16 Resume Mistakes and How To Avoid Them (With Helpful Tips)

Updated January 3, 2023

When applying for jobs, your resume summarizes your work history, education and skills to show employers why you're a good fit for a new position. There are some guidelines you can follow to write an effective resume to create a positive impression on hiring managers. Learning about some common challenges can help you create a compelling resume to attract the attention of potential employers.

In this article, we list 16 common resume mistakes and provide helpful tips so you can prepare a well-written, comprehensive resume for your job search.

16 resume mistakes and how to avoid them

Here are 16 common resume mistakes with tips to help you write a high-quality resume:

1. Including a resume objective

A resume objective is a brief statement about what you're hoping to achieve in your career. Instead of including a resume objective, write a professional summary at the top of your resume. A professional summary describes your unique qualifications to show employers how you can benefit their organization as a new employee. If you have limited work experience, you can include your career objectives in your professional summary, but explain how those goals relate to the new job and the company to which you're applying.

Related: Does a Resume Need an Objective Statement?

2. Describing unrelated work experience

When writing your resume, list work experience that relates to the new position. Providing information about your relevant experience shows employers you have the qualifications to perform relevant tasks well. If you're transitioning to a new industry or position, focus on listing skills or accomplishments that highlight your transferrable skills, rather than the job responsibilities you've had in other roles. For instance, if you're applying to a customer service role but you have experience as a cashier, use your resume to explain how you interacted with customers in that position.

Related: What Is Relevant Experience? Definition and Examples for Resumes

3. Providing few details

For each job on your resume, include enough details to explain how you were successful in the role. Aim to provide five bullet points about your responsibilities and achievements in your current or most recent position. For all other jobs on your resume, write three bullet points. This level of detail demonstrates your competency and professionalism.

When writing about your work experience, use action verbs to start each bullet point, followed by the impact or result of each action. You can also use quantitative data, such as percentages and dollar amounts, to provide greater detail in your experience section.

Related: How To Highlight Work Experience on Your Resume

4. Adding references

Though many employers ask for references to evaluate job candidates, it's usually unnecessary to include this information on your resume. Typically, employers request references later in the hiring process, after they've reviewed candidates' resumes. Only add references when a potential employer specifically asks you to include this information on your resume. Otherwise, you can create a separate document for your references. In this document, use the same header, font and style as your resume to maintain cohesiveness among your application materials.

Read more: Q&A: Should You Include References on a Resume?

5. Listing irrelevant skills

While you likely have a diverse skill set, use your resume to target skills related to the new job. Many employers provide a list of skills in the job description, so read postings carefully to ensure you're including relevant skills on your resume. For example, if a job posting asks for candidates who have experience using specific software, you can list the application as a skill on your resume. Listing relevant skills shows employers you have the technical abilities and character traits to excel in the new position.

Related: How To List Your Skills on a Resume (With Template and Examples)

6. Using the same resume for all applications

When submitting multiple job applications, customize your resume for each job to show employers why you're the best candidate for that specific role. It's helpful to create a master resume template that you can copy and save as a new document for each job to which you apply. In a customized resume, you can include specific keywords and phrases from the job description, which can help your resume pass an applicant tracking system (ATS). You can also highlight the skills and experience you have that are directly related to the new role.

Related: How To Tailor Your Resume to a Job Description (With Example)

7. Having outdated contact information

It's important to ensure the contact information on your resume is up-to-date so employers can contact you. Make sure you provide your current phone number and an email you check often. If you've recently moved, list your new location, including the city and state. Providing the correct information on your resume ensures a potential employer can contact you to schedule an interview or ask questions about your application.

8. Describing job duties only

In your work experience section, provide information about both your job duties and accomplishments you've had in each role. Your accomplishments are unique endeavors that can help employers understand your value as an employee. Including accomplishments on your resume can help you distinguish yourself from other candidates, who may have performed similar duties in their past positions. Aim to connect each job duty or task to an achievement that shows hiring managers how your work performance benefited your past employers.

Related: How To Include Professional Achievements on Your Resume

9. Creating a short or lengthy resume

Employers often evaluate candidates quickly, and a lengthy resume may deter them from reviewing your application. Keep your resume to one page in length to highlight the most important details about your experience and skills. If you have over 10 years of relevant work experience, you may add a second page to your resume to describe your extensive qualifications.

Similarly, employers may consider candidates with resumes of less than one page to have insufficient experience for the position. If you've recently graduated or you have limited professional experience, consider adding details about your education, internships, volunteer work or extracurricular activities. Describe how those experiences have prepared you for the new position.

Read more: How Long Should a Resume Be?

10. Making grammatical or formatting errors

Before submitting your resume to employers, review it carefully for errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation. Sending a clean, well-written resume to employers conveys professionalism and creates a positive impression. You can use word-processing software or online applications to help you proofread your resume. It's also helpful to ask a friend or family member to read your resume because they might notice errors you may have missed.

Similarly, make sure you've formatted your resume in a logical style with readable fonts and white space. Some common resume fonts include Times New Roman, Arial or Georgia. Avoid using bright colors or graphics to ensure your resume focuses on your skills and qualifications.

Related: 27 Proofreading Tips That Will Improve Your Resume

11. Using an unprofessional email address

In your resume header, provide a professional email address, such as one with your first and last name or a variation of it. It may be helpful to create a new email you can use solely for correspondence about your job applications. When you use a professional email address, it helps your resume appear polished and formal.

12. Including salary requirements

While you may have specific salary requirements for a new position, refrain from including this information on your resume. Typically, you can discuss your salary requirements with employers later in the hiring process, such as during an interview or after receiving an employment offer. When establishing your salary requirements, make sure you research average salary information for your field, experience level and location. Use this information to choose an appropriate salary range for the new position.

Related: How To Explain Your Desired Salary (With Tips and Examples)

13. Using jargon or cliches

Using industry terminology, cliches or other repetitive vocabulary may detract from the relevant information you're providing on your resume. Instead, use specific, actionable language to describe your experience and qualifications. Explain your job duties and career achievements using simple language that's easy for hiring managers to understand. Providing information in a clear, concise manner can demonstrate effective communication, which is a valuable skill for many employers.

Related: Words To Avoid and Include on a Resume

14. Listing hobbies

You have limited space on your resume to describe your qualifications and attract employers' attention. For this reason, avoid listing hobbies that are unrelated to the new position. If you have hobbies that apply to the role, include them in the appropriate section of your resume. For example, if you're applying for a teaching position and you enjoy tutoring young children on the weekends, include this information in a section about your volunteer work.

15. Attaching a photo

In general, refrain from including a photo of yourself on your resume. Photos or graphics may affect how ATS software scans your resume. If you work in an industry where resume photos are common, such as acting, you can include your photo in those cases. Research your industry to determine whether it's necessary to add a photo to your resume. Otherwise, you can include your photo on professional networking sites or a professional website, if you have one.

Read more: Should I Put My Picture on My Resume?

16. Mislabeling the file

It's common to upload a resume on a website or email the document to potential employers. When submitting your application electronically, choose an appropriate resume file name. You can save the file by using your name followed by the word "resume." This file name ensures employers can easily locate your application when they're ready to review it.

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