How to Avoid Common Resume Mistakes

If you're writing your resume on your own, the first thing you'll have to do is make some mental shifts. You need to rethink the goals of a resume, and rethink the rules of a resume in order to approach the project like the best of the resume professionals. That means not making the most common resume mistakes, and not breaking a few key rules.


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    Don't focus on your responsibilities, focus on what you achieved. The only things that should be on your resume are achievements. Anyone can do their job, but only a small percentage of the population can do their job well, wherever they go.
    • The best achievement is a promotion because it's an objective way to show that you impressed the people you work for.
    • Present quantified achievements. Most people do not think in terms of quantified achievements when they are in the job, but on the resume, that's the only part of the job that matters. Give evidence to show how you made a difference in your past roles.
    • Steer clear of expressions like "Duties included," "Responsibilities included," or "Responsible for." That's job-description language, and not what employers are looking for.[1] Use action verbs instead, but minimize the use of "I" and articles (the, an, a).
    • Write a self evaluation and for each achievement, ask yourself: "What does this accomplishment say about me, and what I can do for this employer I want to work for?"
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    Remember your resume is a marketing document. Avoid being too modest. Don't be afraid to talk proudly about your accomplishments, just remember to avoid mentioning and bragging about every accomplishment you've ever had.
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    Don't include too much information. An interviewer spends about 30 seconds reading through your resume; hence it is important to highlight the most important information on your resume. A resume should contain information relevant to the job opportunity. Your resume should not exceed 1 – 2 pages.
    • If you have a long job history behind you, beware of age discrimination. Employers might think you're too expensive if you have loads of experience. If you're at the senior level, list about 15 years of job history (no more) and don't provide the date of your college graduation if it was more than about 10 years ago.
    • When your resume gets you a chance to be interviewed, then you can elaborate on your hard work. [2]
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    Ditch the line about references on request. It's implied. Of course, if someone wants a reference, you will give one. No one presumes that you will not.
    • Don't list references on your resume; if they are requested along with your resume, list them on a separate sheet.[3]
    • If you have an excellent reference, like a CEO of a company, have the reference call before you even go to the interview. Sets the tone for the employer to think you are amazing.
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    Tread lightly on the personal interests line. Only list personal interests that reveal a quality that will help you meet the employer's needs. If you are in sports marketing, then by all means, list that you kayak. If you are a dedicated and/or successful athlete, put it down because it shows focus and achievement. If you are a mediocre hobbyist, leave it off. Personal interests that don't make you stand out as an achiever do not help you.
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    Keep the design simple. Stay away from overused templates (like those in Microsoft Word) because it makes you look completely generic, but don't use more than three different fonts and try to stick to two different text sizes. You want it to look smart but not generic.[4]
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    Check for misspellings and grammatical errors. This is a very common mistake. It’s always good to have a spell check done once you have finished preparing your resume. It can be difficult to catch or identify your own mistakes, the best way to identify your mistakes is to have your resume reviewed by someone else or by reading aloud.
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    Include keywords that match the job position. Your resume should include the same keywords that appear in the job listing. If your resume lacks the right keywords, your resume is unlikely to get noticed as it will not appear to be a fit for that particular job opportunity.
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    Keep your resume updated. Be sure to read and update your resume for every job you apply for. Updating your skills section, contact number, address details, current location etc. is very important.
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    Be sure your resume objective matches the job you're applying for. Writing an objective statement is important to let an interviewer know what your focus is. An objective needs to be clear and has to focus on the target job opportunity. Ensure it is short and emphasizes on your interest in the type of work for which you are applying.
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    Write position descriptions that show what you have accomplished. It is good to write active statements which showcase your relevant skills and accomplishments, if you have made significant contributions and improvements in this positions include a quick note stating this, you can elaborate in the interview. This will help a potential employer easily identify how you added value to your role.
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    Mention the most relevant duties & skill sets for the job you are applying for. Remember you need to show that you have the key skills required for the particular job opportunity. If your resume lacks this point; there is a chance that your resume will be overlooked.


  • Accompany your resume with a short and succinct cover letter/email.
  • Print your resume on ivory-colored cotton-fiber paper with a watermark; it will give you a slight edge over all the other resumes printed on regular paper.
  • Do not add a decorative border around your resume.
  • List your job descriptions in past tense for jobs you have worked at, and only use present tense to describe a job you are currently working at.
  • It's very hard to see your achievements for what they really are, resume coach, or even a friend, can help you to see them more clearly.
  • List items in order of importance or relevance to the reader. Many people write the dates first, and while dates are important, they're not the most important.[5]

    • Job history: Title/position, name of employer, city/state of employer, dates of employment.

      • If the company you work for is unknown, or the nature of the company isn't obvious from the name, describe the business, note its revenues and maybe how old it is; otherwise, a recruiter or hiring manager will have to look up the company description, which takes up more of their time.[6]
    • Education: Name of degree (spelled out: Bachelor of Arts) in name of major, name of university, city/state of university, graduation year, followed by peripheral information, such as minor and GPA (omit your GPA if it is low).


  • Have a professional email address using just a combination of your names and/or initials! While it is fine to use with your friends, using it on a resume implies you do not know what is appropriate in a business environment.
  • Spell check your resume. Then check the spelling yourself. Then have someone else proofread it. Resumes with typographical errors often automatically get moved to the bottom of the pile. If you can't be trusted to pay attention to such an important detail in your job search, what does it say about your potential job performance?
  • List your most recent job first. Chronological order is only a good idea if you are looking to get hired to go back in time. Otherwise you look like you're bucking resume writing convention in order to hide something, which you probably are, but you have to do it with a better sleight of hand than that.
  • Employers will almost always use your personal information to look you up on social networking sites before they decide to hire you. Consider making your profile private or cleaning it up so that it does not hinder your job prospects.

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