Resume writing can be tough. There’s no one right way to do it, and if you haven’t written a resume in a while (or ever), you might not be up-to-date on best practices. While having one or two mistakes on your resume is probably okay (especially if you’re a great candidate for the job), too many mishaps can distract and discourage recruiters. Here are the most common resume mistakes I encounter when recruiting. Good news: most of them are easy to fix!

1. Not providing enough context around your role

Include enough information about your role that the reader can understand how you support the organization.

Example: “Hired to fulfill new customer orders, track inventory shipments, answer billing questions, and manage payments via inbound IM/chat and phone in 200-person call center.” 

When it comes to your accomplishments, illustrate with metrics and numbers.

Example: “Grew a team of account specialists from four to twenty in less than 8 months, resulting in a 230% increase in revenue collections and a decrease in late payments by over $365K in one quarter.”

2. Overusing adverbs and adjectives

This is a habit a lot of early career professionals have, and it is a waste of space.

Example: “Accurately and quickly filled customer food and beverage orders in a fast-paced sports bar.”

I will assume you are accurate and quick because you were employed there for three years, and accuracy and speed are expected. Don’t try and over sell your role – it is an amateur error and detracts from your professionalism.

3. Using creative job titles

Use an industry standard title and skip the “creative, fun” internal moniker.

Example: Chief Happiness Officer

If the recruiter has to guess what your role was, there is a good chance you’ll go into the resume slush pile.

4. Not including details about your employer

If your employer’s name/brand is not self-descriptive (i.e. Law Offices of J. Q. Public; University of Kansas Medical Center) or a globally recognized brand (i.e. Coca Cola; Disney; Amazon), then you need to include a one-sentence description of the business under your title/dates. Don’t assume that because you work for the largest regional widget supplier in Dubuque that the recruiter based in Charleston will know it. 

Example: “Graeters is a regional gourmet ice cream chain in central and south western Ohio.”

5. Using a resume objective

Resume objectives are not right for most resumes as they are often limiting and don’t communicate your value. It’s often better to use a resume summary, a few sentences about what you bring to the table and what you are looking for.

Example: “Seasoned marketing manager with 4 years of digital and traditional experience for multiple global retail brands. Expertise in email marketing, A/B testing, and analytics. Looking to transition to a challenging e-commerce product marketing manager role.”

6. Writing too long of a summary

Your professional resume summary plus your contact information, should take up no more than the top 1/3 of the page. If your reader has to search too far to find your actual employment history, they may lose interest. Remember, too, that you don’t need to add a picture to your resume, either in the summary or the heading.

7. Including the term “references available upon request”

This is a waste of space. If I offer you a job you want, I’m pretty sure you’ll provide me references when I ask for them.

8. Not properly utilizing the “skills” section

A resume skills section is a great place to include keywords that are in the job description which are essentially the hard skills that are most pertinent to the job. This should be no more than a few bullet points (4-6). The two biggest mistakes with skills sections? Too many bullet points and using generic “fluffy” jargon (ie “great communicator,” “exceptional attention to detail,” “strong time management skills”). These are soft skills and are better included within your work experience section or simply demonstrated in the interview process.

Want to see if you’ve included the right skills and keywords for the job? Paste your resume below.


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Kristen Fife

Kristen is a Senior Recruiter in the Seattle area, as well as a writer and guest speaker.

More articles by Kristen Fife