4 Common Resume Mistakes You Should Avoid

By Brett Derricott

I review quite a few resumes. So far this year I’ve reviewed 268 resumes (I know this because of the applicant tracking system module within Built). After reviewing so many resumes over the last 15 years, I have some advice for you. Don’t make these four common resume mistakes the next time you submit your resume to a job opening:

Resume Mistake One: Forgetting to Proofread

This should be so obvious that it goes without saying, but it apparently isn’t. I see far too many cover letters and resumes that have spelling and grammatical errors. Relying on one or two documents to get you an interview means you can’t afford to have mistakes in those documents. Get someone (or two someones) to proofread anything you’re going to submit with your application. Don’t let resume errors give your potential employer the idea that you don’t care about details!

Resume Mistake Two: Being Overly Confident

Confidence is certainly a desirable trait in an applicant, but if you aren’t careful the way you communicate that confidence can be very off-putting or at least make you look like you’re jumping to conclusions. Reading the job description certainly gives you an idea of what the company is looking for. But, to insist that you’re the perfect person for the job suggests that you perfectly understand exactly the job and the person reviewing your application.

Resume Mistake Three: Ignoring the Job Requirements

It’s ok to apply for a job that is slightly beyond your experience or skills. I’ve hired people before who don’t quite meet every requirement in the job description but who show tremendous motivation and potential. It’s an entirely different thing, however, to completely ignore the job description and requirements. This isn’t going to get you hired unless the company is desperate and you are the only applicant.

For example, when we post a job for a web developer position I’m always amazed at how many people apply who have zero experience or education in web development. Our job description clearly states that we’re looking for at least 2 years of experience, so that should make it abundantly clear that it’s a job that requires existing skill. We still get applicants, though, who tell us they are a great fit! This resume mistake always results in immediate disqualification.

Resume Mistake Four: Using Graphics to Quantify Your Skills

This is a trend that I hope will die very soon. It’s probably happening a lot more often in our industry than in others, but the advice is still worth giving. Don’t create a bar chart or any other kind of graphic to show your skill levels. The job you’re applying for isn’t a video game with “power ups” and it isn’t an annual report where you need fancy charts to show profit margins. It’s ok to call out your top skills, but avoid the temptation to quantify them numerically.

Trying to represent your skills on a chart is also problematic because your chart needs some kind of scale. Are you scoring yourself from 1-10? What does 10 represent? If you’re 8 out of 10 in Javascript does that mean you are more expert than 80% of the Javascript developers in the world? I’m skeptical when I see this on a resume.

While the visuals might make your resume look a bit more interesting, you open yourself to real critique by trying to quantify your skills numerically. Don’t do it unless you’re sure you’re communicating clearly and accurately.

Bonus: A Fifth Resume Mistake to Avoid

Relating to the infographic resume issue above, it’s also a resume mistake to over design your resume. Even if you’re applying for a creative position, your resume itself should focus on communicating facts and information as efficiently as possible. The goal shouldn’t be to show off your creativity. Your portfolio can do that for you.

Keep in mind that the first look at any resume is almost always a quick scan for a first impression. If your resume is too creative, it might be difficult to scan and therefore feel like too much work for the reviewer. If the reviewer has a stack of 100 resumes to get through, it won’t take much to get yours thrown in the “no” pile if the format is off-putting.

Stick to basic fonts. Use a logical hierarchy for presenting text. Be consistent in your margins and spacing, as well as in your writing (parallelism).

Avoiding these common resume mistakes will allow you to present yourself in the best light and increase your chances of snagging that coveted position.