27 Common Resume Mistakes that Can Lose You the Job

Writing a resume is no easy feat. Trying to figure out what style, format, font and wording to use can be a real challenge, especially if you are a first-time resume writer. The following article will take you on a journey through three ‘bad’ resumes. On the way you will encounter poor spacing, bad spelling, strange fonts, and fancy borders. The road to recovery is quick however, and you will soon find your way to three good sample resumes and resume tips you can use to create your own masterpiece. 

Sample 1:  “Anita's Resume”

As you can tell by the sample below, there are several mistakes made on this resume:

What we can learn from this resume:

  1. Your contact information should be easy to read and match the font on the rest of the resume.
  2. If you want to use a border, it should be a plain block border in order to maintain a professional appearance.
  3. If you are enrolled in college, you can take out your High School education. Leaving this date may lead to age discrimination and is not relevant at this time.
  4. The format for your college education should always be the same:
    Degree Type – Program of study Graduation Date
    School Name – City, State
  5. When highlighting the experience from your past employment, remember to use words and phrases that help the employer understand your skills. Take time to be specific and concise to explain your experience.
  6. Your dates and locations of employment should line up vertically down the page. This will give your resume a uniform look and make it easier to read.

Sample 2 – “Anita's Job”

“My biggest pet peeve on resumes is when they are created using ‘Resume Wizard’ in Word. While it’s useful, to some degree, it makes me think the student took a short cut in writing their resume.”

Erin Bucchignano, Director of Career Services for ECPI College of Technology.

What we can learn from this resume:

  1. Resumes built on a ‘template’ or ‘wizard’ format (like the sample to the left) are also very difficult to edit . These are also very common among applicants so it does little to help you stand out from the pack and could give the employer the impression you did not want to take the time to create your own document.
  2. Objective statements should be detailed enough to give the employer an idea of the job you are applying for and the skills you possess. If an objective statement is too difficult- you may use a “Skills Summary” instead. Some employers actually prefer a Skills Summary to an Objective Statement. Work with your Career Services Advisor to find what works best for your field.
  3. Education should again be formatted as stated in Example 1.
  4. Bullet points should all be the same size and lined up vertically down the page. Jessica Best, Assistant Director for Career Advising at the University of Oregon stated on LinkedIn that one of her dislikes in a resume is “distracting bullet points [such as] stars, arrows or smiley faces”. It is best to be ‘professionally plain’ when using bullet points.
  5. Formatting is key on a resume; be sure you utilize the same format throughout so the reader can easily follow. As you can see above the ‘Information Manager’ position is formatted nicely and this should be carried throughout the remainder of the Employment section.
  6. “Spelling mistakes!” are a pet peeve of resume writing for Jen Napierkowski, Assistant Director of Career Services in Pennsylvania. She continues to say she “thinks most people think spell check catches everything, but sometimes it doesn’t!” Be sure to have someone else review your resume before it is sent off. Many Career Services Professionals and Recruiters I spoke with stated “SPELLING” as their #1 pet peeve of resume writing.

Sample 3 – “Anita's Job”

As you can tell by the sample below, there are several mistakes made on this resume:

What we can learn from this resume:

  1. Corporate Recruiter Jon Wynn stated he hates to see “no dates of employment” on a resume as “this is a must in recognizing someone’s job stability”. As we can see below, Anita does not do a very good job of showing her job stability, even though she does not have much, she could have used a different format (Example 1) to show her work history. This format concentrates more on skills and experience, rather than the length of time on the job.
  2. This resume is not formatted in the usual way however, it is not formatted well either. If you want to format your resume differently than most, take the time to get opinions and reviews to be sure it is easy to read and follow.
  3. There is no need for headings such as “Resume”, or “Contact Information”; those are assumed. When writing your contact information – be sure it is correct and current. If you change your name, move or get a new phone number your first update should be to your resume. “I cannot contact you if you only have 6 numbers in your phone number or an incorrect email address. I will also not try to track you down when your number has been disconnected. And a related one, answer your cell phone in a professional manner, as you never know when your dream job is calling, and when they might hang up due to your obnoxious outgoing voicemail message”. Colleen Condon, Associate Director of Alumni Career Services at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
  4. The same goes for email use a professional email address; you can obtain a free email account at Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or various other sites. Keep this email address for job-seeking purposes only (use the same address for your LinkedIn account)!
  5. It’s essential to provide specific detail when stating your job duties. Take time to write down everything you did at the job and use the skills that align with the position you are applying for. Be concise and clear when listing these duties, for example “maintained customer service during high volume lunch and dinner rushes totaling $2500 in average sales daily”.
  6. When discussing your skills it is important to include specifics that back up your statements. Instead of “excellent typer” use “ability to type 60wpm on a consistent basis”; instead of “very good with internet” use “experienced in online research and databases”.
  7. There is generally little need for a 2 page resume; work with your Career Services Advisor to find out when it may be necessary for you to have more than 1 page.

Corporate Recruiter, and Human Resources specialist, Jon Wynn stated he hates to see “no dates of employment” on a resume as “this is a must in recognizing someone’s job stability”. As we can see below, Anita does not do a very good job of showing her job stability, even though she does not have much, she could have used a different format (Example 1) to show her work history. This format concentrates more on skills and experience, rather than the length of time on the job.

EXAMPLE 1: Combination Resume (Creative Job Search, DEED)

Sample 4

Here are some other great suggestions for resume writing:

  1. Make it “tangible results outlined – if you did sales, what were some specific achievements? If you managed, how many people did you oversee?” Audrey Posocco – Corporate Recruiter
  2. When emailing your resume – state the exact position title and location of the job in the subject. This will help a recruiter (who may be receiving up to 1000 resumes a week) stay organized. Write something in the body of the email as well, even something simple to direct the recruiter as to WHAT job you area applying for and WHERE the job is located. Are you living in Florida but want to move to Minnesota? Tell the recruiter that in the body of the email. Keep it short however, 1-2 sentences max.
  3. Don’t make up your job title, a recruiter will figure it out sooner or later.” Allison Maybury – Corporate Recruiter
  4. Keep reviews or feedback from other individuals on your LinkedIn page or for your References to share. They do not belong on your resume.
  5. Give clear, concise information “paragraphs take more time to read and bullet points should relate prior experience to the job the candidate is applying for”. Jon Wynn – Corporate Recruiter

Download these samples:

Below you will find 3 samples of good resumes that I created using Optimal Resume. As a student or graduate of Rasmussen College, you also have access to this great site; contact your Career Services office if you’d like to get started. The samples show how you can take your experience and create an easy to read resume that will impress an employer. Notice that even though I have used a ‘template’ from Optimal Resume, they all look unique! The style of resume you choose will depend on what program you are in, or what program you are an alumni of. Your past experience will also have an effect on the design. Someone with a lot of relevant work experience will have a very different resume then someone who has limited work experience. Work with your Career Services Advisor to decide what style works best for you.

Good Sample 1 - Larger Image
Good Sample 1 - PDF

Good Sample 2 - Larger Image
Good Sample 2 - PDF

Good Sample 3 - Larger Image
Good Sample 3 - PDF

Helpful Resources:

40 Ways to Ensure You DON'T Get the job

5 tips for online resume optimization

Nine Worst Resume Mistakes - Forbes.com

Worst Resume Ever

How to Follow-Up a Resume | eHow.com

Keyword Resume Optimization Tips

Resume Optimization for the Job Search Engines

Resume Search Optimization | Fast Company

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Summer Hagy, LSW, is an adjunct instructor for Rasmussen College at the St. Cloud, MN college campus. In this role, she teaches general education for college students seeking degrees online and on campus.

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