3 Common Resume Mistakes to Avoid (and What to Do Instead)

May 26, 2021
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While writing a résumé is necessary for everyone, it can be an incredibly arduous task. It’s not intuitive and it’s not something broached in school, so many people are forced to make do with what they know. But how do you create a document designed to help you succeed when you’ve never been taught how? 

Whether or not you’ve created your résumé on your own or acquired help, there are three mistakes you’re probably making. Fear not, because they are simple fixes that will instantly make your document more effective.

You Don’t Have a Skills Matrix at the Top

I always say this, but by far one of the most important things to include on your résumé is a skills matrix up at the top. This should land below your headlining statement and above your professional experience, but it is extremely important that it’s toward the top of your document. This is where you’ll include any specialized skills, software knowledge, languages, etc. It’s a surefire way to highlight what you can do for the company and what skills you possess.

One study shows that hiring managers and recruiters look at individual résumés for an average of 7.4 seconds each, so it is essential that you highlight your skills at the top of your document. This way, if they only read one section of your document, they will immediately be able to tell if you qualify for the position, or not. You want to give readers an easy and effective way to see what you can do and what skills you possess. By providing this information at the top of your résumé, readers don’t have to dig through job descriptions to figure it out.

You’re Not Writing Your Résumé WithYour Desired Job Description in Front of You 

You need to write (or edit) the document as if you’re applying for a specific position. What does this mean? It means that you need to go through the job descriptions that you’re interested in and integrate keywords and phrases throughout your document.

Perhaps you’re happy with your current role, but you eventually want to further your career within the same industry. Do a bit of research and find industry-specific roles that interest you, and use those job descriptions for inspiration. Do they utilize keywords or phrases which you can utilize in your résumé? Does a job description have a more eloquent way of wording one of your job duties?

If you’re not using current job postings to help you write your résumé, you’re doing yourself a disservice. See how industry professionals talk about jobs and utilize that in your document. Using industry jargon will help you appear more professional and knowledgeable about what you do. Some companies also have bots that “read” résumés before they do, to weed out the ones that don’t make sense. 

You’re Highlighting Your Job Duties and Not Your Achievements

“Subjective terms and clichés are seen as negative because they don’t convey real information,” says Rosemary Haefner, VP of human resources at CareerBuilder. “For instance, don’t say you are ‘results-driven;’ show the employer your actual results.”

It is absolutely important to highlight the specifics of your role, however, if you’re only highlighting the job description and not your achievements, your résumé will not be as effective as it could be. You want to show potential employers what you have accomplished so they can get a better idea of what you will bring to the company and what you can do for them.

If you only talk about the role you played but don’t show them what you did within that role, your résumé will not serve you well. Include as much data and metrics as possible. Here are some great examples of metrics to include in your résumé:

You may not have metrics off the top of your head, so go ahead and calculate them. Do some research and figure out your personal statistics! As long as you can prove your work and your numbers, you can include them on your résumé.

If you’re one of the many people making these mistakes, all you have to do is fix them and move forward. Writing a résumé is hard, so don’t dwell on your missteps. Learn from them and continue to improve. If you get really overwhelmed, reach out for help. There are people out there (like me) who are willing and able to help. If you ever get discouraged, remember that there’s a reason why certified professional résumé writers have a job.

About the Author: A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a certified professional résumé writer and founder of writestylesonline.com. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals’ application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your résumé, style, and boost your confidence.

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This story was originally published on June 2, 2018, and has since been updated.

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