15 Costly Resume Mistakes

  • Résumés: What not to do

    Most likely, your résumé has less than five seconds to grab the attention of the person with the power to hire you. While spelling and grammatical errors will surely land it in the trash pile, your résumé could be rife with a myriad of other mistakes that prevent you from landing the job. We spoke with Robyn Feldberg, President Emeritus of the National Résumé Writers’ Association and founder of Abundant Success Career Services, about the mistakes she sees most often, and how to fix them. Photo Credit: striatic
    Relying on spell check
  • Relying on spell check

    The Problem: Word processors can’t always catch mistakes, especially in proper nouns and grammar. The Fix: Résumés were made for sharing; pass it under several sets of eyes before sending it off. If the editing skills of friends and colleagues can’t be completely trusted, but the budget doesn’t include money for a complete professional résumé rewrite, send it off to a résumé proofreader for a fraction of the cost. To see just how bad it can get, check out our list of the dumbest e-mails ever written. Photo Credit: kafka4prez
    Lacking focus
  • Lacking focus

    The Problem: You have used the same résumé to apply for jobs in 14 different fields. Without a focus or target, employers are less likely to pick you out of a crowd for having the specific qualifications they want. The Fix: Feldberg says candidates need to begin writing his or her résumé with a clear focus and a clear strategy. If you are applying for several different types of jobs, consider having a few different versions of your résumé geared specifically towards the different fields. Or, if your diverse background doesn’t necessarily relate to the industry into which you are trying to break, write each entry to show how it applies or provides translatable skills. If you’re having trouble finding that focus, it may be worth hiring a professional résumé writer. Photo Credit: InCase Designs
    Using half a headline
  • Using half a headline

    The Problem: The headline of your résumé includes only your name and contact information. The Fix: Near your name, and in a font size almost as big, Feldberg recommends including your target position. This immediately connects your name in a prospective employers mind with the vacant job. Photo Credit: makedonche19
    Not branding yourself
  • Not branding yourself

    The Problem: Your résumé does not include a mission or branding statement. The Fix: According to Feldberg, this is your chance to set yourself apart from other applicants who likely have similar education and professional backgrounds. “What’s the value you bring, how are you different?” she asks. “It’s the perfect place to put something notable, maybe three to five of your most impressive accomplishments. Put it right at the beginning, just a little snapshot of who you are and your value.” Don’t forget to also avoid these common job search mistakes as well. Photo Credit: charlie llewellin
    Listing only duties
  • Listing only duties

    The Problem: Each job title is accompanied only by a duration, location and list of duties. The Fix: Duties won’t catch an employer’s eye, Feldberg says, accomplishments will. It’s in this section of your résumé that you can prove you will bring your new company a return on its investment in you. List specific accomplishments for each position held. These should be quantifiable actions that helped your previous company move forward. Photo Credit: harryalverson
    Missing key words
  • Missing key words

    The Problem: The keywords used most often in job advertisements don’t show up on your resume. The Fix: Feldberg says candidates should take the time to pull up several different job advertisements for vacant positions in his or her field. Note the most frequently used words and get them into your résumé. This lines you up in the employers mind as the ideal person for the spot. Photo Credit: Piutus
    Telling instead of showing
  • Telling instead of showing

    The Problem: You’ve found your keywords, but their use is limited to “I have excellent communication and multitasking skills.” The Fix: Instead of simply describing yourself with these qualities, use the accomplishments portion of your résumé to give a concrete example of a time you proved these skills, Feldberg says. “Rather than telling them that you have excellent verbal and written skills, give them an example like ‘regularly asked to write newsletter articles for company magazine’ or ‘routinely addressed stock holders at annual shareholders meaning,’” she says. Once you’ve gotten the job, click here to find out how your body language might be sabotaging your interview. Photo Credit: johnny goldstein
    Relying on clichés and superlatives
  • Relying on clichés and superlatives

