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Stupid Resume Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Making Them



A resume might get you an interview at your dream job, but if you make some of these common mistakes, don’t expect to get a callback.

If your resume is your lone path into a job, you may as well spend some time making it stink less. Your skills and experience are the most important things hiring managers review on your resume, according to Forbes.[1] But some applicants decide to list their favorite horror movies or all of the impressive places they’ve traveled to.

Here are some more of the most egregious, yet common resume mistakes, and how to avoid them.

1. Lying on your resume

Lying is one of the biggest resume sins, and 75 percent of hiring managers caught a lie on a resume, according to a CareerBuilder survey.[2]

When you have about 30 seconds to leave an impression, tall tales and irrelevant skills just don’t pay off.

“If crafted well, your resume is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have,” says CareerBuilder chief human resources officer Rosemary Haefner. “In a matter of seconds, it can make or break your chances of moving along the hiring journey with a company. That’s why it’s important to be proactive with your resume and avoid embellishments or mistakes.”

Here are some of our favorite resume lies applicants have told on their resumes:

  • They claimed to have worked for Microsoft but had no idea who Bill Gates was.
  • He said he studied under German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in the year 1900.
  • Stole a resume offline, and it didn’t match their cover letter.
  • Claimed to be an anti-terrorist spy for the CIA at the same time period he was in elementary school.

How to avoid this mistake: Tell the truth. If you worked at McDonald’s (and not Microsoft), say that. Instead of listing a fake job, write everything of value that you’ve learned from your actual job.

2. Grammatical errors on your resume

Hiring managers only spend an average of six seconds looking at your resume, according to TIME.[3] And if you have a spelling or syntax error in the first couple of sentences, you can bet they’ll take less time than that.

This is the easiest mistake you could make on a resume. It won’t necessarily disqualify you for the job — unless you’re applying to be a copy editor — but it does show that you don’t pay attention to detail.

How to avoid this mistake: Just because a word doesn’t have a red squiggly line underneath it doesn’t mean it’s grammatically correct. Read over your resume out loud to see if the sentences make sense to you. After that, have a friend or family member proofread it for you.

3. Making you resume two-pages

Odds are, if you’re applying for a job, your experience isn’t worth two pages of resume space. And hiring managers aren’t going to take the time to flip the page to see if you’re worthy of a job.

Your resume should be just a page long and include your relevant work experience, skills, education, and references (if you have good ones). And if you can’t impress on one page, you may need to rethink some of your qualifications.

How to avoid this mistake: There are a few ways to cut your resume down to one page. The first is to write about your most relevant experience as tightly as possible (i.e. no loose and long-winded excerpts about your extensive travels and pets).

And if you have too much experience to fit on a page (and you haven’t been in the workforce for 30 years), consider what you don’t need to list. Put down your most impressive jobs, and if you have multiple retail jobs you’ve worked, only list the ones you’ve stayed at the longest. This shows you can stick with something for the long run, and hiring managers like that.

4. Listing your education first on your resume

If you’re applying for an entry-level job or higher, you probably have a degree — and, odds are, most applicants do too.

Hiring managers want to see your experiences that other people don’t have before they read about your 3.0 GPA. (And as an aside, don’t list your GPA if it’s lower than that).

How to avoid this mistake: List your education at the bottom of your resume, along with your major, minors/certificates, expected graduation date, and your GPA, if it’s good enough. Don’t waste your time on the courses you’ve taken or awards you’ve received from your university.

5. Listing your references without asking them

And even if your resume is good enough to get you a callback, if you haven’t asked the people listed on your resume to be your references, you probably aren’t going to get the job.

If a hiring manager calls your references and you haven’t asked them ahead of time, they might tell the manager exactly that. And even if they aren’t that brutally honest, they probably aren’t going to give you a glowing review on the spot.

How to avoid this mistake: Ask your former bosses, professors, advisors, etc. for a reference ahead of time, and let them know they may be getting a call after you apply for a job. This will give them time to prepare what they’re going to say about you. And you’ll rule out the people who wouldn’t be the best reference anyway.

Job interview mistakes

So you’ve submitted your resume, and it was good enough to get you a callback. Now, you have the job interview to think about.

Some people will make the same mistakes in person as they did on their resume. One-third of hiring managers say the second biggest mistake recent graduates make in a job interview is lying about their work experience, according to a survey from consulting firm Korn Ferry.[4]

Don’t blow it by doing any of these…

1. Not researching the company ahead of time

Nearly two-thirds of hiring managers say their biggest pet peeve is not researching the company or position they’re applying for.

“They’re not conducting enough research and, as a result, they’re walking into interviews unprepared,” says Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry. “They think having a polished resume is enough, but it’s not even close.”

How to avoid this mistake: >Search the company you’re applying to on Google and look at their about page. It’ll typically list the company’s goals and culture, so you can see whether or not you’ll be a good fit.

2. Not having anything interesting to say

Your resume was shiny enough to get you the interview, but if you get to there and regurgitate everything the hiring manager has already read, you aren’t getting the job.

Hiring managers say another big pet-peeve is when applicants don’t have an interesting anecdote, or story from their previous experience that illustrates their ability to actually do the job.

How to avoid this mistake: Come prepared to talk about your achievements at your previous jobs, or even your biggest screw-up, as long as you can prove you’ve learned something big from it.

3. Not proofing your social media

Eight in 10 hiring managers say they’ll check your social media, and recommend deleting anything embarrassing prior to the interview. Even if you have a glowing resume and social media persona, that one questionable tweet from three years ago might just lose you the job.

How to avoid this mistake: Go through every single social media platform and look for anything you might flag if you wanted to hire someone. Delete all that content and work on posting content that you think a professional would want to see.
Cameren Boatner contributed to this report.


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