Putting Together a Standout Resume: Common Mistakes to Avoid

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After carefully putting together your resume, you might be tempted to start sending it out right away, but don’t act in haste—look over it again to see if you’ve done something that could hurt your chances of getting the job. Yes, you’ve already put in a lot of work, and you just want to be done with it, but your resume is an important investment in your career, and it’s worth every second of the time you spend on it. 

If you want your resume to tick all the right boxes, hire a resume expert. In the meantime, check to see if you’ve made any of these common mistakes. 

Incorrect verb tenses and bland writing

Your language skills matter—a lot! How you write your resume offers insight into your communication and organizational skills. If your verb tenses are all over the place, it can easily confuse a hiring manager. For example, if you’re currently employed, any time you mention your job, you should use present tense verb forms unless you’re talking specifically about a one-time project in the past. If you mention a company you previously worked for, use past tense verb forms. An inability to use the proper verb tenses may also signal that you’re disorganized and sloppy, and that’s not what employers look for in prospective hires.

When you list your responsibilities and activities in a job, be clear, explicit, and engaging. Tell the hiring manager what you did, not what you were. Here’s an example: 

Bland: Was an assistant at a local law firm

Engaging: Filed legal documents and scheduled appointments for lawyers

Good writing can make a huge difference. Merely stating that you were an assistant is almost meaningless—let the recruiter know exactly how you added value for your previous employers. This is another chance for you to showcase your top skills. 

Overused words and skills

One of the most common resume mistakes is using tired buzzwords such as “creative,” “passionate,” and “motivated,” which tells the hiring manager you have put little thought into your resume. Similar to how you should describe what you did rather than just list your job title, you should replace any overused buzzword with a description proving a trait. For example, if you want to communicate that you’re experienced, state how long you’ve worked in the industry. Anyone can say they’re experienced, but if you specify how long you’ve operated in a given field, the hiring manager will see that you really are experienced.

Buzzwords also often appear as skills. You may be tempted to say you’re an excellent communicator, an organized individual, or a team player, but when these tired phrases pop up on every resume, they lose their meaning. Besides, hiring managers aren’t looking for skills that everyone should already possess—they’re looking for skills that add more value to their company. What is it about you that sets you apart? Replace basic, overused skills with more specific ones or descriptions of how you’ve created value for your previous employers.

Speaking of skills, consider leaving out skills related to Microsoft Office applications. Some jobs do require experience with Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and if you’re applying for such a job, list these skills. However, if a job doesn’t require them, don’t feel the need to include them. Basically, if a job requires you to use a computer, your employer will assume you know your way around MS Office apps. Save that precious resume space for skills that set you apart.

Unsupported professional summary

The professional summary at the top of your resume allows you to highlight your worth, but employers aren’t interested in whether you think you’re successful—what they care about is whether you really are. Words like “successful” and “experienced” are subjective, so instead of saying you are those things, prove it. This introductory paragraph should focus on how your experience and qualifications will benefit the company, and you should back it up with concrete examples of how you’ve added value for previous employers.

Nowadays, you have to impress not only recruiters but also the computerized systems that most companies use to filter job applications. If the algorithms don’t like your resume, it’ll be discarded before it ever reaches the hiring manager’s desk. How can you make sure your resume makes a splash? You can start by avoiding the common mistakes described above. Not sure how to do that? Contact an expert for resume help!

Improve Your Resume or CV