The Top 10 Resume Mistakes Costing You the Job
The Top 10 Resume Mistakes Costing You the Job
I surveyed 200 professionals to find out what their biggest worry, frustration or challenge was with writing their resume. The number one answer: mistakes! Every single person was worried about making a resume mistake that would cost them the job. Some people were worried about spelling/grammar mistakes others about leaving out important information or not using the right wording.

So to help you I put together this list of the top 10 resume mistakes costing you the job. It includes ten common resume mistakes and what you should do instead.


Resume Mistake #1: Including outdated resume objectives

Using an objective on a resume is a practice from more than a decade ago. Objective statements are typically broad, sweeping statements that only tell the employer what you want. An example might sound like: “To land a great opportunity with a stable company where I can use my education and experience to help the company grow.”

The market has changed dramatically and employers aren’t as concerned about what you want (at least during the initial resume review – that concern comes later during the interview process). What they want to see on your resume is a great snapshot of your wins and successes, a specific job title, related keywords and dollars, percentages, and numbers.


Resume Mistake #2: A summary that is a generalized overview of your career history

It used to be that you could create a career summary that was a broad overview of your 10-20-year career. However, that’s all changed now. What employers want and need to see are industry-specific keywords, the most noteworthy accomplishments of your career (complete with accompanying figures), and your personal brand.


Resume Mistake #3: Keyword issues

The three most common keyword mistakes I see on resumes are:
  • Too few keywords
  • Too many keywords
  • Not the right keywords

It’s smart to create a bulleted keyword section near the top of your resume. Bullets make it easier for the eye to scan information and keywords are usually short which makes them easy to scan, too.

I would make three columns of three keywords each. Anything less would be too few and could prevent applicant tracking systems from pulling your resume during a search query. I wouldn’t include any more than 15 as that would be overwhelming for the employer reading your resume.

Make sure that you’re including only the keywords related to the position. If you need help determining which keywords are best, scan job postings, check out recommended skills on LinkedIn, or review position descriptions on websites like


Resume Mistake #4: Using passive language

Writing in passive voice reduces the impact of your words and accomplishments. You want to show yourself taking action so be sure to use active verbs when writing your resume’s bullet points.

Examples of active verbs are:
  • Pioneered
  • Championed
  • Overcame
  • Drove
  • Increased
  • Generated
  • Created

If you need more inspiration here’s an infographic I created with 100 action verbs you can use on your resume.


Resume Mistake #5: Too broad of a focus

There is no one-size-fits-all resume. You can create and use one but even in a great job market your results will be fruitless.

Don’t create one resume to apply to multiple types of industries or positions.

Do customize your resume for each type of position or industry to which you’ll be applying.

Customize your resume by doing the following:
– Use the exact position title at the top of your resume.
– Underneath the position title include the top three keywords relevant and critical to the role.
– Choose accomplishments that are vital to the success of the position, industry, and company.
– In the work history section of your resume, put the most relevant bullet points first and those of lesser importance further down.
– Include any education, credentials, or certifications that are required for the position near the top of the resume.
– Repeat these customizations for each different type of position, industry, or company you apply to.


Resume Mistake #6: Including more than 15 years’ work experience

This is always a delicate topic to discuss. Ageism is real though, and unconscious biases do exist so even if we don’t like them it’s still best to do what is within our power to avoid or overcome them.

I first heard this sentiment from Marie Zimenoff, the president of the Resume Writing Academy, and here’s my paraphrase: years of experience are rarely a differentiating factor. You do not need to include 20+ years of experience at the top of your resume. It’s also wise not to include more than 15 years’ experience on your resume.

By including statements about 20+ years’ experience or including more than the last 15 years of work history you’re opening yourself up for age bias. On this same note, unless you have just recently graduated within the past year or two I would not include graduation dates on your resume OR your LinkedIn profile.


Resume Mistake #7: Forgetting to add social proof

Social proof is an excellent way to validate the excellence and success of your work. You can solicit short quotes or testimonials from your network, former supervisors, or pull them from recommendations on your LinkedIn profile.

Avoid choosing vague statements like “John is a great guy. We really value the work he did for us.” Instead choose a testimonial that’s specific: “John always takes the time to go the extra mile for his clients. His exceptional client care secured a $2M contract with a previously competitor-aligned company.”

Using a short quote is a great way to brag about yourself without bragging about yourself, which is wonderful for those who are uncomfortable boasting about their wins. It also provides the much-needed proof and validation that puts employers at ease.


Resume Mistake #8: Spelling and grammar errors

Spelling and grammar mistakes are usually the smallest and easiest to make. They’re also the ones most likely to cost us that great opportunity. I cannot tell you how many thousands of resumes and cover letters I’ve read that contained spelling and grammar errors. If grammar isn’t your strength, find an editor to proofread your resume or hire a professional resume writer. It’s worth the investment to never have to lose another great opportunity.

Here’s an article our editor wrote about six commonly misused words on resumes and it’s number one on Google. Check it out and save yourself from making a mistake with one of them.


Resume Mistake #9: Resume length

Debates have ensued for years on the “right” length for a resume and this study from ResumeGo may have finally solved it. I’ve long advised that a one-page resume isn’t long enough for someone with 10+ years’ experience seeking an executive role. It seems like the research confirms that advice.

The ResumeGo study found recruiters are 2.3 times likely to prefer a two-page resume over a one-page resume.

It’s not just the length that is important, it’s the content, too. However, don’t believe the myth that your resume has to be condensed down into one page or recruiters will not read it. That simply isn’t true.

On the other end of the spectrum I also would not advise you to go any longer than a three-page resume. Anything past three pages is very unlikely to be read by a busy recruiter.


Resume Mistake #10: Listing duties instead of accomplishments

I’m sure you know even the smallest mistake on your resume will cost you the job. If you’re not familiar with current hiring practices, what employers need on a resume, or applicant tracking system requirements, it’s even easier to make a mistake.

We’ve helped more than 10,000 executives avoid resume mistakes, make a great first impression, and land better, higher-paying jobs. We can help you, too.

It’s easy to get started: all you need to do is sign up online. We’ll call to schedule a time to chat about your resume and within three to five business days you’ll have a professional and polished resume.

So, go ahead and sign up today, and never worry about missing out on a great job again.