    The Problem: According to your résumé, you are the most resplendently astonishing shoe-in for this crackerjack company’s open position. The Fix: Write the way you speak. Adding too many adjectives or big words, Feldberg says, will only serve to distract from the message. Use the language that will speak most effectively to your future employer and allow your accomplishments to shine on their own merit. Click here to find some of the worst offenders found on resumes today. Photo Credit: lucianvenutian
    Saying too much
  • Saying too much

    The Problem: Your résumé describes everything you’ve ever done, ever. The Fix: Remember your audience. Only write the things that would be most exciting to a potential employer. “People should aim for a ratio of five accomplishments per job,” Feldberg says. “They might have 20, but rather than presenting an employer with all 20, it’s better to edit down, and pick out their most relevant.” Photo Credit: RavenU
    Ignoring the numbers
  • Ignoring the numbers

    The Problem: Any accomplishments listed use speculative language, such as “received a specialized certificate that allowed my company to reduce costs on consultants.” The Fix: Find numbers in your achievements, whether that means percentages or hard figures. Employers want to see quantifiable achievements. According to Feldberg, the above statement is made exponentially more powerful by changing it to “earned a professional certificate and took on additional responsibilities that saved the company 40 consultant hours each month, resulting in an annual savings of $96,000.“ Photo Credit: blprnt_van
    Saving the best for last
  • Saving the best for last

    The Problem: You’ve got your keywords and your numbers, but you leave the most enticing portion of the accomplishment at the end. The Fix: “Instead of writing ‘Created an environment in leadership expectations that reduced OSHA-recordable injuries by 52 percent,’ write ‘Cut OSHA-recordable injuries by 52 percent by creating an environment of leadership expectations,'” Feldberg says. “Employers read that and know that you saved the company a lot of money.” Photo Credit: Geoff Peters 604
    Restricting yourself to one page
  • Restricting yourself to one page

    The Problem: Your résumé is written in 8-point font with 3-milimeter margins and completely lacks white space. The Fix: Expand to two pages. According to Feldberg, anyone with more than 10 years of experience will likely need to expand past one page, which will look far cleaner and more professional an unreadable block of text. Restricting yourself to one city could be equally troublesome, check out our list of the worst cities for job hunters. Photo Credit: brookage
    Going crazy with your font
  • Going crazy with your font

    The Problem: You’ve picked an elaborate font to stand out, but the swirls and loops are so complicated that the actual message gets lost. The Fix: Keep it simple and easy to read. Feldberg says some good fonts that are often overlooked include Verdana and Cambria. She suggests Arial Narrow for those packed resumes that aren’t quite ready for a second page. Photo Credit: dragonsinger
    Copying a standard format
  • Copying a standard format

    The Problem: You haven’t changed your résumé format since copying the exact template given to you by your high school career counselor. The Fix: Subtle formatting changes will help your résumé stand out. Consider adding a border, or using a red arrow instead of a simple black dot, Feldberg says. These small changes keep your résumé readable, but make it memorable out of a stack. Want to really stand out? Check out this article on video résumés. Photo Credit: Let Ideas Compete
    Forgetting to follow up
  • Forgetting to follow up

    The Problem: The résumé looks amazing but you don’t contact the company again after the initial submission. The Fix: Feldberg’s favorite résumé follow-up tip is sending a hard copy of your résumé in a large envelope marked “Confidential” to the hiring manager of the company. Include a handwritten sticky note that says, “Second Submission, I’m extremely interested in this position.” “It’s literally doubled the interview rate for clients,” she said. For more tips on following up with a potential employer, click here. Photo Credit: aussiegall
    The Dumbest E-mails Ever Sent
  • The Dumbest E-mails Ever Sent

    So now you know what NOT to do when sending out resumes, but there are some equally important lessons to be learned when you're sending out e-mails. Take a look at our round-up of the Dumbest E-Mails Ever Sent and prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor.
    Join us on Facebook
  • Join us on Facebook

    Join the MainStreet team and other readers on our lively Facebook page! Discuss our newest stories and get links to breaking content, automatically. Click here to add us. Photo Credit: Facebook.com
Show Comments