In a competitive job market, having a resume that works for you is essential.
Even if you're a qualified candidate, one seemingly small resume mistake could mean the difference between a job-landing interview and a missed opportunity. TopResume recently asked 379 former and current recruiters, hiring managers, and human resources executives, “What are your biggest resume 'deal-breakers' that can cost a candidate the job?” Below are the survey results revealing the top 10 biggest resume mistakes that will cause the majority of recruiters to reject a candidate. If you want your job application to make it past the gatekeepers and into the hiring manager's hands, avoid these cringe-worthy resume-writing mistakes.
1. Spelling and grammatical errors
Editing your resume to eliminate spelling and grammatical errors might seem obvious; the fact that I'm even listing it might make most job applicants roll their eyes. Yet, this resume mistake topped the list of deal-breakers in the survey and was a hot topic among recruiters on Quora who answered the question, "What are the worst resume deal-breakers job seekers should avoid?"
Jonathan Jones, Head of Investment Talent Development at Point72 Asset Management, offers the following resume-writing tip: "Have someone else read over your resume to check for this sort of error. It can be hard to spot when you're the one who's written the thing. A second pair of eyes helps."
In addition, try printing your resume out to review or using a free tool like Grammarly to scan your resume for contextual spelling mistakes that spell check won't pick up. Click on the following link for more tips on how to proofread your resume.
2. Incorrect or missing contact information
The goal of a resume is to land you an interview. If you're missing pertinent contact information, or the contact information you've included is incorrect, you're making it difficult for recruiters to get in touch with you. Also, if you're not detailed enough to provide the correct contact information, what does that say about how well you will do on the job if hired?
Also, be wary of the location and format you use to list your contact information on your resume. Never add your contact information to the Header portion of a Word document or paste your contact information in as an image. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) cannot read that information and will list your contact details as missing or incomplete in the system. Click on the following link to learn more about formatting your resume to beat the bots.
3. Using an unprofessional email address
Recall in college, high school, or even middle school those people who made fun of you for not being "original" when it came to your email address. Little did they know that, in order to land an interview, it's helpful to have an email address that speaks to who you are and not to some alter ego of who you'd like to be. You don't want a recruiter to overlook your glowing qualifications because he or she got hung up on “hipster.hottie” email address.
4. Including outdated or irrelevant information
If you have information that is outdated or irrelevant on your resume, your resume will likely go in the trash. Avoid including your age, hobbies, or marital status on your resume — this type of information says that you aren't up to speed with today's resume-writing standards. It also sets you up to be eliminated for discriminatory reasons related to items such as age and gender. Typically, unless it's relevant to the job, it doesn't belong on your resume.
5. Failure to demonstrate and quantify results
A recruiter wants to see the results you've achieved in past positions, as it speaks to the potential you have to do well in the role for which they're trying to fill. Results are best described as quantifiable results — business growth numbers, improved retention stats, increased sales, proven return on investment, and so on. Without demonstrating or providing quantifiable results, it might appear that you had "responsibilities," yet didn't take initiative or achieve actual results.
6. Annoying buzzwords and/or obvious keyword stuffing
It's important to include keywords from the job posting in your resume in order to make it past the applicant tracking software (ATS) recruiters use to scan and weed out unqualified candidates. However, make sure you're incorporating keywords in a way that sounds natural. If you deliberately stuff keywords into your resume or use a bunch of annoying buzzwords, it will be painfully obvious to the recruiter -- not to mention a big turnoff. Use keywords wisely and incorporate them into your resume so they make sense and flow naturally. Consider having someone else read your resume to see if any of the keywords you've used stand out in an unforgiving way.
7. Being too generalized or not customizing to match the job listing
You don't need to do a full overhaul of your resume for every job application you send. You do, however, need to tweak your resume to align with every job for which you apply. A seasoned recruiter will be able to tell if you're using a cookie-cutter resume or not.
Stefan Lilienkamp, Managing Partner and Recruiter at ClarusApex, shared: "Lazy job applications for anything on the market without any tailoring is a complete deal breaker. End result, the candidate gets, in the best case, ignored, and worst case, blacklisted..."
In addition, customizing your resume with appropriate keywords from the job posting will ensure your application doesn't get tossed by the ATS.
8. Repetitive words or phrases used in multiple job descriptions
When a recruiter reads the same words or phrases on a resume, it becomes redundant. It can also come across as if you didn't care enough to put the effort into using a variation of action-oriented words and being specific for each position listed.
9. Including a headshot
Unless you're an actor, you're converting your resume to a CV for an international job application, or there's another clear reason as to why you'd include a headshot on your resume, leave it off. It's not common practice in the U.S. to include a headshot and could come across as egotistical or of poor judgment if you do include one.
10. Format and/or design is too elaborate
When it comes to your resume format, less is usually more. Stick to a simple, clean resume design that favors white space and makes it easy for the reader to quickly skim your information and understand your career story. The more elaborate or creative you get with your resume format, the more likely recruiters will be forced to hunt for the information they care about, and the more likely they will skip over your application altogether.
Save the fancy graphs and other bells-and-whistles for your personal website (if applicable). If you're looking for inspiration, check out some of TopResume's best sample resumes.
Additional resume mistakes to avoid
The following items might not have made it to TopResume's "Top 10" list, but they are still frowned upon by recruiters and are worth when you're updating or creating your resume.
Dense blocks of text or too many bullet points. Using dense blocks of text or too many bullets points in your resume is a surefire way to overwhelm a recruiter. Instead, use a mix of short paragraphs to describe your role and bullet points to highlight your relevant qualifications, contributions, and achievements.
The document is longer than two pages. Ask any recruiter, and he or she will tell you that the maximum resume length is two pages. Unless you have seven or more years of experience and a few jobs under your belt, keeping the document to one page is best. Click on the following link for more information on how to edit your document to the ideal resume length.
Bill Dew, Founder and CEO of Swepps & Associates, shared on Quora: "Avoid a ridiculously long resume because recruiters and hiring managers take offense to it. It shows that you don't consider or value their time, thus causing yourself to be disqualified from consideration."
Using an "objective statement." Resume objective statements are a thing of the past. Using one indicates that you're not up-to-speed with current resume trends. Instead, use a professional summary in the section below your name in lieu of an objective statement. Your professional summary should include two to four sentences that read like an elevator pitch and indicate what you can do for the company.
Let the survey results speak for themselves. Avoid these top resume mistakes to surpass your competition. Doing so will support recruiters in seeing what matters most — your relevant experience and qualifications — instead of being distracted by unprofessional, yet easily avoidable, mistakes.
Click on the following link for more resume-writing advice.
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