Think of a resume as a paper or digital avatar—it is you presented to a prospective employer. It’s your first and only chance to get the attention of a hiring manager or recruiter. You may think your resume is a knock-out, but careless resume mistakes can deliver a deadly blow to your job search.
As a HR professional and communications expert, I’ve passed on great candidates because of flawed resumes. Digital resumes are fine for some positions, but most employers still want the paper version. Here are five careless resume mistakes to avoid if you want to stand out and get called for an interview.
Use spell check, or a free online spell checker like Scribens. Pay attention to the little red wiggly lines under all those words on the screen. They don’t mean the words are awesome. The words are misspelled, have grammatical errors or are improperly formatted. Something is wrong! Get The Elements of Style (Strunk and White), or use one of the online grammar websites (like Grammarly.com) to search out and fix mistakes.
I’ve seen thousands of resumes in my career, and spelling or grammar mistakes in a resume scream “I’m careless,” “I’m clueless,” or “I’m too lazy to proof this and make corrections.” In the “No” pile it goes. It’s worse when you list “…attention to deetail” as one of your strengths.
Missing or incorrect contact information.
I once got a great resume and couldn’t get in touch with the applicant because his phone number and email address were both incorrect. People change phones, phone numbers and email addresses like socks, so if you’ve got a new pair, update your resume. Include your current Linkedin.com and website links, too.
With so many eager, talented and qualified people sending in flawless resumes, don’t assume a hiring manager will take the time trying to find Ms./Mr. Incognito.
Resume and Job Mismatch.
If you’re applying for an accounting position, don’t send your social media expert resume. I know you think you’re versatile and adaptable and a fast learner and was on the Dean’s List, etc., but if your job skills and experience don’t match the job, don’t waste the recruiter’s time.
I would get lots of resumes from people who haven’t read the job description or just ignore the minimum requirements. Those are the ones who call, send an email and a text (daily) to make sure I got their resume and ask when they can come in for an interview. Sorry. I’m busy making appointments with people who are actually qualified for the job.
You may be desperate but keep it real. I know Subway sandwich makers are called Sandwich Artists, so I’ll buy that. But don’t make up fancy titles for a job or inflate your position or responsibilities with flowery language.
If you were a restaurant server, that’s fine. Don’t call yourself a Senior Executive Purveyor of Haute Cuisine or some other made up title. The truth will come out in the interview or worse yet, once you’re on the job. Falsifying or inflating your resume can put you in a position you can’t handle or fired and back in the job hunt.
Gaps in Employment.
I once had an applicant who had a solid resume, but something just wasn’t right in the dates of employment. There was a six-month gap between her last two jobs. When I asked what she was doing, she said she had a job that was outside her field and the open position and didn’t think she should put it on the resume.
Gaps in employment are not as big a deal as they once were. If you went to Timbuktu to search for the meaning of life or spent six months as a lion tamer in the circus on a whim, put it on your resume. You never know what will impress an employer. If nothing else, it’s a great conversation starter, and says a lot about your personality. You may have picked up something in your diversionary job that is just what an employer is looking for.
Your parents’ (or grandparents’) straight line from school to job may not match your journey with its twists and bends and an occasional detour. That’s OK. Besides, you look like you’re hiding something if a job is left off. It makes an employer wonder. Did you get fired for embezzling millions? Take a forced “vacation” at the government’s expense? Learning and recovering from difficult life choices shows stength of character. Be proactive. Handling difficult conversations with confidence and transparency can be just the skill that sets you apart.
There are few do-overs in real life. Making careless resume mistakes can cost you your dream job and ruin your chances for future opportunities with your present employer. Look at your resume and introductory emails with a critical eye. Have someone read and edit your resume if English and grammar are not your strong subjects. Be honest and thorough. Fill in the gaps. After all, the best way to sabotage your job search is trying to be someone else. That job is already taken.