Don’t let your resume sabotage your job search!

With automation and globalization displacing jobs, the competition for open positions is greater than ever.

Your resume is more than just a piece of paper – it’s your key to opportunity. Think of your resume as your first impression on a potential employer. It’s often the only thing they’ll see before deciding whether to move you forward in the hiring process. Don’t let these simple-to-avoid mistakes cost you your dream job!

Mistake #1: Typos and Grammatical Errors

Typos are deal-breakers. Even one mistake can create a negative impression. Proofread carefully. Spell check is a great tool, but too often, it corrects things incorrectly. Have a trusted friend or family member, who will be honest with you, give your resume a final review.

Mistake #2: Generic Resume

It is easy to get complacent and create one generic resume and submit it to each opening. Tailor your resume for each job; not one-size-fits-all! Highlight skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Show potential employers that you understand what they are searching for in an employee. Ditch the resume you have created over the last few decades. Start fresh. Ask yourself, “What does this particular employer want, and how do I solve their problems?”

Mistake #3: Long and Boring Resume

Hiring managers have short attention spans. They must sort through dozens of resumes each and every day. You have about two seconds to make an impression. A resume is not the place for your complete life story, as interesting as it may be. Focus on the professional, not the personal. Stick to your skills and work experience. Though interesting, leave hobbies and personal interests for other contexts unless they showcase certain skills needed for the job. Maintain a professional tone throughout your resume.

Use bullet points for readability and aim for 1 to 2 pages maximum. Make the focus of your resume impact, not just job duties.

Mistake #4: Not Paying Attention to the Document Name

Names matter, especially file names. It is easy to use a naming convention that makes it easy for you to locate them on your computer. Common file naming mistakes include:

Using a date: You have worked hard on creating the perfect resume, and you want to remember when you created it for future use. A resume named “JohnDoeResume2022” looks stale today.

Using a job board: To keep your files straight, you named the resume based on the job board you posted it on. This indicates to the recruiter that you did not write this resume for their company or their job.

Using a previous job you applied to: You really blew it if you named it after a competitor’s job you applied to and forgot to change it. You get out of it what you put into it. If you did not take the time to change the name, a company will most likely not take the time to ask you to come in for an interview.

Invest a few seconds in choosing a professional filename that highlights the job you’re applying for. “JohnDoe_Resume2024” is bland and generic; instead, opt for something like “Recruitment_Specialist_Doe_ABCCompany.” It’s a small detail with a big payoff – a file name that showcases your professionalism could be the nudge that lands you that coveted interview.

Mistake #5: Weak Action Verbs

Power up your resume with strong action verbs. Ditch verbs like “was” or “did”; “managed” becomes “commanded,” “developed” morphs into “built,” and “increased” explodes into “skyrocketed.” Show initiative and impact using strong verbs. Replace bland descriptions with electrifying words that showcase your initiative and impact. Don’t just tell them what you did – paint a vivid picture of how you made a difference.

Mistake #6: Unprofessional Design

First impressions matter! Keep your resume clean and professional.

Fancy Font Choice: Steer clear of fancy fonts that are hard to read. Leave those to Hallmark and the greeting card section of the supermarket. Stick to classic, readable fonts like Times New Roman or Arial.

Blasts of Color: Keep it professional and muted. Black, white, and maybe one accent color are your safest bet.

Tables and Inconsistent Formatting: Consistent spacing, bullet points, and clear section headings are your friends.

Graphics: Avoid the stickers, headshots, and logos.

Remember, recruiters spend mere seconds scanning resumes – make yours easy on the eyes by sticking to clean lines and consistent spacing. A visually unappealing resume screams carelessness and distracts from your qualifications.

Mistake #7: Missing Contact Information

Believe it or not, many times resumes are missing this critical piece of information. Make it easy for employers to reach you. Don’t forget to double-check your contact information for accuracy. Clearly display your name, email address, and phone number. Use a professional-sounding email. Though “pooponyourstoop1995@gmail.com” may have been great in college, it will be less than impressive to a potential employer.

Mistake #8: Forgetting ATS Optimization

Optimize for Applicant Tracking Systems.

Use Keywords: The company is giving you keywords that are important right in their job description. Use these keywords throughout your resume.

Ditch the Image: Applicant tracking systems do not recognize people. Adding an image of yourself may also work against you if a person does get to see your resume. A company, as unethical or unfair as it may be, may pass on a person of a certain age or appearance. Something you could have easily overcome by having met in person.

Forget Tables: A resume formatted with tables may visually appeal to the human eye; the computer may not feel the same way.

Stick to Standard Fonts: Common fonts like Arial and Times New Roman are widely recognized by most ATS systems. This ensures your resume gets scanned and parsed accurately, maximizing the chances of your skills and keywords being picked up. Connected letters or unusual glyphs in non-standard fonts can be misinterpreted by the ATS, leading to inaccurate information extraction. This could make your qualifications appear incomplete or missing, putting you at a disadvantage.

Use a PDF or Word document format if none is specified.

Mistake #9: The Big One—Not Following Application Instructions

Failing to follow application instructions is a surprisingly common mistake from which you may not be able to recover. Ignoring instructions is unprofessional and disrespectful of the employer’s time.

Following instructions is crucial because:

Shows Attention to Detail: Meticulously following instructions demonstrates that you’re a detail-oriented individual who can pay close attention to what matters. This is a valuable skill in any job, and it reflects well on your work ethic.

Respectability and Coachability: Following instructions shows respect for the employer and their time. It also suggests that you’re coachable and willing to learn, which are essential qualities for any new employee.

Avoids Getting Disqualified: Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumes. These systems are programmed to automatically reject resumes that don’t meet specific criteria, such as the wrong file format or missing keywords.

So, how can you avoid this mistake?

Read the instructions carefully! This seems obvious, but it’s worth repeating. Make sure you understand exactly what the employer is asking for before you submit your resume.

Follow the instructions to the letter. If they say 2-page resume, don’t submit a 3-page one. If they ask for a PDF, don’t send a Word document.

Double-check everything before you submit. Proofread your resume carefully for any typos or grammatical errors, and make sure you’ve formatted it correctly according to the instructions.


Competition for open positions is fierce. With Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) acting as gatekeepers, and recruiters pressed for time, your resume must be bulletproof to stand out.

Ignoring these 9 common mistakes could be the difference between landing that dream job and fading into the matrix.

By avoiding these pitfalls and tailoring your resume to each opportunity, you’ll transform it from a mere document into a powerful career passport.