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Top 5 Resume Mistakes and How to Fix Them

There are so many articles out there about the ‘top 5 mistakes’ made on resumes but very few share solutions to fixing these mistakes. Everyone knows that one of the top 5 is spelling mistakes, but once you spell check and send, how come you’re still being dinged?

Googling Top 5 mistakes, you’ll find a few varieties but most include:

  1. Spelling mistakes/typos/bad grammar
  2. Poor formatting
  3. Using an objective
  4. Too long/too much information or too short/too little information
  5. Missing valuable keywords/lacking focus

The first one is so obvious – of course you do not want spelling mistakes or typos but how do you go about fixing this? My suggestion is simple, have a few friends and family members review your resume. There is no shame in asking for help and you may find that you will receive great feedback – maybe your resume is hard to read or doesn’t make sense. Maybe you did use ‘weather’ instead of ‘whether’ or those pesky there/their/they’re or worse…you typed ‘three’ instead!

Having friends and family review your resume is also useful for the second major mistake- poor formatting. This can really take on two meanings. The first is, how does your resume look in general. Is there too much white space, or maybe not enough? Does it seem ‘clean’ and inviting, easy to read? The other side to formatting is, how does your resume look on a computer screen?  It may look great on yours but when someone else opens it up did a sentence drop to another line awkwardly? Or did the font not convert properly, or bullets show up in weird ways? To prevent this from happening I recommend saving your resume as a PDF and sending a PDF when applying for a job. Depending on what application you are using to create your resume you should find when you ‘save as’ you have an option to change the document type. Quickly changing this to PDF will remove any headaches of formatting.

The next considered crime is an easy one to fix. Eliminate your objective! There is no mystery behind this mistake at all. You are wasting valuable space creating an objective that quite honestly says- I want X job so I can grow and provide you with X strengths. It is unnecessary in this current job market.

When you look at your resume, is it bulky with words or maybe sparse? There is a fine line between too much information and too long versus what your experience is. There are rules out there that if you have less than five years’ experience you should only use one page, but what if you volunteered or held a position on a board, had vast schooling or multiple positions – how can you possibly keep all that on one page!? The simple answer is – you can’t. So use your best judgment on length and then have others review. I would say for most people, the goal is to stay on one page to one and a half pages. Your resume is purely the start of a conversation with hiring managers and they shouldn’t know your entire life history before you come in for an interview.

On the flipside, is your resume too short? Have you not had much work experience? If this is the case, then you will want to include other relevant information that may give a glimpse into your life. Discuss your coursework or volunteerism, groups you participate in, etc.

The final mistake made is difficult to fix because you may not know that you’re missing valuable keywords or lacking focus. For this issue I recommend taking a breather from your resume and review the job posting. What words would you consider are the keywords in the posting and have you included them in your resume (if you possess those skills). If the job posting lists ‘attention to detail’ and you have on your resume ‘detail-orientated,’ modify your resume to their wording. I recommend taking out a highlighter and highlighting all keywords on a job posting and then reviewing your resume to see how you can tailor it to the position.

To figure out if your resume is lacking focus the best option is to have a few people read through your resume and see if they are left confused. When someone reads a resume they should have a decent grasp of that person’s history and the questions they ask are more – how did you go about x, or tell me more about x project, and not – what did you do at x company?

Resume writing is an art and many job seekers find themselves falling into one or many of these five common mistakes because this skill is difficult to master. Rely on your friends and family or take the next step and hire a professional resume writer to assist you in creating your winning resume.

Kerry Gustafson, a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) founded Simply Great Resumes in July of 2012 and has over 9 years’ experience writing professional resumes, cover letters, thank you letters, and LinkedIn profiles. With a working background in Marketing, IT, and Project Management from Fortune 100 to small business, Kerry brings a strong working knowledge and unique perspective to the industry. Skilled at narrowing in on client’s roles and responsibilities, Kerry has a natural ability to change the dreaded resume creation into a fun and awareness-building experience.

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