You’ve spent hours writing your most professional resume and double-checked that there are no grammatical errors or typos. You even remembered to spell-check it, ensuring zero spelling mistakes. You’re feeling extra proud because you had so many accomplishments to list that you’ve come up with a two-page resume that includes plenty of action verbs. This is all good stuff, right? Some of it is.
According to experts in the hiring industry, you’d be surprised how many job applicants do something as simple as forgetting to spell-check their resume, listing irrelevant work experience, or extending their resume to two pages (a major mistake).
If you are not working somewhere you love, how you are applying for jobs and the resume you are using could be to blame. We asked hiring professionals what mistakes they frequently see on resumes and how to fix them. Before you send out another resume, check that it does not have these 17 common mistakes seen across various industries by a wide range of employers, HR professionals and hiring managers.
1. Forgetting to list employment dates by month and year
“When headhunters or gatekeepers see dates on your resume that don’t include months, they automatically assume something’s wrong. If they suspect you’re hiding a gap in employment, they’ll assume the worst, and they’ll view you as dishonest for attempting to deceive them. If they’re busy, they’ll trash the resume instead of wondering what the gaps are about.” – Giacomo Giammatteo, owner and author at Inferno Publishing Company
“Use a chronological format with an emphasis on results over the past three to seven years. Many candidates, especially those with lots of experience, are being encouraged to keep their resumes at a page or less. The fact is, we need context, so if a resume [ends up being two or three pages], that is OK. Having said that, most of the details need to be in the recent timeframe so that your audience gets clarity on your context, responsibilities and accomplishments.” – John Light, partner at Evolving Talent Group
2. Letting inconsistencies slip through
“Every once in a while, someone will forget to recheck their dates, job titles or job duties. For me, this is worse than typos. These days, most HR professionals search on LinkedIn and across social media accounts to vet out potential employees. If your start dates, titles or duties do not line up, it can raise red flags to employers. It leaves us thinking, ‘Are they lying on their resume or on LinkedIn? Or both?’ So, it immediately disqualifies a candidate. I always encourage people to double-check their resume. An inconsistency could be an honest mistake that costs you the job.” – Adele Alligood, HR consultant and engagement manager for EndThrive
3. Failing to identify and delete irrelevant work experience
“One resume mistake many people make is that they feel obligated to include every job, including part-time work, that they’ve had since college. For example, including that you were a ‘Subway sandwich artist’ for three months is superfluous if you’re applying for a technology job – unless, of course, the company’s technology improves the sandwich-making process. Including information like this shows laziness and a general lack of understanding.” – Joshua Goldstein, co-founder of Underdog.io
“If you list every job you’ve had since high school, you’re diluting your most relevant experience. Were you a swimming instructor seven years ago? That’s nice, but what does that have to do with this position? I get the desire to show off how industrious and versatile you are, but it actually distracts hiring managers from zeroing in on what matters. As hard as it is, cut the irrelevant experiences.” – Maryna Shkvorets, communication consultant and coach
4. Bolding the wrong information
Do not bold the company you worked for; bold your position with the company. This is what the recruiter or hiring manager is looking for. One exception – if the company is highly recognizable (Facebook, Google, etc.).” – Bill Benoist, leadership and career coach
5. Not being specific with data, statistics and examples
“If you’re going to boast about increasing sales or improving process efficiency, support these claims with real statistics and an explanation of how you accomplished these feats. When I read ‘improved department sales revenue’ on a resume, I’m not convinced.” – Tyson Spring, co-founder and vice president of business development at Élever Professional
6. Adding too much fluff to your job descriptions
“One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in resumes floating around today is people amplifying their qualifications with fancy words. They are not lying on their resume; they are just turning a task they once completed into years of experience. Once you sit down with them and utilize them in something practical, you quickly realize their resume was a lot of hot air and little practicality.” – Victoria Ley, founder of Life Levels INC
7. Stuffing your resume with cliches
