7 Epic Resume Fails and How to Avoid Them

Posted November 16, 2018, by Jenny Sakr

Your resume is the first point of contact you will make with a potential employer and the moment, you need to shine on paper. This is not the moment, you need to showcase a plethora of resume mistakes (even if they are particularly creative). Let’s face it, if you can’t produce a decent resume, then you’re going to find yourself disregarded pronto.

Don’t underestimate the importance of crafting a decent resume. Take some time right now to check yours for these classic resume fails.

#1 Spelling and grammar mistakes

I’m not going to beat about the bush on this one. Even if your spelling and grammar skills aren’t perfect and the job you are applying for doesn’t involve any writing, if you have glaring errors all over your resume the first thing the recruiter or hiring manager will think is:

  1. This candidate is lazy (because you didn’t take the time to check it)
  2. Or careless (because you didn’t take the time to check it)
  3. Or incompetent (because you checked it but didn’t pick up the mistakes).

When it comes to resumes spelling and grammar matters. If you aren’t the best writer, it is okay, many people aren’t. Know when you need to get some outside help. Maybe you have a member of the grammar police in your family who can help? If not, seek help from a professional resume writer, or at least start with a killer template!

#2 Avoid a Visually Chaotic Resume

Crowding a lot of information into your resume using teeny tiny text, and teeny tiny margins, as you try to keep to one page, is counter-productive. Real people with potentially imperfect eyes will want to read what you have written. And they will have a big pile of resumes to work through. This means they want easy on the eyes. Make sure you have some negative space around your text, and you create a nice varied structure with nicely balanced sections.

Once you’ve got the content finalised take a step back and make sure the visuals work as well. I find it helpful to print a copy off. Sleep on it, then have another look in the morning. Then, you won’t have seen the document for some time so you can get a fresh look and a better sense of how visually compelling the resume is.

#3 Long Flowery Sentences

When you write, express yourself in a concise way without trying too hard. Leave the ultralong words at home, sometimes this can come across to the people reading your resume as snobbery. You don’t need to dumb down either, but do try to find a middle ground where meaningful expressions and succinct language take a stroll together.

#4 Cutting too Much Out

Unless you’re looking for work after completing your studies, then you may have a fair number of jobs and experience under your belt. Often, cutting out jobs you worked to get you through uni, or the job you did right after school to pay the bills is tempting. However, most people out there know we do various jobs to get by when we are young. Furthermore, you will have picked up some important skills while doing these jobs.

If you are cutting out significant work experience to keep your resume to one page, consider going onto two pages. In the end, the resume needs to communicate and display the depth of your experience. This is going to help you get the job!

#5 Clichés

We’ve all done it. Used fantastic (that’s why they get overused after all) and at the same time cliché words to describe ourselves on a resume or other professional platforms. While cliché words often start out well-meaning once they make their way into the mainstream and everyone’s using them, get out the thesaurus! The last thing you want is the hiring manager rolling their eyes as they read about the 50th person who’s innovative, passionate and driven. And if you must use them, back them up with some substance which demonstrates you really do have those characteristics. Check out the 2018 list of the top 10 most overused words on Australian LinkedIn profiles.

#6 Lying – yes, even those little white ones

Just don’t. I know and I am sure a little white lie here and there does get tempting as you desperately apply for the umpteenth job and the bills mount up. HOWEVER, recruiters and hiring managers see very many resumes every day and believe me, they will pick lies up quicker than you think. The result? Your resumes receive a quick introduction to the rubbish bin. Even if they don’t notice on the resume, for sure they will ferret them out during the interview process. Don’t allow yourself to do this. Before you get desperate you can always seek help from professional resume writers, or get feedback from professionals in your network. They can help you improve your resume without needing to resort to lies.

#7 Generic One-Size-Fits all Resumes

Don’t forget to tweak and tailor your resume for every job application you send off. Make sure the skills and experiences you are highlighting match the skills they mention in the job description. The person reading your resume will quickly notice if you have sent them a generic version of your resume, and they might just overlook you for that. For every application, have a tinker with your resume BEFORE you hit send.

Go Forth and Succeed!

Now you have a good idea how to avoid resume mistakes, take some time to look at your resume over one more time. Can you improve the document in any way? Lastly, if you need help, there are people out there who can lend you their expertise. If you enlist them to help you, you can then send your next resume off confident you have really put your best foot forward. Good luck out there.

Now that we’ve covered the don’ts how about you have a read of the dos! Check out the Top 8 Ways to Make Your Resume Stand Out. 

Jenny Sakr
Jenny Sakr

Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.

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