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Worst Résumé Mistakes You've Probably Made

In order to make an impression on a potential employer, your résumé needs to be practically perfect. Often, the worst résumé mistakes are the most easily avoided, so there's no excuse to not proofread your materials.

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Job hunting sucks. No matter how qualified you are, it can feel like an endless slew of rejections. I find one of the best ways to combat this feeling of dejection is to constantly be reworking your résumé in order to make it as close to perfect as it can be. If you are noticing signs your résumé isn't working, here are some of easily avoidable, yet common résumé mistakes. Take the extra time to read through and make sure there are no mistakes on your résumé before you send it out to potential employers.

Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

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When a hiring manager sits down to read your résumé, the first round of cuts is absolutely brutal. One of the first things they'll look for is any grammar mistakes or typos in your portfolio. The sad truth is that even if you are a perfect fit for the job, a silly spelling mistake can land your résumé straight in the recycling bin. Double- and triple-check your materials for grammar and spelling before you send them out, lest your application be needlessly thrown out.

Poor Design Choices

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It may seem silly, but a résumé that is poorly designed from a visual standpoint is an easy way to ensure you never get a call back. A well-designed résumé layout is vital to ensure your potential employer can easily process all the information you have to share. Using too many different fonts or an unusual color scheme will make your materials difficult to read, and a hiring manager is more likely to simply throw it out rather than waste their time trying to decipher it. If you don't have any natural design skills, keep things as simple as possible. Have friends or a career coach look over your résumé before you send it out. If you know someone who is into design, consider hiring them to design your résumé for you. The investment may prove to be well worth it!

Not Tailoring Your Résumé for Each Application

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There's a little bit of wiggle room here depending on your field and your level of experience, but generally speaking, you have nothing to lose from specifically tailoring your résumé and cover letter to each individual job you apply to. It's acceptable to write a résumé with one-size-fits-all information if you are going after an entry-level position and you just need to crank out dozens of job applications in short order. If you are interested in anything beyond entry-level, however, it's worth your time to adjust your résumé to highlight the work experience you have that specifically relates to the job title you're after. Take a close look at the job posting and use keywords from the job description in your résumé, they are more important than you think. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose except a little bit of extra time.

Bad Contact Information

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Just like with grammar and spelling issues, incorrect contact information is one of the most easily avoided résumé mistakes. Don't take for granted that you entered your phone number and email address correctly. While it may seem trivial, it is not worth your time to send out résumés with bad contact information. Before you submit any application, make sure your phone number, email address, mailing address, and everything else is correct. After all, the hiring manager can't call you to schedule an interview if they don't have your correct phone number!

Not Using Action Verbs

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This is one of those résumé mistakes that is hard to figure out unless someone tells you. So I'm telling you now: use action verbs in your résumé! Small adjustments in phrasing can make a big difference in the kind of impression your portfolio makes to a potential employer. Don't say you were "in charge of social media coordination." Instead, put that you "coordinated social media accounts and increased online client interaction by 20 percent." Using action verbs is one of the best ways to make your résumé stand out, improving the tone, making it clearer, and encouraging you to phrase your work experience in terms of accomplishments.

Mishandling Your Own Online Presence

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Speaking of social media, it is important to pay attention to what you post online in this day and age. Some employers may not care what you do in your personal life, or they may take the time to seek out your social media accounts, but more and more companies are including a bit of Facebook stalking as standard procedure in the hiring process. If you have any social media accounts, be mindful of your privacy settings and pay attention to what you share. If a hiring manager sees you participating in anything that can be construed as an illegal activity or even something that just goes against their company values, it can ruin your chances of earning a position you otherwise would have had in the bag.

Making Your Résumé Too Long or Too Short

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It can be hard to determine the perfect length for your résumé. In fact, this is one of the toughest résumé mistakes to pin down purely because every employer and every career field has different expectations for what a résumé should or shouldn't include. For entry-level positions, a one-page summary with a skills section and a list of work experience is sufficient. For more advanced positions, your information or job history may spill over into a second page. Unless a position calls for a full CV, a two-page résumé is probably the max. Conciseness is important with résumés, but don't leave out potentially vital information, just to try and cut your résumé down to exactly one page.


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Often a side effect of the one-size-fits-all approach to résumé writing, vagueness is a trap that many job seekers fall into. When you write a résumé, it can seem like a general description of your previous work experience is sufficient, especially if your experience isn't directly related to your desired position. A detailed résumé is more likely to catch the attention of a hiring manager, while a particularly vague one will fade into the crowd. In fact, a vague work history may even be a red flag to your would-be employer that you're trying to hide something.

Writing a Bad Summary or No Summary at All

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One key aspect of any good résumé is a concise but descriptive job summary. This should just be one or two sentences that provide a snapshot image of your experience and skills. At best, a general or poorly-written summary is simply ignored by the hiring manager. At worst, a bad summary will turn them off entirely, severely damaging your chances of getting called in for an interview. A bad summary like, "Hard worker with managerial experience seeking career growth," could be about almost anyone. A good summary like, "Accomplished manager with five years of experience leading a team of thirty people in the media department of a Fortune 500 company," provides specific, detailed information that will set the tone for the rest of your résumé.

Omitting Work History or Other Information

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It's important to have an even hand when your write a résumé. While you want to keep things relatively concise, you also want to avoid vagueness. This precarious balance may inspire you to delete some of your work history or other details, but this is generally a bad idea. Even if a previous position has ostensibly nothing to do with the job you're applying for, some of the skills you learned at these past positions may be more relevant to the hiring manager than you think. Furthermore, an apparent gap in your work history may serve as a red flag to the company you're applying to. Do your best to present the fullest possible picture of yourself in your résumé. If you're concerned about length, various design tricks such as bullet points can help you keep your information concise.

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