Top 7 resume mistakes to avoid

Learn the right length, the right content, and the wrong mistakes commonly made on resumes.


Sitting at a desk with a laptop, an individual looks closely at a piece of paper in their hand

There are several common mistakes that can send your resume straight to the rejection pile. It's not exactly fair. These mistakes are easy to overlook and damage your reputation with the employer. Never fear, Adecco to the rescue to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes.

1. Your resume is more than one page.

It takes some formatting acrobatics but try to keep it to one page. If you’re still starting out in your career, there’s no reason your resume should be longer than one page. Even with 15 years of work experience, you should be selecting experiences that are the most relevant to the job that you are applying to.

The one-page rule might seem arbitrary, but it actually exists for a good reason. A one-page document with normal margins forces you to be succinct and only includes the most relevant information. Employers often review hundreds of resumes. They need to be able to scan each one quickly, locate the most important information and decide (within seconds) whether to keep it or trash it.

But can I adjust the margins on my resume?

Whatever you do, don’t cheat the rule by using microscopic font and miniscule margins! Any hiring manager will realize that you’re trying to sneak more text onto the page, and worse, you’ll make it more difficult for them to read your resume, making it more likely to end up in the trash can.

So, what are some other formatting tricks to make your resume easy to read?

  • Keep your margins at least one inch on all sides.
  • Keep font size no smaller than 11 points.
  • Be consistent with punctuation and how you write the dates of each job.
  • Be concise: List your achievements and responsibilities in bullet-point format.
  • Be specific: use concrete examples of how you achieved measurable success in each role, and not simply a laundry list of your day-to-day duties.

2. You didn’t proofread your resume and cover letter.

A single typo or spelling error is sometimes all it takes to send your resume to the trash pile. Even though mistakes happen all the time in the real world, the presence of one on your resume is a clear sign that you either a) didn’t care enough to proofread, or b) did proofread, but failed to catch your mistakes. Either way, it’s not going to look good to an employer.

The best way to avoid errors in spelling and grammar is to have not one, but several people read over your resume for you. Ask people whom you know have a strong grasp of the English language and will peruse your resume with careful attentiveness.

You want to also check for consistency in your use of present and past tense. The only time you should use present tense is when describing the responsibilities of your current job.

3. You included subjective traits.

Does your resume contain any of the following?

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Team player
  • Hard worker
  • Results-driven
  • Detail-oriented

If so, get rid of it right away! These cliché buzzwords are overused on resumes, not to mention, they’re completely subjective! Sure, you may be a team player with excellent communication skills who works hard, but so is everyone else, according to their resume. You need to provide concrete evidence (in the form of accomplishments at your current or previous job) that proves these skills.

So many people have wildly inaccurate assessments of themselves and the quality of their work, and for that reason employers have learned to completely ignore subjective claims and jargon on resumes. What they’re really looking for are facts, hard numbers, and evidence of the traits you claim to possess.

To figure out what to put on your resume instead, ask yourself, what have you achieved that demonstrates your leadership skills, work ethic, or whatever else it is you want to convey to employers.

4. You didn’t tailor your resume for each specific job you applied to.

When you’re applying for multiple jobs, it may seem like a daunting task to tailor your resume for each job. But it’s really not that much work, and it will pay off in the end. Sending out a generic resume will make it look like you’re just applying blindly for every job you’re remotely qualified for, and that’s a sure-fire way to kill your chances of being hired!

To tailor your resume for the job you’re applying for, start by really reading and understanding the job description. Which requirements stand out the most? Is anything mentioned repeatedly? Does anything seem unusual about the job? What duties are directly related to your experience and skills?

Once you have a better understanding of the job and what the employer is looking for, re-organize your resume so that the most relevant experience is at the top. Whether it’s your first job out of college or a certification you’ve earned, make sure you list it first. There’s no rule that says your resume must be in chronological order. You want the hiring manager to notice your relevant experience right way when they pick up your resume.

Next, take a look at the bullet points for each of your prior jobs. How can they be revamped to better align with the requirements of the job? For examples of ways to spin your bullets to emphasize certain soft skills, check out our post

5. You lied, exaggerated, or otherwise misrepresented your work or accomplishments.

It’s no secret that many people pad their resumes in order to seem more qualified for a job than they really are. It might seem like something you can get away with, but the truth is likely to come out in the interview process. Even if you bluff your way through the interview, there’s a really good chance the employer will contact your references to verify what you put on your resume and what you told them in the interview.

Bottom line? Don’t pad your resume!

There’s a fine line between “spinning” something a certain way and completely fabricating achievements. If you get caught doing the latter, you might get blacklisted from the company – and tarnish your reputation to your references as well.  

Your resume is the first impression that an employer will have of you, and it's often the deciding factor in whether you get called to interview or rejected on the spot. That’s why it’s crucial that you prevent yourself from making any of these common errors on your resume! You can’t control the employer’s decision to hire you, but you can control your resume and how it portrays you as a strong candidate.

6. You forgot to include a resume objective/summary.

Think of a resume objective/summary as a super condensed version of a cover letter. It’s a few sentences at the top of your resume explaining why you want a specific job, why you’re qualified for it, and how you’ll help the company.

Although it’s only a few sentences, it’s still another opportunity to display your confidence, communication ability and writing skills – all traits that hiring managers look for in candidates applying for virtually any position. The objective/summary is also another way to customize your resume for a specific job and employer; you can even think of it as a way to compliment your potential employer.

Here’s an example of a resume objective:

20 years of experience managing two offices highlighted by cutting supply costs, improving efficiencies, and reorganizing administrative processes. Looking to bring my communication, organizational, and people skills – and make a measurable difference for your office and my career – to an admired, progressive company like Marketing Agency ABC.

And here are more tips for writing your best resume objective.

7. You listed irrelevant hobbies/interests.

Maybe you collect stuffed animals, play classic video games, or restore old cars. Good for you; we all need passions other than work. That’s a major part of work-life balance. But do your hobbies say anything about how you can excel in a specific job? Is there any obvious connection? If not, don’t list them; it’s just resume clutter that will serve to annoy and/or confuse.

There are exceptions though. If you think it would be easy for any interviewer or hiring manager to connect a hobby of yours to the job you’re applying for, it’s OK to include on your resume. For instance, maybe you’re applying for a quality control position at an auto parts manufacturer. If you actually do restore old cars – and perhaps have showed them, sold them for profit, etc., (something that you can objectively measure) – that’s an obvious selling point for the aforementioned position.

So now you know what to avoid on your resume. Are you ready to write that cover letter? We can help you with that as well. Just read the next article in the Job Seeker series.

Ready to start applying? Browse our job openings now!

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