5 Common Resume Mistakes You Should Avoid

The economy has left many people looking for work and recruiters can be inundated when it screening applicants so they’re using any reason to throw yours out. I even read that having an hotmail or yahoo email address can result in your resume being ignored.

Use these tips so you don’t kill your chances to make it through the initial screening because of resume no-nos.

Spelling and Grammar

Submitting a resume with even one spelling error, whether it was a typo or just lack of knowledge, indicates you don’t care. I can tell you from personal experience not to trust spell check programs. The word might be spelled right, but it wasn’t the word you meant.

Have multiple people with excellent language skills review your resume. If this isn’t an option, then put it aside and come back to it later with a fresh eye.

Use of Keywords

Many companies now use software to screen online applications and resumes. Your resume will never see a human eye unless it scores well enough in the analysis. Study the job posting for priority words to use in your resume. This shows you understand the requirements of the job and potentially have the expertise to fill it.

Be sure to use common industry abbreviations or acronyms which may be keywords. Buzzwords can be annoying but the software may be looking for them.

Creative License

A boring resume is not going to be read. Use your creativity to make the resume noticeable. Match the style to the position and company. If you trying to get hired as a graphic artist, an non-traditional resume will be better-received than it would a a conservative accounting firm.

On the other hand, don’t go overboard. If viewing your resume requires a QR scanner, it’s probably not going to be seen.


Busy hiring managers don’t have time to read a lot of words that run together in long paragraphs. Instead, create a bulleted resume with enough white space. Many people make the font so small in an effort to get more one one page.

Ignore the “rule” about fitting the entire resume on one page; it’s not as important as providing relevant information in a readable format.

Resume Content

It’s important to include enough information to pique the employer’s interest but not too much. Put the most important information at the top. Include accomplishments instead of responsibilities for previous roles.

Content you should leave out includes hobbies (who really wants to know that you ski?), salary requirements, references or a photo. Don’t let you bad hair day eliminate you!

The first step to a new job is getting that interview. Let your resume be an asset instead of a detriment. What resume mistakes have you encountered?

Some rights reserved by Robert S. Donovan

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  • No Debt MBA Jul 22, 2011, 8:19 am

    My worst job application mistake was submitting a cover letter with the wrong company’s name in it. I applied for jobs at two similar companies and reused the same materials but forgot to change the company name in the second submission. So they got a cover letter addressed to their competitor. Whoops. Needless to say I never got contacted. That was back in college. Needless to say I check, check again, and triple check for any mistakes and have someone else look at it before I send stuff out now.

    • Kay Lynn Jul 24, 2011, 2:34 am

      Wow, too bad you had to learn that lesson the hard way. At least it was early in your career!

  • Harri @ TotallyMoney Jul 22, 2011, 10:19 am

    What really amazes me are people who check their resume rigorously but seem to forget about the covering letter. Having recruited people in the past I can tell you an employer will throw your resume straight in the trash if the covering letter isn’t targeted enough or otherwise shows fundamental flaws. Lack of attention to detail is never good in any profession and you have to show that you’re passionate.

    Great advice about the keywords! Thanks for sharing.

    • Kay Lynn Jul 24, 2011, 2:36 am

      Harri, I could have easily included 5 mistakes about cover letters! So many people send resumes electronically they overlook the first impression which is the email (cover letter) content.

  • Amanda L Grossman Jul 22, 2011, 4:20 pm

    I like your tip on the keywords. People want to hire someone who most closely fits the job description, so throwing back their own words at them is probably the way to go.

    • Kay Lynn Jul 24, 2011, 2:37 am

      I don’t blame companies for using software to do the screening, but you got to play the game then to beat the software.

  • krantcents Jul 22, 2011, 4:52 pm

    As a former executive the list is long! If you want to be noticed, the reader will only spend 5-15 seconds looking at your resume, you should include accomplishments. R15 years ago, I applied for an executive position (CFO) where there were 4,000 respondents. I was one of 15 that got the interview. It was my accomplishments on the resume that were noticed.

    • Kay Lynn Jul 24, 2011, 2:52 am

      Krantcents, you could probably teach a class on resumes! Thanks for pointing out how important the accomplishments are on the resume.

  • Spruce Up Your Finances Jul 22, 2011, 10:56 pm

    Spelling and grammar are probably one of the most overlook. The spelling could be right but the use of word itself is wrong (such as principal/principle).
    With a stack of resumes to go through, interviewers usually just glance the resume for around 20 seconds and will move on to the next so great readability is the key (use of bullet points, bold, italics, etc)

    • Kay Lynn Jul 24, 2011, 2:53 am

      Yeah, spell-check overlooks the spelling when it’s actually the wrong version of the word as your example. Unfortunately, so many people rely on it alone.

  • Car Negotiation Coach Jul 24, 2011, 9:01 pm

    Kay Lynn, I get a lot of resumes come my way and I have to agree your first item is by far the worst. I absolutely hate seeing spelling and grammatical errors. The resume should be the one thing that is quadruple checked (or more)….and if they can’t do that, they simply won’t avoid errors elswehere.

    • Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer Jul 27, 2011, 10:16 pm

      Coach, I agree they’re pretty bad. Does it seem like misspellings are becoming more common everywhere or is it just me?

  • Paula @ AffordAnything.org Jul 25, 2011, 12:03 pm

    I once reviewed a resume in which — I’m not kidding — the applicant FORGOT TO INCLUDE HIS NAME. He obviously didn’t get the job, whoever he was.

  • Bruce Aug 2, 2011, 12:52 am

    As a former employer – I disagree with 1 point. I absolutely want to see references on the resume. You want to make it as easy as possible for potential employers to check you out. If I am an HR person and I have gone thru 40 resumes and decided on 4 or 5 I want to call in for an interview, what is my next step? To check references – but if it says “references available upon request”, I may never call to get them and just pass over your resume.