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Ask a Recruiter: What's The Most Common Resume Mistake You See?


Ask a Recruiter: What's The Most Common Resume Mistake You See?

Franklin Buchanan |

Virtually the entirety of my career has been looking at resumes. Today, as a Resume Writer and Career Coach, it encompasses at least 70% of my day.

I spent 15 years in the recruiting industry operating on all sides - recruiter, sales, marketing, and training. I've looked at more resumes than I can count and I see mistakes on them happening at all levels, whether you're in the C-Suite or just starting your career.

Mistakes on resumes happen - typos, formatting, or not articulating your value proposition. There are a million resume mistakes everywhere, so I asked some of the top recruiters that I know what some of the common mistakes they see are. Here are there answers with more of my thoughts below.

What are the most common resume mistakes that you see?

Caroline Pennington - Founder of "Feminine Founder" and former Executive Recruiter.
"Formatting being weird."

Adam Bourgoin - Talent Acquisition Manager, RS&H
"Format, font, and length for me. The resume needs to be appealing to my eyes. It can't be busy and there needs to be a good flow to it. My eyes need to know where to go and the important areas need to jump off the page. I've seen too many resumes where it looks like 'word soup' with too much explanation, too much detail, and too long.

Resumes should get you in the door, but keep it high level. Provide enough details to where it intrigues the recruiter and hiring manager enough to where they have to contact you to get more information."

Summer Weinspach - Talent Acquisition Consultant, Piedmont Augusta
"Grammar mistakes and dates of employment being out of order."

Kelli Long - Founder, KG Workforce Solutions
"Lack of clarity. We see bullets, summaries, and titles that do not clearly demonstrate what the candidate actually did or the value they provided in their roles. If we can't identify a parallel between the candidate's experience and what we need, we tend to move on to other candidates. We'd love to call each candidate for more details, but that is not feasible when we are looking at a large volume of applicants.

Another common mistake is omitting keywords applicable to the position. Some Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) allow recruiters to scan for keywords. If they keywords are not showing the resume, the system automatically moves to the next resume. While we do not use the technology this way, it is common practice and job seekers can be eliminated early in the hiring process by not having the right keywords in their resume."

Katie Gardner - Senior Technology Recruiter, Wells Fargo
"The most common resume mistake that I see on a resume is listing out skills, but not explaining more in-depth how the candidate used the skills hands-on. If you list a skill on your resume and there is no explanation of your abilities, then I'm going to assume that's fluff."

Fascinating responses and if you read through them you'll see a lot of similarities and a few differences.

A few key takeaways for me:


1. Caroline and Adam both touched on formatting. There are millions of resume templates out there with graphics, columns, tables, and text boxes. These templates likely aren't going to be "ATS Compliant" because an Applicant Tracking System can't parse a lot of the information contained in tables.

2. The best resume format is clean, straightforward, and easy to scan. Avoid getting tricky or creative, even if you are in a creative field. From the last "Ask a Recruiter" we learned how long recruiters are looking at a resume. It's not long and content is ultimately king. Where do you want the recruiter's eyes going on your resume?

3. If you are in a creative field, consider adding a link to your portfolio in your contact section so recruiters can see examples of your work.

Grammar and Layout

1. Summer hit on grammar and dates being out of order. The first order of business after you write a resume is to proofread it. Then proofread it again. Then proofread it one more time. Then get someone else to proofread it for you. With our Resume Writing Services, proofreading is a collaborative process because it takes more than one set of eyes!

2. Touching back on format and dates of employment, you should always list your current or most recent position first on your resume and then work backwards.

3. There is such a thing as a "functional resume" and I personally have used on successfully in a previous job search. I was looking to make a career pivot and created a functional resume more relevant to where I was looking to go, away from true staffing. The key with the functional resume was that I didn't apply to a single job online with it. I used it for networking purposes and it worked. Functional resumes do not scan well with modern Applicant Tracking Systems.

Is Your Resume Relevant To The Job?

1. This was actually a topic in the last "Ask a Recruiter" blog so you can now begin to see the importance of consistency. Kelli and Katie both talked about the importance of clarity and relevance when it comes to content and keywords.

2. Avoid fluff on your resume. As both Katie and Kelli pointed out, keywords are vitally important. But it's not just enough to list "Process Improvement" in your skills section on your resume and think you've checked a box in the ATS. You need to demonstrate in a resume bullet a process that you actually improved! Those tangible, quantifiable results are resume gold!

3. A good best practice for your skills section is to edit this with every application that you submit and mirror the keywords you see in the job description. But keep this section short, you don't want 55 keywords on your resume because it looks like fluff and make sure to demonstrate the value of those keywords in your resume bullet points.

The ultimate takeaway is that by having a clean format with relevant content and provable keywords on your resume, you'll start getting more callbacks from recruiters and hiring managers.

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