Are You Making These 7 Resume Mistakes?

by Miranda Marquit

Your resume is one of the first things a potential employer sees from you. Many employers make judgments about whether or not to have you come in and interview based on what they see in your resume. (It’s also important to have a good cover letter and to have a personal statement.) As a result, your resume should be easy to read, and it should emphasize the the skills and experience that fit you for the job. As you prepare your resume, avoid the following 7 mistakes:

Common Resume Mistakes to Avoid

1. Lack of Professional Email Contact

Let’s be honest. The email address is not going to win you cheerleaders in the company. Another issue is college email addresses. What happens when you graduate and the address expires? It’s a good idea to come up with a professional email address (perhaps incorporating your name) at a permanent mail provider. Something permanent and professional will mean you can be reached, and it will indicate that you are ready to enter the professional world.

2. Long Resume

Employers just want a taste of you. A resume that goes beyond a page is too long. Don’t confuse a resume with your curriculum vitae, which is supposed to be long. If you are running out of room, carefully consider what to leave in. (Hint: It should be items that highlight what makes you great for the job.)

3. Lack of Customization

Customize your resume for the job. A generic resume is easy for hiring managers to spot. Instead, read the description and highlight items that show your fitness for the job. Make sure to include keywords in your resume, and move things around. If the job is skills-heavy, move that section to the top. If you are applying for a teaching job, list that experience before other jobs.

4. Typos

Proofread your resume before you send it out. Look for typos, misspellings and other issues. Make sure your formatting is consistent so that your resume is easy to read. Also check for grammar issues like its vs. it’s, their vs. they’re and your vs. you’re.

5. Listing Your References

Don’t list your references on your resume. You should have references available on another sheet, but you don’t need to put them on the resume. It is assumed that if the employer wants references, you will be asked. Listing references takes up valuable space.

6. Highlighting Duties over Accomplishments

One of the biggest mistakes is turning a resume into a laundry list of duties you have performed. Instead of creating a boring list, consider highlighting what you have accomplished. This will show potential employers that you have done something, and make them more interested in interviewing you. Use action-based words to help employers visualize what you have done:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Saved money
  • Built relationships
  • Solved problems
  • Attracted new clients
  • Helped students develop skills
  • Increased sales by x% or x dollars

7. Resume is Poorly Organized

Take some time to think of the way your resume is organized. Try to avoid templates, since many of those resumes are hard to edit — and they look the same. Think of how you can show individuality while still maintaining a logical organization that is clean and easy to read. Avoid cluttering up the resume with a border and images.

What other mistakes are common to resumes?

Published or updated February 25, 2011.
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Money Beagle

I’ve heard that for a professional with a lot of experience (senior level ___ / manager or above) that a two page resume is acceptable. For someone out of college or with limited experience, then anything over one page is overkill.


2 Miranda

An interesting point. I heard that one page was still the rule from the two professionals I spoke with. I guess it’s largely a matter of personal preference. I suppose if you have enough relevant experience to warrant two pages it would work. I guess the rule would be: Don’t just list stuff to list stuff. Make sure it’s meaningful and highlights your skills. Keep it as brief as you can.


3 SXSW Angels

Thanks for those tips Miranda! I think I need to edit my resume to include my accomplishments instead of just duties. Could turn things around. -BF


4 Dr. Timothy Lawler

Great advice Miranda. I completely agree with the typos/grammar part. I have looked over so many resumes and evaluations in the past, and I get extremely distracted by poor attention to detail in those two areas. To me, it just goes to show that they didn’t care enough to take the time and go over it with a fine tooth comb. Please keep up the great articles!


5 Phila Cheerio

I just marked 20 years from high school, and I’m on my second career. There is no way I can include all of my relevant work and volunteer experience, plus my professional degree, in one single page. Young people should have a one-page resume, but not necessarily people who are “of a certain age.”

There’s a happy medium there, too. I don’t include *all* of my jobs or all of the post-secondary education I have had. I keep it to the more interesting and relevant items.

Otherwise, solid resume advice.


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