Top 10 Worst Resume Mistakes:
A Countdown of What NOT to Do

by Greg Faherty, CPRW
Writing your own resume isn't as easy as it sounds. Anyone can write a resume, but very few people can write a really good resume. What's the difference? One gets you interviews, the other doesn't. Here's a look at the Top 10 worst mistakes people make when writing their own resumes (based on a survey of local and national HR reps and recruiters).

10. Using an outdated format, or a cheap template.  If you used the resume template in your word processor, or you're still using the same resume format you used 10 years ago, odds are you're out of date, and readers will notice.

9. Including irrelevant information in the resume.  As much as you're proud of your involvement in the local Scouts, or your skills at tennis, the resume isn't the place for hobbies or interests—unless they're related somehow to your career path (for instance, an athletic coach who also coaches youth leagues can include that). The same idea applies to your job descriptions—there's no need to provide a three-paragraph description of the company you work for.

8. Overemphasizing the importance of your education. Unless you're a recent graduate, odds are employers are not too interested in the clubs you belonged to or your GPA. And, once you have 2-3 years of experience in your field, your education should be listed after employment, not before it.

7. Not understanding what the employer is looking for.  You can go on about your skills all day long, but if you're not emphasizing the same skills the employer is interested in, you're wasting your time. All too often people apply for a job and then list skills that are better suited for a different position.

6. Focusing on duties rather than accomplishments.  Sure, it's important to list your job functions. But there needs to be more to your job description. You also have to list accomplishments. What's the difference? A job function is what you do on a daily basis. An accomplishment is a success story.

5. Forgetting to use action verbs.  The person reading your resume has to read dozens of them every day. You need to capture their interest. Using action verbs when you describe things is the best way to do this. Start sentences with words like "Achieved," "Improved," "Increased," "Reduced," and "Grew."

4. Omitting the results and/or actions. Every achievement needs a WHAT and a HOW. For instance, "Increased sales 10% by introducing new marketing strategies" tells the reader WHAT you accomplished and HOW you accomplished it. Both parts are equally important.

3. Redundant language.  Often people start sentence after sentence with the same word. This makes it hard to read the document, and ultimately the reader is going to lose interest.

2. Using cheap gimmicks to get attention.  Your resume is a business document. Save the fancy fonts, colored papers, and silly sentences for something other than your job hunt.

And the Number One worst mistake? 

Not customizing the resume and the cover letter to match the job you're applying for. If your resume isn't geared towards exactly the type of job you're applying for, it's going to be obvious. Same for the cover letter. Generic documents aren't going to perform well for you.

Other Common Mistakes

  • Typos. Nothing ruins your chances more than spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes.
  • Talking too much. If your resume is longer than two pages, it's probably too long.
  • Font size. If the font is too large or too small, the resume will be hard to read.
  • Spacing. Leave space between sections or the resume will seem too cluttered.