Career Advice

9 Fatal Resume Flaws

min read
Mikaela Thompson

They’re deceptively easy to make and potentially costing you job opportunities….resume mistakes. 

It’s draining, tedious work writing a resume, especially in the highly competitive job market today where you need to prepare multiple versions. It can seem like a war of attrition. Whoever can keep up the energy to faultlessly tailor their resume for the likely, double digit numbers of job postings applied for, lands the interviews. It’s very tempting to tell yourself, it’ll do as it is and send it off anyway. Don’t waste your time! Dig deep and pay meticulous attention to what you’ve written. Here’s why. 

According to a survey of 379 former and current recruiters, hiring managers and HR executives, as well as the advice of high-profile recruitment websites, the following are the most significant reasons your resume will be binned:

1) Typos, spelling and grammatical errors:

Everybody makes these, but not everyone puts in the time to check for such errors, much less corrects them. This is a silly, unprofessional mistake. It smacks of not caring about the application and doesn’t bode well for your work ethic. 

Do: reread your resume from the bottom (last page) to the top (first page) and place your finger on each word to avoid skimming over any. This will focus your attention on the word and sentence level, where mistakes are typically made, rather than being distracted by the content and layout. Since it’s hard to catch your own mistakes, you can ask a friend to read it too, as a fresh pair of eyes. You can also use Word’s spell/grammar check then apply the online checker Grammarly which will catch more errors than the former. There’s also Editor, an online proof-reading and copy-editing tool. It’s ‘pay as you go’ and specializes in resumes and cover letters. So really, there’s no excuse for having such minor but glaring flaws in your resume. Yet, this is apparently the number one deal-breaker found in resumes.

2) Outdated, inaccurate, irrelevant or missing contact details, skills and work history:

The reason for this should be self-evident. If your contact information is wrong, you won’t be getting any invitations for an interview, will you? It’s your job to make it easy for the recruiter to contact you. Don’t add these contact details to the header or as an image at the top of your resume. The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) used by recruiters, won’t be able to read it and will list it as missing. Similarly, redundant/ missing skills and work history won't sell you to the employer either. 

Do: make sure your contact details are right. Check too, that your technical and computer skills are current and target the job applied for. And don’t forget your soft skills. Things like your work ethic, time management and interpersonal communication are more important to employers than you think. Also, limit your work history to the last 10-15 years, leading with the most relevant to the job posting and omit irrelevant work experience. Additionally, omit your age, gender, hobbies and marital status etc., to avoid your resume being trashed for discriminatory reasons. Use as a measure, unless the details are relevant to the job, leave them out.

3) Highlighting duties while failing to demonstrate and quantify accomplishments:

Employers want to know what they can expect you to do for their company in terms of concrete results. Merely, describing your duties won’t do this.

Do: lead with the hardest hitting statements that demonstrate you have the key skills for this job e.g., show how you made a difference to each company you’ve worked for using specific examples e.g., business growth numbers, increased sales, proven returns on investments etc. Replace ‘responsible for’ with active verbs, such as, resolved, increased, developed etc. Without specifics, it may seem to the recruiter that irrespective of your duties and responsibilities listed, you achieved nothing in actual results. 

4) Keyword stuffing, flagrant buzzword use:

It’s a turn-off to have to read through a load of pretentious phrases and pufferies to get to the useful information and you risk the recruiter biffing your resume instead. Remember, you only have about 6 seconds to make an impression, so choose your words judiciously and make sure they flow naturally and make sense contextually. Avoid unnecessary padding, it won’t impress. As well, overused words become redundant. The recruiter may feel you haven’t made an effort to use variations of action-oriented words or lack the skill to do so.

Do: use keywords from the job posting to sell yourself, but don’t overdo it. To get past the ATS recruiters use to scan and weed out unqualified applicants, you will need to use some significant keywords from the job description that match your skills and experiences.

5) A generic, ‘one size fits all’ resume approach:

A seasoned recruiter will be able to tell if you’ve used a cookie cutter approach which will result in your resume being ignored or you, as a candidate, being blacklisted, according to the Managing Partner and Recruiter at ClarusApex ( 

Do: tweak your resume to match the requirements of each new job you apply for. It’s not a complete rewrite, just some adaptation. Customization will also mean your resume won’t get ditched by the ATS. 

6) Over-the-top formatting/design or visual clutter:

For resumes, less is more. The recruiter doesn’t want a headache trying to follow it e.g., margin to margin text in a range of fonts. 

Do: stick to a simple, clean resume design that has enough white space for easy skim reading of your information. Make sure your career story can be easily picked out by the recruiter. Use a mix of short paragraph role descriptions with a few bullet points for relevant qualifications, contributions, and achievements. The onus is on you to make the recruiter’s job easy.

7) Obsolete use of objective statements:

This is a thing of the past and indicates you’re not up to speed with current resume trends…which begs the question, what else are you out of date with? 

Do: write a professional summary instead, in the section below your name. Include 2-4 sentences that show what you can do for this company.

8) Resume is too long or too short:

There’s no definitive rule about resume length but unless you have more than 7 years’ experience, in which case two pages are acceptable, one page is enough. Don’t offend the recruiter by sending in a lengthy resume that suggests you don’t value their time. On the other hand, it would be counterproductive to leave out any impressive achievements to make the one-two page preference. 

Do: ask yourself, “Will this detail help me land an interview?’ Every detail should sell you, so let this be a measure of what to include. 

9) Inappropriate email address:

This is especially true of email addresses supplied to employers. Don’t try to be cute or original at the expense of professionalism. It doesn’t help to have an email address that links to some alter ego. You don’t want a recruiter to overlook you because they’re fixated on your e.g., ‘hipster.hottie’ email address. 

Do: provide an email address that links to who you are for memorability.

Key take outs:

Give yourself the best shot at rising above other applicants by dodging these preventable, small but fatal blunders. Help recruiters find out what they need to know, quickly and easily. Don’t distract them with unprofessional, niggling errors or overwhelm them with an information overload. 

Check out some more key interview tips here, and land that dream job in no time!

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