10 common résumé mistakes

Some fixes might help you relaunch that job hunt

Contributing ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013 

January is a time for reflection and fresh starts, and your job search might be in need of one.

Ask yourself this question — "Am I getting any interviews?"

If not, look at your résumé. Its main goal is simply to secure you an interview. If you're not getting any calls, a makeover just might be what you need to recharge your job search.

Any human resources representative will tell you an easy-to-read résumé that clearly demonstrates your qualifications is crucial to a job search.

Recruiters may be receiving thousands of résumés weekly depending on the size of their companies and available positions. They don't have time to look at mediocre ones.

After years working in human resources, recruiting and now career services, I've seen the simple mistakes that can turn out to be major blunders. Here are 10 résumé mistakes to avoid.

It has grammar or factual errors

Errors, ranging from grammar to factual, can kill a good résumé. It might sound unfair, but even if you have good experience, a recruiter will assume you don't take your job seriously if there are errors.

And with thousands of résumés to review, recruiters are looking for any reason to help whittle down that pile to just the exceptional few.

Not only can misspelled words get you into trouble, I've also known people to have incorrect contact information listed. No wonder they hadn't received any calls or emails.

It's too long

The old standard was no résumé should be longer than a page. It's becoming more acceptable to go onto a second page, but no one should have a résumé longer than that unless it's for an executive role or a curriculum vitae for academia.

It's also important to consider how much experience you really have and whether it should be listed. This is important for college students, many of whom have résumés that are too long. If professionals with almost 10 years of experience can have a one-page résumé, so can a college student.

It's formatted strangely

One of the main principles of résumé writing is it should be easily readable. Any of the following detracts from your content — frilly or loopy fonts, different fonts within the document, and excessive bolding and italics.

It uses the first-person

Never ever use "I" in your résumé. It's implied that it's about you and your experience.

It uses only complete sentences

Although your spelling needs to be correct, résumé writing does not adhere to all the traditional grammatical rules. You should communicate clearly but briefly and succinctly.

It includes irrelevant information

I have seen otherwise good candidates knocked out of the running because they included some personal but irrelevant clubs or organizations that just did not appeal to recruiters. It sounds unfair, but it happens.

Also, do not include personal information such as age, race or marital status. The more superfluous information you include, the more your résumé will look cluttered. It's the quality of the content, not the quantity, that matters.

It doesn't include relevant information

I have seen this mistake with both college students and seasoned professionals. Sometimes people mistakenly think internships or volunteering cannot be included on your résumé. On the contrary, it can be key in landing you an interview.

One individual I recently worked with had been out of work for three years and did not include all of the free-lance and volunteer work he had been doing. He hadn't landed an interview in two years. But after changing his résumé, he received an interview immediately.

Any gap in employment of six months or longer is a red flag to recruiters, so you need to get involved in something to keep your skills sharp and then make sure you include it on your résumé.

It doesn't have enough empty space

Your eyes and brain need some place to rest on a page or you'll be overwhelmed and confused. This is why it is critical to reduce the information on your résumé to only the most relevant.

It dates you

Whether you're a recent graduate or have been in a business for many years, your résumé can give away your age and unfortunately leave you open to age discrimination.

Working professionals can leave off the dates of their college degrees and even some of their employment. Stating that you worked as a retail manager for "more than 20 years" makes it easier for a recruiter to see your vast experience but not so easily figure out our your age.

For college students, you will usually put your education first on your résumé, but if you have really good relevant experience and are applying for a job above entry-level, highlight your experience first and education last.

It's generic

This is one of the most common mistakes, because some people want to be able to use one résumé to apply to many different positions. If a recruiter cannot look at your résumé and clearly see what position you would be qualified for, then your résumé isn't going to get very far.

Seeking two to three types of jobs can be a good strategy to finding employment more quickly, but you should have two to three résumés tailored specifically to those jobs or industries.

Finally, you should always have other people offer feedback on your résumé. Some may be more helpful than others, so it's important to find a person who knows what to look for, such as a career coach, human resources professional or someone in the position or industry to which you are applying.

Theresa Mickelwait holds a master's degree in psychology and a certificate in career coaching from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. She is a senior assistant director at the University of Kentucky James W. Stuckert Career Center. Reach her at Theresa.Mickelwait@uky.edu.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service