“Words such as ‘strong,’ ‘effective’ and ‘motivated’ are cliche business buzzwords that communicate very little about a candidate’s capabilities. Candidates who use these types of words stand out for being mediocre, and I quickly skip over candidates who use these words. Candidates who do not use repetitive words and have consulted a thesaurus to vary their word choice on a resume grab my attention. I like seeing candidates who have a high vocabulary and know how to properly employ their thoughts with unique distinction.” – Sandra Powers, hiring manager at Lawyer Reviews
8. Listing an objective
“A lot of people still include an objective on the resume, but having an objective can hurt more than it helps. You want to show the employer what you can do to help the company, not what you’re looking for from an employer. To fix this, you can either take out your objective completely or replace it with a brief summary of your skills and abilities that can be an asset to the company.” – Sam Kim, founder of Define the Resume
9. Including obvious skills
“Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are no longer skills to call out on your resume. These days, employers assume that all good applicants have a working knowledge of the Office suite. Instead, use that space to highlight experience with more advanced technical tools in your sector – e.g., SQL, Google Analytics, Salesforce, Mixpanel and Adobe Creative Suite. These skills are very compelling to employers and will help you stand out from other contenders.” – Maisie Devine, co-founder and CEO of Poacht
10. Expecting the employer to read your mind
“This is a byproduct of the generally bad job search approach founded in keeping your options open and therefore applying for practically anything and everything under the sun. For example, your professional background and experience is in marketing, but after months of searching for a marketing job, you decide to expand by considering other objectives. … All the employer does is look at the resume for a few seconds and ask herself, ‘Why is this person applying for this job?'” – Jewel Bracy DeMaio, resume writer and job search coach with Perfect10Resumes.com
11. Creating a resume that’s not reader-friendly
“Write a resume that has a clean, neat and simple-to-read layout. Many times, people try to invent and do something new, but forget that employers read hundreds and thousands of resumes and want to quickly find what they are looking for.” – Hugo Pereira, product and digital strategist at Talentsquare
12. Failing to add relevant keywords
“The mistake I see most job applicants make on their resume is not including any keywords from the job description they are applying to. If I have no way of matching their skills to the skills in the job description, I cannot move that person forward in the process.” – Stephanie Lindquist, co-founder of The Love Your Job Project
13. Listing education information at the top of the page
“When moving beyond the entry- and intern-level position, schooling, education and GPA no longer need to be listed at the top – your experience should speak for itself.” – Hannah Landau, director of media at Post+Beam
14. Not choosing verbs carefully
“All too often, applicants bury the lead when it comes to describing their past experiences and accomplishments. A great resume paints a picture of an active, inspired and engaged professional. A verb like ‘helped’ or ‘assisted’ does neither. Skip the setup and get right into the actual work you carried out for your past employers.” – Andrew Jones, strategic account consultant at Source One
15. Failing to use enough white space
“The notion of white space is often overlooked as we try to cram all of our accomplishments onto two pages. You may even be guilty of playing with the margins and the fonts to fit everything in. But this only makes it overwhelming for the reader. Bear in mind that your resume will be skimmed over in just a few seconds before the hiring manager decides if they want to give it closer attention. Make it inviting and readable. Think less is more.” – Maryna Shkvorets, communication consultant and coach
16. Copying and pasting job descriptions
“Do not copy and paste the job description that you were hired under (in the past) into your resume. Recruiters do not want to read what they already wrote. They want to read how you accomplished those tasks and responsibilities in your current and past jobs. Recruiters are looking for skill sets, experience related to those skills in achieving a goal for current/past employers, what you personally did to help those goals get reached, if you managed or supervised others who performed your career-related tasks (oversight), if you trained anyone in your job (cross-training), if you brought in revenue or reduced overhead costs, and if you handled or managed a budget (of how much money?).” – Dawn D. Boyer, CEO of D. Boyer Consulting
17. Including personal hobbies
“Unless your personal interests relate to the job, then it’s best to leave them out. We don’t necessarily need to know that you like watching The Office (even though I do too). Those details can wait. We’ll get to know you better if we hire you.” – Adele Alligood, HR consultant and engagement manager for EndThrive
For further reading on this topic, check out our top resume words and phrases to avoid.
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.