10 Resume Mistakes That Will Hurt Your Job Search

The U.S. job outlook is looking much improved for 2015, and most economic indicators suggest a continued, healthy pace of hiring in the year ahead.

If you're still job hunting, it's time to polish your resume and ensure it stands out from the competition. While it can be tempting to pull outlandish stunts to convince employers to hire you, we don't recommend them as a prudent job search strategy. Instead, stick to what works — like having a crisp, error-free CV. (See also: The 6 Craziest Things People Have Done to Land a Job).

To make your resume really stand out from the competition, here are ten mistakes that will hurt your job search.

1. It Starts With a Career Objective Statement

Sometime back in high school, one of your instructors forced you to write a resume that included a career objective statement. Since habits die hard, you probably still include a career objective statement on your resume today.

Career objective statements are dated and don't belong in the modern business world. Hiring managers recommend leaving objective statements off your resume because they're irrelevant for the initial screening process. It's all about what the company wants, not the other way around. If you make it past the screening process, then you will have a chance to talk about your objective(s).

2. It Features Quirky Job Titles

While TeaEO may have worked for the founder and CEO of Honest Tea, quirky job titles are often a bad idea.

There are three reasons why quirky job titles do more harm than good on your resume.

Quirky Job Titles Lack Context

If you're a "Marketing Ninja," what happens when you request or get a promotion? Do you become a "Marketing Jōnin?" Also, are you above a samurai? Did you report to a shogun?

Applicant Tracking Systems Search for Specific Keywords

Your "Word Guru" title will leave you out from an "associate editor" query.

Great Performances Trump Job Titles

Any customer would still prefer to be taken care of by an effective, yet boringly named "customer service representative" than by a happy but hopeless "happiness advocate."

3. It Includes Too Much Work History

A recent study found that recruiters spend only six seconds reviewing a resume. This means that most of the time your resume should be no longer than a single page, especially if you're just starting your career. If you include pages and pages of work history, then you're more likely to go over the one-page limit.

Unless it is 100% relevant, nobody wants to hear about your first job selling lemonade on your street or being a "sandwich artist" in college. Keep your job history relevant to the position that you're applying to.

4. It Has Big, Unexplained Gaps in Employment

If you experienced a layoff, decided to take a long leave to raise your children, or took a year off to travel around Latin America, you will have a big gap in employment. Life happens and recruiters are fine with that. What they're not okay with is that you leave them wondering about those gaps.

Include a single line description, such as "Family Care" or "Volunteer for Red Cross" that helps your potential employer to review your job history, and then move on.

5. It Lacks Specifics

Focus on accomplishment, not job duties. Recruiters don't want to hear about menial tasks and duties. Anybody in that job would have done those. Instead, recruiters would like to read about what you got done.

Here are three tips on how to provide specifics in your job history.

Avoid iPhrases

Resumes are never written in the first person. Use dynamic verbs instead.

Leverage Numbers to Provide Context

For example, "Redesigned a trading platform used by 2,500 investment managers," or "Launched a grassroots email marketing campaign that grew sales 25% to $500,000 the next quarter."

Provide Specific Dates

"White lies" about length of employment are still lies.

6. It Contains Misspellings and Grammar Mistakes

Misspellings and grammar mistakes are the easiest ways to get your resume ignored. Use your word processor's spell check, take advantage of online grammar checkers, and have at least two people proofread your resume before you deliver it. (See also: 12 Grammar Mistakes That Are Making You Look Stupid and 12 More Grammar Mistakes That Are Making You Look Stupid)

By taking the time to proofread your resume, you will stand apart from the 58% of resumes that have typos.

7. It's in the Wrong Format

As many as 75% of qualified applicants are rejected by ATS programs because they submitted resumes can't be read correctly, or at all. Avoid rejection with some simple steps.

  • Use .doc or .txt format instead of .pdf or image formats.
  • Avoid graphics and tables that may confuse an ATS.
  • List the name of your employer, then the dates of employment.
  • Upload your resume, instead of typing it out, because ATS prefers the first.
  • Include relevant keywords from the job posting contextually throughout your resume.

8. It Shares Confidential Information

This is a big no-no and is never okay By disclosing confidential details to a potential employer, you're telling them that they should never hire you, unless they want their own trade secrets revealed to their competitors.

When in doubt about whether or not to include something in your resume, use the New York Times test: if you wouldn't want to see it on the cover on the New York Times with your name attached, leave it off your resume.

9. It Promises "References Upon Request"

Don't waste space on your resume to state the obvious. Remember that you only have about a page worth of resume real estate to impress your potential employer.

10. It Ignores Specific Requests From the Posting

Consider these surprising statistics about recruitment:

  • First applications are received 200 seconds after a job goes online; and
  • An average of 250 resumes are received for each job position.

To avoid drowning in a sea of resumes, on top of leveraging an ATS, recruiters include special requests on job postings. For example, an employer may ask you to include a specific phrase on your email subject line or cover letter.

If you ignore specific requests from a job posting, you're never giving your resume a fighting chance.

What are other resume mistakes that hurt any job searcher?

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Guest's picture

I've been taught not to include references on the resume itself, and taught to inform the reviewer that they are available. Should I now include them again, or ignore the question of references altogether?

Damian Davila's picture

In general, references don't go in resumes. Many employers, whether past or current, seek to avoid potential defamation lawsuits by not saying anything about a past employee aside from confirming that you worked there and when.

However, if the employer includes a specific request on the job posting to include references, then by all means, you should include them.