Top 4 Resume Mistakes That Are Killing Your Job Search • Career Sidekick

Top 4 Resume Mistakes That Are Killing Your Job Search

top 4 resume mistakes to avoidThere are a lot of resume mistakes to avoid and a ton of articles about the topic. It can get overwhelming, we know.

So we decided to make it simpler and focus on what we call the “big 4”.

This list will quickly walk you through 4 common and dangerous resume mistakes that will cost you interviews and job offers if you don’t fix them. Then we’ll talk about what you can do to fix it.

If you’re sending out your resume and not getting results, this will help you immediately. If you’re planning to start your job search soon but haven’t yet, read this to make sure your resume is ready to send.

Top 4 Resume Mistakes To Avoid:

Mistake #1: Selling yourself short

You may have decided that your previous job wasn’t glamorous, your responsibilities weren’t that great, or your background just isn’t impressive. In almost every case, that is not true.

The reality is that it’s all about how you describe your experience. Every job has impressive pieces.

The companies you’re sending your resume to didn’t see your past work, they’re relying on you to tell them about it. That’s what your resume is for. So it’s your job to show them what you learned in that role, and what the impressive aspects are.

Here’s a trick you can use: Think of yourself describing your job to someone else—someone that doesn’t know anything about your position. And you want to impress them. What would you say? What responsibilities sound best? What accomplishments would you name first? What challenges did you encounter and overcome?

If you’re an entry level job seeker or recent graduate, the tips above still apply. Every class you took and project you worked on can be described in different ways, and you need to make sure you’re not selling yourself short on your resume when describing it.

Mistake #2: Focusing on responsibilities instead of achievements

When you take your previous experience in the step above, write it on your resume in terms of achievements—not duties and responsibilities. Most people simply list their responsibilities, and it’s not going to make you stand out.

Here’s the difference:

“Responsible for supervising 5 employees”

“Trained and led a team of 5”

Which one sounds better? (Hint: It’s the second option).

This is definitely one of the top resume mistakes to avoid, and is a great tip for boosting your LinkedIn as well.

So read through your descriptions of previous jobs and then add an example to how you completed that work, and what the results were.

Discuss how many employees you have trained, the dollar amount of the budget you oversee, or how many clients you have gained while employed there, etc. For more ideas of facts and numbers you can put on your resume, read this article.

Adding accomplishments and facts to your resume is going to make it stand out immediately. And the best part is going through this process reminds you of your successes and wins so you’ll know what to say in your interview if they ask about your past accomplishments or what you’re most proud of (both very common questions).

Mistake #3: Dates are making you appear old (or too young)

To avoid age discrimination in your job search, you don’t want to appear too old or too young. Here are a couple of tips that will help.

Don’t include dates with your education. If you are a recent college graduate, it shows that you have (most likely) zero professional experience. If you graduated from college in 1982, it shows you are of a seasoned age and may be out-of-date with technology (whether or not that is true – that’s the perception). And, if you have a college degree, don’t feel the need to include high school and the graduation year – it’s a given that you graduated high school simply because you attended college or further training opportunities.

Here’s another tip: If you have been in the workforce for more than 15 years, include the most recent 12-15 years as “Recent Professional History” and leave the rest off. Or include anything beyond those 12-15 years as “Earlier Career Experience” – with no dates listed.

This will showcase your skill-set and your expertise without drawing attention to the dates and years.

Mistake #4: Bad formatting

We all want our resumes to be “pretty” and appealing to the reader. But too much resume formatting and style can distract the reader and cost you job interviews.

Using unusual or over-the-top formatting can hurt your chances of getting past the Applicant Tracking Systems too.

So don’t get fancy. Focus on easy-to-read common fonts that don’t detract from the information (Calibri or Ariel are two great choices that look great when printed out, and look even better when read online).

Also skip the clip art and fancy graphics (unless you are a designer).

If you choose to use color, use a green or blue (red appears to be angry, pink is difficult to read, yellow washes out, and other colors may appear childish). Use one color at most.

Stick to one or two fonts at maximum as well. And one or two font sizes (one size for headings and one size for regular text is fine).

Then use bold to highlight the names of your previous positions and other important information. But beyond that, keep it simple and keep the focus on the information and words you’re writing.

A typical hiring manager or recruiter only glances through your resume for five to seven seconds before deciding whether to keep reading or drop it in the “trash” pile. Don’t allow your formatting to detract from this skimpy timeline.

“I’ve done all of those. What else can it be?”

Okay, if you checked out the 4 resume mistakes above and can’t find any issues, it could be a few other things.

First, make sure you’re tailoring your resume to each job you apply for. It’s easier than it sounds if you use this method.

Also check out this article on a few other common resume mistakes. You’ll see a few familiar pieces but the first two resume mistakes in that article are important and we didn’t have room to mention them here. Both of those two mistakes can quickly send your resume to the “no” pile if you don’t fix them.

About this guest author:

what to put on resumeDr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Feather Communications ( She holds an MBA and PhD in Organization and Management, and has been working with job seekers since 2008 to develop forward-thinking, eye-catching, and dynamic resumes for today’s marketplace. You can download her top 5 resume tips to get more interviews for free at this page.


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