When you’re in the job market, it stands to reason that you want to market yourself as professionally as possible in a way that reflects the modern working environment. Make sure that you avoid these 44 simple mistakes to maximize the impact of your CV! Removing these items will put you well on your way to securing your ideal position.
On a one or two page resume, space is at a premium. Show your employer that you’re interested on focusing on what’s relevant to them by excluding extraneous information. This will demonstrate not only a good sense of writing, but also a solid understanding of the position you’re seeking.
If you’re including jobs from more than ten years ago on your resume, chances are it’s in need of an update. Unless the past job is specifically relevant to the job you’re applying for, employers will be most interested in your recent experience.
If you’re including accomplishments and awards that aren’t pertinent to your field, you run the risk of appearing to show off, rather than showcasing your potential as a candidate.
Don’t waste valuable space on your resume talking about what motivates you and your long-term goals. For one thing, if you’re applying for a job in the first place, your goals there are pretty self-evident. Plus, if your goals are ultimately to go beyond the job you’re applying for, it may not be wise to tell your potential employer that you want to use that position as a stepping-stone.
There was a time when it might have been unusual and valuable to be proficient in Microsoft Office. That time is long past – and if you take the time to point it out on your resume, it’s likely a potential employer could draw the conclusion that you don’t have more to bring to the table than familiarity with Excel.
Images take up space and can detract from the professionalism of a resume. If something is worth including in your resume, you should be able to sum it up with words. Note, however, that this advice is only true for more traditional industries and applications. Online resumes often include images, and a visual portfolio is integral for people in creative industries like visual art or graphic design.
While in European business environments it is standard practice to include a picture of yourself in the corner of your resume, it is not customary in the United States. In the USA, it is believed that a picture can open the door to discrimination and should not be included in the resume. This applies only to traditional job applications, however; for online resumes and personal web pages, both important job search tools in the age of social media, a tasteful headshot is encouraged.
Be original! When sorting through candidates for an open position, hiring managers see so many similar-looking resumes they begin to run together. Don’t make it any harder on them by being just another “highly motivated self-starter”; find a way to stand out and make your voice come through in the resume.
Don’t waste valuable space by stating the obvious. Unless they were specifically requested at some point in the application process, mentioning your references is unnecessary. When an employer wants your references they will ask for them. This usually won’t be until after an interview has taken place.
Use bullet points, not paragraphs. Hiring managers only have time to scan a resume’s highlights, taking a closer look only if something catches their eye. Droning on about your responsibilities for more than a sentence or two is a surefire way to bore whoever is reading your resume.
Transparent exaggerations are a good way to get your application tossed out altogether. Even if somebody doesn’t immediately recognize that you have inflated your operational budget a little bit, it's more than likely that you will be exposed during the interview process. The truth will come out; it’s better to err on the side of truth than get caught trying to make yourself seem more important than you are.
Everybody probably had a joke email address in middle school that they used with their friends. Then, hopefully, they grew out of it. Your email address should something professional and identifying, ideally a variation of your real name. It’s a pretty safe bet that sk8rboy1337 isn’t going to get the job.
Though the generation now entering the workforce has never known life without social media, it’s important to maintain the personal-professional boundary. Ensuring that you don’t include links to your personal social media accounts on your resume is a good place to start.
Chances are, if you’re thinking about exceeding two pages on your resume, you’re already including too much. In fact, unless you are an experienced professional with more than ten years in the workforce, a single page should be sufficient. Hiring managers only need to see the highlights of your experience that will best sell you for the position, and too many pages will indicate that you are including unnecessary and uninteresting information.
If you’re going to include hyperlinks on your resume (if you’re submitting electronically), take a few seconds to follow every link that you’ve included. Whether it’s because of a typo or because a webpage was taken down, broken links are bad sign for employers who are looking for attention to detail.
Professionalism is always key. While a bit of colour can add a splash of individuality to a resume, more than one or two colours and the resume will start to look less like a professional document and more like an art project. Make sure that any colour in your CV is tasteful and professional.
Font is an often-overlooked element of resumes and professional communication. Cursive or novelty fonts can be distracting and difficult to read. A simple font shows a tasteful trendiness – it demonstrates that the writer knows that ease of reading is key and has a good sense of style.
Unless you’re just a few years out of high school or looking for your first internship or part-time job, nothing you did before you turned 18 is going to look impressive. Don’t make it seem like you peaked in high school, even if you did. Leave your high school experiences off of your resume.
Especially in high-tech professions, it can be easy to fall into the trap of using too many complex acronyms or abbreviations that can cause a reader to be frustrated or misunderstand what you are trying to say. Don’t use acronyms unless you are absolutely certain that a potential employer will understand what you are trying to say.
The entire point of a resume is to concisely convey information about you that is relevant to a job or an employer. Including a biography exceeds that mandate, so there’s no reason to take up valuable space with personal details that have little bearing on the job that you’re applying for.
This point should be self-evident, but unfortunately, even in the age of word processors and automatic spell-check, employers still receive applications riddled with errors. If grammar isn’t your strong suit, have a trusted friend review your resume to make sure it does not have any mistakes that need correcting.
Sloppy mistakes like typos indicate that you’re not interested in taking the time to check for errors and represent yourself professionally, so why would an employer expect you would do a good job of representing them? Take the time to carefully review your resume for mistakes. You don’t want a tiny oversight to come between you and your dream job.
