You focus on duties and not on accomplishments.

Duties are important; future employers want to know that you’re capable of completing certain tasks and achieving certain results. But, that’s just it—they want results. While you should most definitely include your duties in the job descriptions, you also need to ensure you highlight accomplishments. What have you achieved that makes you stand out? What are you, in turn, able to do for this company?

You include too much “fluff.”

Simply put, if you’re applying for a post-grad internship at a PR firm, you don’t need to include that you were a lifeguard during the summer in high school. To recruiters, that just looks like you’re trying to fill white space and not taking their specific needs into consideration.

You include “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume.

This isn’t necessary anymore. Either the company will flat out ask you for your references via email, or you’ll have to list them in an online application.

Your format isn’t visually appealing.

This one can be the most difficult error to repair, and there’s no one correct way to format your resume. Basically, make sure you have a clear understanding of the company and industry to which you are applying. The most important things to consider are that your resume should be easy to read and it should not be overbearingly busy. If you’re applying for a creative job, obviously you have a bit more liberty in the frills department, but it should still be visually appealing and digestible.

Some tips from a recruiter:

  • Use short, concise bullet points for describing a role’s responsibilities

  • Color/bold key words or phrases that are directly relevant to the role for which you’re applying

  • Use a scaling system: list your abilities and put tallies next to skills that you are a master in (she said this is a new thing she has noticed and she loves the visual)

Do you have any resume questions for me or do you have anything to add to my list (errors or tips)? Drop me a comment on this post or email me at becca@herstoryblog.com. Job seekers, good luck with your search!

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