Andrew Parker

18 Common Resume Mistakes That Can Derail Your Job Search

When a recruiter reads your resume, it’s their first chance to learn about you and why you’d be a great candidate for that job. So, naturally, you want to make a good impression, right? Unfortunately, some things on your resume might do the exact opposite. Today, we’re looking at 18 things on your resume that are huge red flags for recruiters and how to avoid them.

Keep It Clean

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If your resume has inconsistent formatting with different fonts or misaligned text, it tells recruiters that you don’t pay attention to detail. Stick to one clean and professional format by using the same font and size throughout. You should also make sure everything is aligned and looks tidy.

Double-Check Your Work

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Similarly, while a typo might seem small, it can be a huge turn-off for recruiters because it makes you look careless. Use spell check and do whatever you can to catch those mistakes, which might even mean reading it backward. Even better, get someone else to read it because they might see things you’ve completely glossed over.

Get Specific

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Your resume shouldn’t read like it can fit any job, anywhere. You have to make it specific by including the exact role and company; then, the recruiter will know you’re genuinely interested in the role. Being overly generic can imply you’re sending out resumes at random, and that’s never a good thing.

Be Unique

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Once upon a time, being skilled at using Microsoft Word might’ve been impressive, but it’s basic knowledge now. You should show off the skills that are unique and relevant to the job you want, like being an expert at Adobe Photoshop. Likewise, make sure that any advanced certifications you have in your field are clear, too.

Keep Things Clear

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If you’re one of the 7% of non-millennials who change their job every year, this can be a big red flag for recruiters. Of course, you shouldn’t hide this, but instead, write a sentence or two explaining why you changed jobs. This way, you can help your recruiter understand your career without worrying if you’re a flight risk who’s not worth hiring.

Fill in the Blanks

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Similarly, if you have any employment gaps in your work history, make sure to explain them in your resume. Be honest about what you did during this time, and maybe even explain why, if you can. This can turn a potential red flag into something that shows off your character or any skills you learned during your break.

Doing Too Much

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Of course, you don’t want to write too much about every job change or project. If you do, it could tell recruiters that you’re trying to cover something up or that you didn’t actually have any responsibilities. Keep your explanations concise by focusing on the positive outcomes and what you learned from each experience.

Show Your Achievements

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Simply writing your job duties without any accomplishments tells recruiters that you didn’t actually do anything. You want the recruiter to know your achievements and make sure you back them up with evidence wherever you can. They don’t want to know what you were supposed to do; they want to know what you actually did.

Keep It Simple

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Overusing technical jargon can be pretty confusing, especially if the person reading your resume isn’t a specialist in the field. Keep your language simple and straightforward by explaining your technical skills in a way that anyone can understand. After all, don’t you want to keep the recruiter on the same page as you?

Don’t Jump the Gun

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Talking money right off the bat by including salary expectations in your resume can seem a little presumptuous. Save it for the interview, when you can actually negotiate face-to-face about the value you’re bringing to the table. Your resume is meant to show off what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

Show Initiative

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You don’t need a fancy title to show recruiters that you’re a good leader. If you’ve ever led a project or helped train a new hire, then write down these as great examples of leadership. Including any moments where you took the lead shows potential employers that you’re ready to step up.

Don’t Skip the Intro

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Writing a cover letter might seem old-fashioned, but it’s your chance to explain why you’re the perfect fit for the job in a way that your resume can’t do by itself. Skipping it is a big red flag to recruiters because it tells them you can’t be bothered. You should always include a personalized cover letter that talks about the specific job and company.

First Impressions

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Using an unusual font will definitely help you stand out, but for the wrong reason. Using anything other than the classics, like Arial or Times New Roman, can suggest to recruiters that you’re not a professional. You should try to keep your resume looking sharp and serious to send the right message.

Being Unclear

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Giving vague statements, like saying you were “involved in a major project,” without any details, tells recruiters that your role wasn’t clear. Worse, it could tell them you didn’t contribute enough to your position. Be specific about what you did, the skills you used, and the final outcome of your position.

Stay Current

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Listing every single job you ever had can make your resume look outdated. Is it really necessary to bring up that paper role you had as a teenager when you’re applying for a job in your 40s? Instead, you should show recruiters what you’ve been up to lately and how you’ve kept your skills and knowledge up-to-date.


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Handing out the same resume for different jobs just looks wrong. If you haven’t included some of the specific points of the job listing in your resume, it looks as though you’re not really that interested. Make sure you’ve tailored your resume to the job by including the title and mentioning how your skills fit with that company’s needs.

Follow the Rules

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It sounds simple enough, but plenty of people don’t follow the rules for including specific documents or responses to certain questions. Ignoring them or not doing exactly as they ask is a big red flag for recruiters. Do you really want to tell them that you’re incapable of following directions?

Show You’re Well-Rounded

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Don’t just focus on your technical skills, as you want to show recruiters that you’re well-rounded. Mention any kind of soft skills that you have, whether that’s with leadership or communication, and give specific examples. Without soft skills, you just become another part of the crowd, and recruiters will think you only know how to use technology.

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