Why Your Resume Isn’t Working: The Biggest Mistakes You’re Making Right Now!

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So, you’ve sent out what feels like a million resumes and still waiting for the phone to ring? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at that resume. Here are the top 10 resume blunders that might be holding you back from getting your foot in the door.

A Selfie Next to Your Email? Think Again!

Including a photo on your resume might seem like a great way to make a personal connection, but it’s usually more of a faux pas than a smart move. Sure, it’s common on LinkedIn, but on your resume, it can introduce biases or take up valuable space better spent on showcasing your skills.

Unless you’re applying for a job where your looks are directly relevant (acting, modelling—those gigs), leave the selfie for your Insta feed.

The One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Sending the same resume to every job ad is like using the same pick-up line at different parties. It might work once, but people will soon catch on.

Customising your resume for each position shows that you’re not just playing the numbers game—you actually care about this specific role and company. Align your skills and experiences with the job description. Show them you’re a fit by mirroring their language and highlighting relevant expertise.

Buzzwords That Buzzkill

“Hardworking,” “team player,” and “proactive” are great traits but using these buzzwords without evidence is just noise.

Instead of vague descriptors, include concrete examples of your achievements. Did your proactive approach increase sales, improve processes, or boost customer satisfaction? Quantify your impact and let the results speak louder than buzzwords.

TMI on the Hobby Front

We get it, you’re a well-rounded individual. But unless your hobbies add something relevant to the job you’re applying for, they’re just taking up precious space.

While being the captain of your local soccer team shows leadership and teamwork, that collection of rare moths might not help you land a software development job. Keep it relevant or keep it off.

Novella-Length Life Story

You might think that more is more when it comes to detailing your professional life, but recruiters spend an average of just a few seconds scanning each resume. They’re not looking for your autobiography.

Keep it concise. Focus on your recent and most relevant experiences. If your first job at the ice cream shop doesn’t relate to the software developer position you’re eyeing, skip it.

woman biting on pencil with laptop

Outdated Email That Screams “High School”

Hotmail and Yahoo emails can be a red flag, whispering tales of tech unsavviness. Opt for a Gmail account or, better yet, a custom email linked to your personal website.

Keep it professional, using your name without extras—[yourname]@[provider].com works just fine.

The Mystery of Missing Keywords

In the age of digital applications, missing keywords can be the black hole of your resume journey. Many companies use ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) to sift through applications. These systems scan for specific keywords related to the job.

Not customising your resume with the job description’s keywords is like hiding your resume from the very people you want to see it.

Formatting Faux Pas

A resume that looks like a Jackson Pollock painting? A big no. Wild fonts, crazy colors, and inconsistent formatting can make your resume hard to read and even harder to take seriously.

Stick to clean, professional fonts like Arial, Calibri or Georgia, and keep the size between 10 and 12. Use bullet points for easy reading, and maintain a clean, uniform layout throughout.

Contact Info Crammed in a Corner

Your contact information should be one of the first things an employer sees, not a scavenger hunt reward. Include it at the top of your document, clear and simple.

Make sure your phone number, email, and LinkedIn URL (if applicable) are correct and professional. You don’t want to miss an interview call because you mistyped your own number.

Ignoring the Power of the Cover Letter

Many think a resume alone will do the trick, but a cover letter can be your secret weapon. It gives you the chance to explain nuances in your resume like gaps in employment or a switch in industries and to express why you’re particularly excited about this job.

Not including it, when one is requested—or sometimes even when it’s optional—can make your application seem incomplete or lazy.

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man stressed with laptop

Leading with Lackluster Language

Starting your resume with a limp objective statement like “seeking a challenging position” is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

This space could be better utilised with a powerful summary highlighting your key achievements, skills, and what you bring to the table. Think of it as your elevator pitch; it should grab attention and not let go.

Using Passive Voice

Passive constructions on a resume can dilute the impact of your achievements. Switch to an active voice to make your contributions stand out.

Instead of saying, “Tasks were completed on time,” say, “Completed all tasks ahead of schedule.” This subtle change transforms your resume from a list of duties to a showcase of accomplishments.

Listing Every Job You’ve Ever Had

While you might think that a long history of varied jobs shows versatility and a strong work ethic, it can actually send the signal that you’re unfocused or a job-hopper.

Tailor your work experience to include only those roles that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. If you choose to mention additional positions, briefly list them as bullet points under an “Other Employment” section. This not only cleans up your resume but also ensures the recruiter sees you as a prime candidate for the specific role.

Overlooking Soft Skills

Yes, technical skills are crucial, but so are soft skills, especially in roles that require teamwork and leadership.

However, simply listing “good communication skills” or “problem-solving” isn’t enough. Demonstrate these with real-world examples. For instance, “Resolved cross-departmental conflicts leading to a 20% faster project delivery,” clearly shows your problem-solving skills in action.

Neglecting the Numbers

Quantifying your achievements gives them weight. Increased sales? By how much? Improved production speed? What was the percentage increase?

Numbers catch a recruiter’s eye and provide concrete evidence of your capabilities. For example, “Increased departmental productivity by 15% through streamlined processes” is far more impressive than “improved departmental productivity.”

confused woman with books

Failing to Highlight Promotions or Progress

If you’ve been promoted or have taken on more responsibilities over time, make sure this is clear on your resume. This not only shows that you’re capable of growth but also highlights your leadership potential.

Use subheadings under the same company to detail different roles if necessary to make your trajectory clear.

Forgetting to Update Your Skills

As industries evolve, so should your resume. Keeping outdated skills on your resume, like outdated software, can make you seem out of touch.

Always update your skills section to reflect the most current and relevant abilities, especially if you’ve taken courses or certifications recently.

Not Including Volunteer Work

If you have volunteer experience, especially in roles that provided transferable skills or relevant experience, make sure to include it. It shows initiative, commitment, and can be particularly persuasive in sectors like non-profit, education, and healthcare.

Using a Generic File Name

When saving your resume, remember that “resume.pdf” won’t stand out in a busy hiring manager’s folder. Use your name and the word ‘resume’ to make it personal and easily searchable, like “JohnDoe_Resume.pdf.”

Ignoring the Design for Digital Reading

Many resumes are first read on a screen, so think about how your document appears digitally. Avoid dense blocks of text that are hard to read on mobile devices.

Use space, bullet points, and headings effectively to enhance readability and ensure that key information pops out even on smaller screens.

Elevate Your Resume, Elevate Your Career

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can craft a resume that not only avoids the no-no’s but actively draws the right kind of attention from recruiters. Remember, your resume is your personal marketing tool—it’s worth investing the time to make it powerful, precise, and ultimately persuasive.

Now that you’re armed with these tips, give your resume another look. You might just find that it’s not only about avoiding mistakes but also about embracing opportunities to shine.

Need help? Transform your resume now!

Melissa is a skilled resume writer passionate about designing visually striking and strategically effective resumes. Committed to helping professionals across Australia achieve their career goals, she transforms individual experiences into compelling career stories.

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