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Common Resume Mistakes

Updated on September 24, 2016

Today, as part of my job, a co-worker and I sorted through over 40 resumes for a position we had been asked to help fill. When we were done, we had seven that we liked enough to pass on. Seven out of 40 may seem low, but it is, in reality, a lot. In today's competitive job market, only the most impressive resumes make the cut.

I am not a hiring manager, nor have I conducted many "real" interviews, but I have conducted mock interviews with students, and at the end of our sessions, I always rip apart their resumeā€”if I need to, that is. I know much of this information is out there, but I felt inspired to share some common errors.

Crazy fonts and text sizes. I have seen resumes that had fine content on them. Yet, the candidate, in an apparently egotistical fashion, made his or her name at least three times the size of a standard line of print. Do not do this. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Use the standard text size, like Times New Roman 12. If the most interesting thing on your resume is your name, there are some other serious issues you need to address. In the same vein, ignore all the cutesy symbols: an envelope for your mailing address (especially for an e-mail address), an icon related to your chosen field, or any other graphic.

Formatting. Admittedly, different resources on resumes offer different suggestions for formatting. My advice here is to carefully study a format and follow it to the letter of the law. Do not center-justify your information. This is not cute; this is not professional.

Embrace white space.

Keep the same text size and font throughout.

Spelling. I read resumes with wonderful content in terms of experience. The resume before me had spelling mistakes. I stopped reading and put them in the rejection pile.

Addresses. I don't know where people learned to abbreviate states like this 'Ma' for Massachusetts. Use MA. Know your state abbreviations. For my readers outside of the United States, know all of your correct formatting. Separate a street address from an apartment or suite number. Separate a city from a state. Never put a comma after a state and before the zip code. Addresses should look like this:

Joseph Employed

100 Main Street, Apt 1

Anytown, MA 01234

Irrelevant or Uninteresting Content. If someone is looking at a resume, they need to be impressed by the top half of the first page of your resume. Know the job you are applying for and format the resume to that job. Some otherwise good content resumes put the most relevant information too far along for me to care. If you have a lot of experience in fields outside of your new interest, study how to create a functional resume instead of a chronological resume. The ones that caught my eyes the most had the information I was looking for right on top.

Some people have had a wealth of jobs and have done wonderful things at those jobs. But, three pages of your entire life is boring. I apologize, but it's true. If you absolutely must, stop at two pages. One page is ideal for most positions. True, certain fields do require substantial vitae, but it is not my intent to discuss those here. Lastly on this point, if you have a one-page resume, do not send a two-page document. If you have extra information that spills onto a second page, revise your document so it all fits on one page.

Lack of parallel structure. This concept refers to everything within a sentence following the same pattern. For example, look at this sentence. I like to hop, jump, and dancing. Clearly, the word dancing does not fit. It should be 'dance.' The same rule applies for bullet points on your resume. Instead of type, print, and filing papers... yes... change filing to 'file.'

Duties listed without parallel structure Consider this section:

  • Organized company assessments
  • Filing
  • Report writing

This is just a hot mess. No choice is fundamentally better than another (I welcome all criticism to that.). However, whichever style you choose needs to be followed. Thus:

  • Organized company assessments
  • Filed
  • Wrote reports


  • Organizing
  • Filing
  • Writing reports


  • Assessment organizing ...

(I'm not even going to finish this one. I take it back. Run away from this one. Far away.)

Inconsistent tenses. If you are currently employed somewhere as you apply, describe all responsibilities you currently fulfill in the present tense (type, print, and file). If you are no longer at the job, describe responsibilities in the past tense (typed, printed, and filed). Stay consistent.

Inconsistent punctuation. Periods should only be used at the end of a properly constructed sentence. Use a sentence as part of the objective, if provided. I personally am not a fan of objectives. If you are putting fragments (which are acceptable on a resume if done correctly) on a resume, do not put a period after them.

Commonly Confused Words (Their is know won hear). "I would like too work...." on a cover letter makes me vomit. Learn the difference between "to" and "too." Know them. Embrace them because they may be your best friend.

Typos. Life is one big interview. Make the best impression. Have three different people read your resume before you send it out. Three. Typos are death. Typos show carelessness, and you come off poorly. What a shame it would be to put in so much work to only have it go in the rejection pile.

All right, kids. This is all I can think of at the moment. Please consider the importance of your resume, contemplate these scenarios, and read all you can about creating a resume. Until then, keep writing!


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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Matt--My "real" career before retirement spanned several decades in human resources management, so none of the resume problems are new to me.

      In fact, I've seem some resumes that made me wonder about the sanity of the persons who submitted them. And behavior during interviews? That's another story entirely. Perhaps I should plumb my memory and write a hub about that topic!

      However, judging from the resume mistakes that continue to be made by people desperately wanting to find work (and wondering why they don't even get interviews), the message of this hub is timely.

      There are times, I believe, when the functional resume format that focuses on skills and achievements, is preferable to the straight chronological format. This is true both (1) when the applicant has been unemployed for a while and (2) when a specific job (with relevant experience and skill sets) is the goal.

      Voted Up, Useful and Interesting and shared (lots of people need work)


    • profile image

      Kate 8 months ago

      Saying you rejected resumes for bad grammar and spelling, yet tons of your sentences are incorrect.. Just saying.

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