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The Biggest Mistakes I See On A Resume & How to Avoid Them

Your resume is a digital introduction to a potential employer. It’s the first impression you make before you’re seen or heard and, in most cases, the resume determines if you’re going to move to the next step in the candidate selection process. If you want to get that dream job you better make sure you have a clean, polished resume that is professional and compelling. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for even the most senior executives looking for the next chapter in their career book. I read a lot of resumes and see many mistakes that should not be present.

Here are the 5 biggest mistakes on resumes and how to avoid them:

Mistake 1: Typos, spell-check and formatting. This one seems obvious but typos and grammatical errors happen to be the most common mistake I see on resumes. Even if writing isn’t necessarily your forte, incorrect spelling and grammar shows a poor attention to detail and suggests that you don’t care that much about getting the job. Don’t just rely on spell-check, get someone else to read through your resume to spot any mistakes you may have missed. Alternatively, read your resume out loud to hear what you have written; this tends to highlight grammatical errors and gets your eyes refocused.  The most common misspelled words: business, knowledge, recommend, responsibility, and definitely. The most common grammatical errors: led vs lead, accept vs except, their vs there, and your vs you’re.  Also, it’s very important to remember when writing your resume to use the past tense when referring to role you no longer hold and the present tense when referring to your current position.  Finally, make sure the format of your resume is easy to open on all computers. Save your resume as a standard .doc file or a PDF so any computer can open it.

Mistake 2: Long sentences say nothing. Your resume is not supposed to be the next Harry Potter novel – if the employer isn’t convinced after one to two pages it’s likely they will not be persuaded with four.  If you use excessively long words and complicated sentences, the meaning may become lost and you’ll make it harder for the recruiting manager to work out what it is you have actually achieved. It’s best to keep your resume short and sweet. Employers don’t need to see an explanation for every single thing you have done. Write six descriptive bullet points for each role that begin with action verbs such as managed, trained, saved, created, and developed, drawing attention to your accomplishments rather than listing your job description.

Mistake 3: Lack of evidence. When writing a resume, candidates need to explain his or her experience. Don’t just list your job duties in each role. This could imply you didn’t do more than the bare minimum. You need to show that you have gone above and beyond and that you accomplish things other candidates won’t. Think of successful marketing campaigns, new product road-maps, HR procedures, sales increases and measurable KPI’s, all with the specific value of what you contributed. Once you draft those out, take an action verb and create a bullet point stating your experience. Finally, ask yourself if these experiences are relevant to the job you’re applying for and if they are not relevant then cut them and begin again. The key is to ensure you showcase achievements and the experience you have gained working and why you are the best person for the role.

Mistake 4: Customize your wording to the job you’re applying for. Are you generic? If not, don’t let your resume be. Generic resumes are everywhere, the web is littered with them, so steer clear. The one size fits all approach may work for lower level roles but as you move up in the working world you need to tailor your resume to match the requirements listed in the job role. For the best chance of success you should identify 4-6 requirements listed in each job application and make sure those requirements are covered in your resume. Also, if you’re sending out lots of applications make sure the resume you are uploading is going to the right job. I have received resumes that were not intended for the role I had on offer and it doesn’t look good for the candidate nor help with their chances of getting an interview. Every resume should be different – slightly chopped and changed to make sure it fits each job application.

Mistake 5: Telling a fairy tale.  Employment dates don’t match up, incorrect personal information and phony bologna will only leave you stumbling for words when your recruiter or potential employer catches you out. While your resume should be you dressed to impress in a digital format, making up experiences, qualifications and achievements is a no-no. What these little white lies do is actually take away from the real hard successes you have had. And in some cases, these lies will come out later and bite you hard.  I am always on the lookout for something that isn’t quite right, and now it’s become second nature to questions job titles, quoted salary compensation packages, and anything that is out of place. The best rule of thumb is to be honest and ensure that you back up your experience with examples to get the job you want.

In summary, don’t lie, check the spelling and grammar, make your resume short and sweet, back experience up with evidence and tailor each application to the job you’re applying for.

If you are on the hunt for your next role and wish to explore more with Bedford Jones, please reach out. We are always looking for game changers in business!




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