Proofreading is an easy way to make sure you show potential employers your very best work. Spelling mistakes indicate that you don’t review your work and are not attentive to detail. It is important that all spelling errors are corrected before your application is submitted.
It’s important to keep your resume strictly focused on information that pertains directly to the job you are seeking. Though in some countries information like nationality and marital status are expected, in America these details are considered inappropriate for a resume. A resume is strictly a professional document and personal information should not be included.
Though your employer will have to know your home address eventually, at the application stage your city of residence is sufficient. If you plan on sharing your resume widely, it is both safer and more professional to omit your home address.
Whether you include inaccuracies in your resume intentionally, to hide a mistake or inflate your appeal, or by accident, any potential employer who discovers the truth will immediately dismiss you as a candidate. Dishonesty won’t be tolerated.
Your work phone, your home phone, and your cell phone do not all merit equal emphasis on your resume. Only include the phone number where you are most likely to be reached. This will save space, make your resume clearer, and prevent confusion on the part of the caller.
Unless your hobbies are directly related to the position you are applying for, they shouldn’t be included in your resume. A resume should be reserved for professional achievements. Even if you are the best in the world at your extracurricular activity of choice, if it isn’t relevant to the job it isn’t worth noting in your application.
Format your resume properly! It takes time, but your resume should be visually appealing. Being intentional and thoughtful about spacing and length will make your resume easier to read and remember.
Bulleted lists are useful tools in moderation. You can elaborate on positions you have held, but make sure you limit yourself to a few lines per position at maximum. Any more, and you run the risk of losing your reader’s attention or causing them to focus too much on a single role. This may prevent them from getting a broader understanding of your experience.
If a prospective employer wants to know the name of your current boss, they’ll ask. Until they do, don’t share information that your current supervisor might prefer to keep private.
You don’t want your age to influence an employer’s assessment of your candidacy. Unless you are fresh out of college, avoid using details like graduation dates that will make your age known. The hiring manager’s evaluation of you should be as impartial as possible.
Verb tense can be easy to overlook, especially since incorrect verb tense agreement often won’t be caught by word processors’ proofreading systems. For all descriptions except your current job, use the past tense. For your current job, use the present tense. You will have to review old job descriptions every time you update your resume with a new position, so keep your eyes open!
Being concise is important on a resume. It keeps your reader engaged and it indicates a strong writing capability. Wading through a pile of resumes can be monotonous, so make sure you find a clear and compelling way to make your point without wasting words.
Using a phone number or work email from your current job is a dicey proposition. It certainly isn’t great for morale if your colleagues (or your boss!) discover that you intend to leave, and a prospective employer won’t be thrilled with the idea of hiring somebody who seems cavalier about their current position.
Technical or field-specific jargon is best avoided on a resume. For one thing, it’s possible that a hiring manager might not be familiar with department-specific lingo. Additionally, using highly specialized terminology doesn’t indicate a readiness to convey information simply, which is a valuable skill in the professional world.
It is inappropriate to include salary-related information on a resume, whether it’s what you currently earn or what you hope to earn at a new position. There’s a reason that salary offers and negotiation tend to be a separate part of the process: the first step is to convince a company that they want you, not to ask whether they can afford you.
There are pages and pages of resume and job application buzzwords that deserve to be retired from modern use. People used to use terms like “go-getter” and “team player” to make their resumes stand out, but now these clichés have the opposite effect. Using buzzwords like these will just make a hiring manager roll their eyes and move on. Show your value with concrete experience, not vapid cliché.
There’s no need to explain on your resume why you left a previous job. At best it is unnecessary and at worst it is bitter and contentious. Nobody wants to work with somebody who comes across as resentful or petty. Even if the reason you left a job wasn’t a negative one, there are more appropriate ways to share that information if a potential employer asks.
Again, if you’re applying for your first internship or for a university program, this might be useful information. But if you’ve been in the workforce for more than a few years, employers want to see your value as an employee, not as a student. High achievement is great, but it’s only valuable if you can perform professionally as well as academically.
There are vanishingly few professional scenarios in which it would be practical to include opinions or subjective evaluations on a resume. Not only do you want to be able to show your employer that you can be neutral and professional, but there’s also just no reason to risk a disagreement when there’s no cause for it.
Generally, an “interests” section is already a non-essential part of your resume. There’s no reason to add to the potential downside by offending a hiring manager. If you’re a hunter, for example, it may seem natural to want to express that, but it’s not worth risking coloring an employer’s opinion of you by including information that wasn’t really necessary in the first place.
It’s painful to witness in real life, and it’s just as bad to read on a resume. Seeing in a job description “John was responsible for inventory and warehouse operations…” won’t accomplish anything more than making the reader pause to scratch their head. If an employer finds it stylistically off-putting, which many people do, it’s even more likely that they won’t want to keep reading.
Nobody should need a thesaurus to get through a job application. Certainly, use your own voice and be expressive, but if there’s doubt in your mind that a potential employer would be familiar with a word, it is best to exclude it. Your experience should speak for itself without your having to show off your large vocabulary.
In a competitive job market, even a small mistake on your resume can be the difference between an interview and the reject pile. Don’t let one of these simple errors keep you from getting your dream job. Keep your eye out for these 44 mistakes and your resume will be ready for the job hunt!
Community Success Manager & CV Writing Expert
Ben is a writer, customer success manager and CV writing expert with over 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their best careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume summary and the power of coffee.
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