5 Top Resume Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Top Resume Mistakes Applicants Can Easily Avoid, Yet Make Too Often

Your resume is often your very first impression with a hiring manager or search consultant. While advancements in technology have had a massive impact on staffing tools and processes, the one piece that has remained relatively unchanged is the resume. 

However, when building a resume, the number one mistake applicants make is centered around content. Restating a job description, trying to include too much information, or only stating the action without providing the result achieved are all top resume mistakes we see too often. To avoid such pitfalls, take a look at five common resume mistakes below, our tips to help you avoid them, and the elements that every strong resume should include.

5 Common Resume Mistakes

1. Sharing actions instead of results.

Too many people make the critical mistake of listing the content of their position rather than the impact they delivered. Each bullet must sell you or it should not be included. Otherwise, your experience, no matter how profound, may get lost in translation.  

How to avoid this resume mistake

To make your bullet points more effective, try the C.A.R. method:

  • Challenge
  • Action
  • Result

Explain the challenge you faced, the action you took, and the results of your action. The outcome will provide the reader with an understanding of your capabilities and impact. Numerical statistics provide proof of concept, and show the hiring manager that you have had success in delivering the results they desire. 

2. Writing a novel rather than a short story. 

In general, your resume should not be longer than two pages with a primary focus on the last 10 years. While there can be exceptions to this rule for highly technical positions, your primary goal should be to share what is most impactful and relevant while leaving out anything that is a distraction or considered filler. 

How to avoid this resume mistake

Focus your content on your last 10 years of experience and include four to six detailed bullets for your most current role, and the top three bullets for each of the previous roles. Depending on the length of your career, consider having a section called “Early Career” where you list the company and title but no bullets. Lastly, for extensive training or publications, consider stating that those are “available on request” and create a separate document.

3. Being too general instead of focusing on the bullseye. 

A seasoned hiring manager will be able to spot a generalized resume from a mile away. Although not every resume you send has to be customized, ensuring your resume is targeted to the goals of the position is crucial. Otherwise, they may disregard your resume entirely.

How to avoid this resume mistake

You need to be focused on presenting who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you can bring to your next employer. Whether you are sending your resume for a specific role or as an introduction, it should be targeted to the goal you are trying to achieve. 

If you are going to have various versions so that you can go for Marketing or Sales or Business Development positions, then you need make sure that your bullets and supporting commentary support that desired role.

4. Getting “creative” with fonts, colors, and images. 

Color, fancy fonts, and pictures are just distractions that do nothing to enhance the reader’s enjoyment or comprehension of your resume. Also, when you are focused and concise, there is no need to drop to an eight point font to get to two pages. 

How to avoid this resume mistake

The eye should be able to track the flow easily and there should be clear delineation between Overview, Experience, Education and your other resume headers. Use bullet points to quickly provide necessary information, and maintain even formatting throughout. Remember, you want your experience to be memorable — not the font size, color, photos, or worse yet, poor grammar, spelling, or punctuation. 

A piece of advice: Never include a headshot on your resume unless specifically requested. This is not common practice, and could make you seem egotistical to those reviewing your resume.

5. Failing to update your resume annually. 

Providing outdated or irrelevant information on your resume is a surefire way to get overlooked. Also, be careful not to enhance your previous experience to fit a job or try too hard to condense decades of experience into a few bullet points. Finally, when updating your resume, keep in mind that if it isn’t relevant to the job, it doesn’t belong on your resume.  

How to avoid this resume mistake

Keep your resume current, updating it at least annually with your most recent accomplishments. When you add a bullet or other piece of critical information, look to eliminate other bullets or simplify in other areas. Include your resume in your meeting with mentors and other advisors as well as with your developmental planning efforts to make sure you are gaining the experiences and exposure necessary to reach your career goals.

A piece of advice: Whenever you make a change to your resume, also take the time to update your information across all professional and social networking sites.

Choosing a Resume Format

Over the years, we have seen applicants attempt to adapt their resume to different formats; some recent alternatives including sell sheets or marketing profiles. While these have value in highlighting accomplishments/impact, they lack context of the position held as well as dates of employment, usually resulting in more questions than answers.  

Avoid doing anything that distracts from the content of the resume, causes the content to be more difficult to read, or sends the wrong message to the hiring manager or recruiter. Time and time again, we have found that hiring managers prefer a chronological resume that provides more context around past and present experiences. Furthermore, a chronological resume is a proven format that is widely accepted and can easily be entered and searched with today’s applicant tracking systems.

Qualities of a Successful Resume

Having covered what not to do on a resume, our tips for avoiding these top resume mistakes, and the ideal resume format, it is critical we also show you what qualities a hiring manager or search consultant will be looking for when evaluating your resume. 

In our blog, Success Indicators: Candidate Qualities That Equate To A Successful Executive Hire, we discuss 10 key elements that hiring managers should look for when evaluating a potential candidate. These are:

  1. Vision. A candidate who understands and buys into the future of the company.
  2. Empowerment. A candidate who is prepared and capable of empowering others in the company, especially the employees they oversee. 
  3. Open-mindedness. An individual who is open to new ideas and not afraid to try or embrace new tactics.
  4. Courage. Someone who is willing to take risks, without previous proof of success, to achieve their goal.
  5. Integrity. A candidate with strong personal values and track record of ethical behavior.
  6. Humility. A leader who can see the value in others and be able to admit when they are wrong.
  7. Resilience. An individual who can quickly adapt to high-pressure, changing environments in the workplace.
  8. Emotional intelligence. A leader who inspires their peers, builds relationships with team members, and focuses on collaboration. 
  9. Passion. A candidate who is enthusiastic about their work and has a vested interest in your opportunity and company.
  10. Ownership. Someone who is willing to own up to past mistakes, what caused them, how they corrected them, what they learned from them, and how they prevent these mistakes from being repeated. 

So, knowing these are the characteristics that most hiring managers should be looking for, how can you effectively showcase them within your resume? While not every element can be displayed succinctly on a resume — nor should it — there are a few that should jump out from your bullet points. 

Promote experiences that showcase leadership, your impact on the company’s bottom-line, and increased scope/responsibility during your tenure. Not only will this provide the hiring manager or search consultant with the key information they are looking for, but also validate a majority of the above characteristics, thereby making you a candidate they want to interview.

Related: Dig Deeper With Experiential Interviews

Make Sure Your Resume is in the Right Hands

Your resume is one of the best ways to present yourself to a hiring manager or search consultant when you cannot be there in person. Being aware of these common resume mistakes, following the recommendations listed above, and investing the effort and time into making sure your message and format hit the mark will definitely differentiate you from the pack.

However, all of this will go to waste if your resume does not land in the right hands. At Kinsley Sarn, we continually match exceptional candidates with our current engagements. Whether you are currently employed, or in between opportunities, please consider adding your information to our database so that we can make you aware of existing or future opportunities.   

If you are interested in submitting your resume, simply click the button below to be redirected to our contact page where you will complete a brief form with your resume.

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