18 Resume Mistakes to Avoid (made by 99% of applicants)

18 Resume Mistakes to Avoid (made by 99% of applicants)

Understanding what you shouldn't do in your resume and knowing what constitutes a disqualifying mistake can help you avoid making them.

Here's a list of the 18 biggest and most common resume mistakes you need to avoid, since they can cost you jobs!

1. Focusing on responsibilities rather than results

This is undoubtedly the worst and most common mistake!

Most candidates simply list their duties and the tasks they've accomplished, but don't mention the results they've achieved. Yet this is what recruiters are most interested in! And what can convince them of your skills and strengthes.

For example:

- Search for new partnerships
- Responsible for organizing events
- Responsible for supplier management

Recruiters would rather see this:

- Acquisition of 12 partners (annual sales generated: €45,000)
Organization of a social economy recruitment fair (150 participants, 35 companies and associations, sales: €85,000)
- Renegotiation of 25 supplier contracts (€15,000 gain on orders)

2. One resume for all jobs

Of course, it's tempting to send the same resume to every company, whatever the job. But that's not the best strategy!

What interests one recruiter may be of less interest to another. Recruiters want to know whether your experience and skills are what they're looking for, and whether your profile is suited to the company's culture (see paragraph 11 below).

If you're applying for different jobs or in different sectors, adapt your resume to each type of position. You don't need to change everything though. You simply need to emphasize a particular achievement or skill.

3. The absence of action verbs

Avoid words and expressions such as "responsible for" or "in charge of", which don't add much and make your sentences unnecessarily long.

Instead, use action verbs like "Trained and monitored a team of 6 salespeople" (look again at the example in the first paragraph).

Action verbs are more powerful than action nouns. "Acquired 12 new partners" is stronger than "Acquisition of 12 new partners".

4. A resume without numbers

Numbers add credibility and appear more objective than a simple description of results. They're convincing, so don't deprive yourself of them!

Do you prefer the version with or without numbers?

  • A. Wine association: organization of tastings
  • B. Wine association: organization of 38 tastings in 2 years (sales generated: €18,500)

5. A resume that lacks precision

Business Developer, Account Manager or even Social Media Hero can cover just about anything and everything...

But recruiters want to know exactly what your role was. Be specific and give concrete examples of your achievements and successes.

For example:

  • A. Head of organization in the marketing department
  • B. Recruited, trained and supervised 2 junior project managers and 6 sales representatives

These two descriptions may correspond to the same reality, but version B is clearly more convincing and, above all, more likely to attract the recruiter's attention.

6. Neglected sections

In the language skill section, many applicants write that they are "fluent in Spanish". This is too approximate a description of your language skills. However, it's easy to be more precise and to emphasize your level of English, Spanish or any other foreign language (see our tips on how to list your language skills on your resume).

In the hobbies section, most candidates simply write: "soccer, cinema, travel". A little precision costs nothing and can easily help you score extra points (➜ 10 Examples of Interests & Hobbies to put on your Resume).

A graphic designer absolutely must include a link to his portfolio in his CV, whether it's to his personal website or his Behance profile. Similarly, a programmer should add a link to his GitHub profile.

If it's relevant to the job, and you're active on a particular social network such as Twitter, Instagram or similar, then you can include it in your resume. This will give you bonus points.

On the other hand, if you only have 15 followers on Instagram, it's best not to put your profile on your resume, as this is likely to send out a negative signal (that you've failed to promote your Instagram account).

8. Education before work experience

This is probably the most common mistake young professionals make in their resume (and one that recruiters hate!)

Candidates with little professional experience, such as students or recent graduates, often make the mistake of putting their academic background or training at the very top of their CV.

What interests a company first and foremost is your professional experience, or what could be related to it (internships, volunteer work or extracurricular activities that are close to a professional activity). The recruiter wants to know if you'll be up and running from day one.

