Have you been applying to several jobs only to receive automated denials? You may have realized that the job search process is nothing like it was 10 years ago (or even 2 years ago).
Here are the top 12 resume writing mistakes I have seen lately. If you have fallen victim to 1 (or all) of these mistakes, then it may be time to update your resume and polish up your professional appearance!
#1 – You use weak verbs.
You have a limited amount of real estate on your resume and less than a minute to make a good impression. By using powerful, dynamic verbs, you can describe your experience very specifically and in fewer words.
#2 – You mix verb tenses.
This is an ongoing argument among professional resume writers, but as a general rule, you should not mix verb tenses in a sentence or a section.
There are two ways this shows up:
1. The current employment position is ongoing so the entry paragraph and some of the bullets are written in present tense. But since there are accomplishments which are past tense, there are a mix of both past and present tense bullets. Just write the entire job in past tense. People will get that it is ongoing responsibility since the date says ‘to present’.
2. An accomplishment-focused bullet is written in past tense, but the second half lists outcomes or steps in an action-focused present form. For example:
Before: Launched new member services division that increased productivity 22% by developing new marketing pipeline strategies, launching member retention initiatives, and designing an aggressive member outreach campaign.
Launched new member services division that increased productivity by 22%; developed new marketing pipeline strategies, launched member retention initiatives, and designed an aggressive member outreach campaign.
Developed new marketing pipeline strategies, launched member retention initiatives, and designed an aggressive member outreach campaign as part of new member services division launch, which resulted in a 22% increase in productivity.
There are a few other ways to take this, but consistency is key. While not every employer will read this deeply, it’s best to just go for consistency. It’s typically those know just enough about punctuation, verb tense, and grammar to be dangerous who are most likely to ‘see’ and misunderstand so aim for consistent verb tense.
#3 – You include unnecessary articles.
I have to say how very surprised I am to see the amount of unnecessary use of articles such as ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘I’.
Not only are these words assumed but these also take up critical space that could be used for power-packed content.
Be sure to rewrite and leave out these words except where the sentence would make no sense without it.
#4 – You don’t write from first person.
This technique typically is only apparent in the summary when you are ready and looking for the voice. It should be perceived “I am…”
“I am a dynamic executive…” becomes “Dynamic executive….”
“I am recognized as…” becomes “Recognized as…”
That’s what you want.
What you don’t want is to sound like you are talking about someone else other than yourself. This happens when you go third person and write things like:
“Manages multi-million dollar accounts…”
This is “He manages” and not “I manage”.
When you shift into third person in your summary, you give the sense the resume is written for the individual and not by the individual.
#5 – Your punctuation is inconsistent.
I don’t care if you use serial commas or you don’t.
I don’t care if you use m dashes, n dashes, regular dashes, or the word ‘to’ when writing out dates.
I don’t care if you leave periods off of a short list of bullets.
But what I do ravenously care about is whether you do these things with consistency in the document or not!
Please stick to one style and maintain it throughout!
#6 – You don’t own your white space.
This pops up in a number of ways in resumes:
Your resume nicely takes advantage of white space from margin to margin until you get down to the last few sections of education, awards, and etc. These are all left-justified and leave a huge block of white space on the right half of the page.
Consider centering these or doing a 2-column list for better page aesthetics.
You have micro margins of .5” all the way around and have crammed content in.
It’s time to rewrite tighter, ruthlessly edit, and rethink content to avoid needing such small margins and thus so much on the page.
#7 – Your font choices aren’t good or are way too small.
Not everyone has perfect vision or wants to have to squint to read your resume. They will move on! Watch out for using Narrow fonts, pale fonts, and tiny font sizes.
What’s interesting here is that I can tweak resumes to look better and read better when I increased the font size, so it IS possible!
#8 – Your choice of justification ruins readability or layout.
Justification can be a friend or a foe!
If you have full justification on and it creates rivers of space running down the page in your text, you either need to rewrite your content to remove those spaces or switch to left justification.
Don’t make your resumes unattractive or harder to read just so you wouldn’t have a ragged edge.
#9 – Your content isn’t friendly for a quick review.
The biggest deal-breaker in my resume reviews is long lists or paragraphs of content.
Resumes are marketing tools and visual presentation is a BIG part of that.
If you have 5, 6, 8, or 10 bullets one after another without titles, sectioning, space between them, bolding, or any other stand-out elements, then it’s just heavy, overwhelming text that no one will read.
You need to always be thinking DRAW THE EYE when you write resumes!
#10 – You haven’t taken advantage of any design opportunities.
I have seen a few great resume designs. What these resumes have in common is that the documents have visual elements to them that make them stylized and attractive.
That could be as simple as use of larger font or different font for headers or use of lines or bolding to set content apart. It could be about using line weight to give you space between bullets and sections to keep you on the page but insert some breathing room.
If your resume is mostly one font size from top to bottom with nothing done to break up text and make anything stand out, besides a list of bullets, it’s time to begin giving your documents some eye-catching style!
#11 – Your summaries don’t grab the reader.
I read so many resumes where there were impressive metric-based accomplishments in the job descriptions but the summary was blah.
The summary is frequently the first thing a potential employer scans. It sets the stage for the candidate and what is to come. It decides whether a reviewer wants to go any further.
If your summaries aren’t big on unique selling propositions and bottom-line value, you may lose your reader.
Write your summary last and make sure it goes beyond saying why the candidate is qualified to how the candidate stands out and goes above and beyond everyone else who applied and are also qualified.
#12 – You left that word hanging.
Please do not leave one word hanging on a line by itself.
This is resume 101 and I am sad every time I see it.
Take the time to ruthlessly rewrite a sentence or bullet that drops a single word onto a line.
That one word can otherwise mar a beautiful presentation and there is no excuse for it ever.