NB: If you really don't have any professional experience, or if your studies are an argument with the recruiter (for example, if you're studying at Harvard or Stanford), then you can list your studies before your professional experience.

9. A lack of visual hierarchy

Here's a classic mistake: an overloaded resume with no information that stands out, or with the wrong information highlighted. The aim is to draw the recruiter's attention to the essentials: your duties, your achievements, your skills.

Don't put the names of companies you've worked for in bold if they're not widely known. On the other hand, make them stand out if you feel they are the decisive factor in your resume, for example, if you have worked for major fashion brands and are applying for a job in fashion.

One of the biggest mistakes is to include the companies' logos you worked for in your resume. It never looks good and, for sure, doesn't improve your resume's visual hierarchy.

10. A resume that is hard to read (and not easy to scan)

A resume with large blocks of text is not very pleasant to read.

Spacing out paragraphs and using lists with bullet points will make your resume easier to read and stand out.

11. A resume style that doesn't match the company's style

Your resume should reflect your profile and the company you're applying to.

A classic resume with a Garamond-type font and sober colors is preferable if you're applying to a government agency or notary's office.

On the other hand, a resume with a modern font and brighter colors would be ideal for an application to a startup or for a communications position in an NGO.

12. A resume without any title nor any summary

This is probably the worst resume mistake.

A resume without a title is like a book without a title. And the sames applies to the summary, which is like the teaser of your resume!

To add a title to your resume, describe your current position with your years of experience and add a few words about your main skills.

For example:

Android developer with 8 years of experience specializing in backend and microservices development, I have 17 Android apps and 152,357 lines of code to my credit. Passionate about DNRY and modular programming, with a predilection for dense, structured and well-commented code.

13. Work experience unrelated to the position you're applying for

It's all well and good to have working experience in a wide variety of fields, but a two-week summer internship as a 17-year-old summer camp counselor won't help you land a job as a Digital Graphic Designer or Web Developer.

It's sometimes better to leave out certain experiences that add nothing to your resume.

On the other hand, a month-long sales internship during the summer can be an asset for a sales or marketing position.

14. All-purpose phrases

Recruiters and human resources managers receive dozens of resumes a day. They are quick to spot copy-and-paste Internet resumes and ready-made phrases such as "maximizing synergies within the marketing department" or "optimizing accounting processes".

Describe your skills and achievements in your own words.

15. A resume longer than one page

Unless you're applying in Germany (joke!) or have 20 years' experience, your resume should not exceed one page. It's part of the basic rules. And it's easier to read.

16. An unprofessional or inappropriate headshot

This is one of the worst mistakes and unfortunately also one of the most common ones.

A photo that's out of focus, badly framed, badly exposed, too dark or too light, etc. A photo adds a face to your resume, so take care of it!

Adapt your photo to the type of position and company you're applying for.

A photo in a suit will be appropriate for an application to a law firm, while a more casual photo will do the trick if you're applying to a startup or a company with a younger style.

17. A specific format

The safest way is to send your resume or CV in PDF format, as the layout remains unchanged. The recruiter can also open it directly from gmail without having to save it.

Sending a resume in Word or Libre Office always runs the risk of it not displaying correctly on the recruiter's computer if they have a different version of Word.

Our advice: Send yourself a test email with your resume attached to make sure everything works.

18. A resume with spelling mistakes

Use an automatic spell-checker like Word's or Reverso's online spell-checker. Grammatical or spelling mistakes in English in a resume are a red flag for some recruiters.

Our tip: Have a friend proofread your resume. They may discover mistakes you've overlooked.

Follow our 28 tips for writing a cover letter that stands out from the crowd.

Jerome Feys

Jerome Feys

Job in Berlin's Founder

As a recruitment expert and founder of Job in Berlin, I have corrected over 1,000 resumes. Since 2015, I've been sharing my expertise and delivering tips on resume and cover letter writing, as well as techniques for a successful job interview.

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