Bad Resume Examples: 10 Mistakes to Avoid and Prevent
Your resume may be the first opportunity you have to make a positive impression on a potential employer. Before meeting you, hiring managers use this application document to learn about your education, experience and skills to determine whether you’re a good fit for an available role. Understanding how to craft a well-written, clear and thoughtfully designed resume is a critical step in securing an interview.
In this article, we discuss what a weak resume is and provide examples of 10 resume mistakes to avoid when crafting your application documents.
What is a weak resume?
A weak resume is an application document that doesn’t display your educational and professional history in a clear, accurate and easy-to-read way. Recruiters and hiring managers notice unprofessional resumes and associate them with a lack of attention to detail. Ineffective resumes may include features that distract from the content, or the content itself may be overly wordy, vague, or confusing.
Additionally, a poorly designed resume may leave out pertinent information, such as contact information, or provide too many irrelevant details. Focus your resume on the specific job you’re applying for, tailoring your list of achievements and skills to align with the skills listed on the job posting. Submitting a strong resume can allow you to highlight your qualifications and describe why you’re the right candidate for the position.
Examples of resume mistakes
Here are several examples of resume mistakes with tips to help you avoid making the same missteps in your own application documents:
A well-formatted resume is easy to scan, organized and includes plenty of white space around the content. Resumes that are too crowded or poorly formatted distract from the important details listed on the document. When writing your resume, consider formatting that adheres to these guidelines:
- Align sections with one another.
- Use consistent styles for headings and paragraphs throughout.
- Avoid embellishments, colors and unnecessary graphics.
- Select appropriate margins that leave sufficient blank space.
- Consider using a resume template through a word processing program or an online resource.
Lack of clarity and focus
Here are some mistakes to avoid on your resume to ensure the document is clear and focused:
Large blocks of text
Large blocks of text can overwhelm readers or lessen the impact of your achievements and experience. Consider breaking up your content with bullet points and smaller blocks of text. This can help reviewers find all the important content and notice the most significant sections. Consider this example section of a sales manager’s resume:
I started as a sales associate at Green Acres Plants, where I worked with a team of 50 associates. I was the top-performing salesperson for two quarters. After six months, management promoted me to sales manager, and I led a team of 12 associates. Our team ranked highest in sales for three months in a row and set a company record for sales in December 2018. The company owner recognized my contributions and featured me in the company newsletter.
The candidate can improve this section by highlighting achievements with bullet points. Here’s a rewritten version that’s easier to scan:
Sales Manager, March 2018–June 2020
Green Acres Plants, Orlando, FL
- Ranked highest-earning salesperson on a team of 50 for two quarters
- Promoted from sales associate to sales manager after six months with the company
- Led team of 12 sales associates as the highest-earning team for three months
Too many jobs or jobs from too long ago
You want your resume to project responsibility, commitment and loyalty to employers. You should include long-term jobs, jobs where you produced exceptional results and jobs that fill in long employment gaps. Unless you accomplished something significant or the job is particularly relevant, consider omitting jobs from that far in the past. Here’s an example of a resume that includes five jobs, as well as a job from over 10 years ago, most of which are less than a year in duration:
- Cashier, Groceries Plus, August 2011–February 2012
- Retail Associate, Clothes N’ Things, January 2016–March 2016
- Front Desk Clerk, Smith Law Office, April 2016–December 2016
- Retail Associate, Scrapbook Emporium, January 2017–November 2017
- Appointment Scheduler, Jones Medical Group, November 2017–Current
You can improve this section by eliminating the earliest jobs and including only the most recent ones. Also, include your experience in reverse chronological order with your current or most recent job first. Here’s the updated section:
Appointment Scheduler, November 2017–Current
Jones Medical Group, Denver, CO
Retail Associate, January 2017 – November 2017
Scrapbook Emporium, Philadelphia, PA
Inappropriate tone, language or grammar
Here are some errors to look out for on your resume regarding tone, language and grammar:
Poor spelling and grammar
Proper spelling and grammar reflect your attention to detail as a quality candidate. While you may list “communication” as a skill on your resume, the document itself is one of the first examples of how well you organize, write, edit and communicate professional information. Common grammatical errors to watch out for include:
- Incorrect use of commas and periods
- Too much or absence of capitalization
- Inappropriate abbreviations
Unprofessional email address
If you have an email address with personal details or one that sounds unprofessional, consider creating a new email address for professional activities from a free email service. Here’s an example of an unprofessional personal email address that you may want to avoid adding to your resume:
A more professional email address is:
Using appropriate keywords can help your resume pass through possible scanning software as well as initial recruiter reviews. It’s important not to stuff your resume with keywords and replace keyword-heavy statements with a more direct, detailed approach. Select action words that describe your roles and strengths rather than an abundance of keywords to have a greater impact on readers. Avoid overused words and phrases, such as team player, managed or assisted.
Consider this objective section from a professional in the accounting industry:
Highly motivated, detail-oriented candidate seeking an executive accounting position. Experienced in accounting software, has strong communication skills and is ready to work as a team player.
This objective says little about the candidate and instead uses popular words that don’t offer actual meaning. Here’s a more effective version:
After a 23-year career in accounts receivable management, I’m seeking an executive-level accounting position with a Fortune 500 company to apply advanced QuickBooks skills, motivate colleagues through research-based performance improvement strategies and foster creative, collaborative problem-solving.
It’s important for your resume to include particular details that allow potential employers to contact you. That includes your name, email address, phone number, the city and state where you live and possibly your website if it contains a portfolio of your work. Avoid the following details:
- Photograph (unless relevant to the position)
- Marital status
Similarly, it’s important for the information on your resume to relate to a specific position or enhance the likelihood that you secure an interview. As you consider what details to include, try to view your resume from the perspective of a potential manager. For example, your 2.8 GPA may have been at the top of your class in a demanding undergraduate major but might receive unfavorable attention from managers without the appropriate context.
Lack of experience or information
Here are mistakes to avoid on your resume regarding lack of information or experience:
Like with irrelevant skills, you should replace generic skills with specific, task-oriented abilities that apply to the job you’re seeking. Elaborating on these areas helps reviewers better understand your strengths and your ability to succeed in the role. Here’s an example of generic skills from a web designer’s resume:
Microsoft Excel | Graphic design | Communication
Readers of this resume may assume which particular skills the candidate possesses. For instance, Excel has hundreds of functions. Here’s a more descriptive version:
Excel proficiency, including PivotTables, data verification, SUMIF, COUNTIF and VLOOKUP | Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign | Written and verbal communication | Fluent in Spanish
Irrelevant or expected skills
Instead of listing all of your skills and competencies, only add the most relevant, advanced and applicable skills. For instance, most employees in any industry should have a basic understanding of email, word processing and web searches, so that isn’t something you need to include. Consider this example for a web content manager’s resume:
Written communication | Word processing | Internet research
This list of skills doesn’t apply to a specific role, company or field. Replace a list of basic, expected skills with relevant skills like these:
Coding in HTML, Java and PHP | Project management through Workfront and Asana | Content management through WordPress
Hiring managers want to know what successes you’ve had in your career and what career progression you’ve attained. Add notable accomplishments, milestones, and recognition from previous jobs along with responsibilities. Here’s an example from a physician assistant’s resume:
Physician Assistant, June 2019–Current
Homer Family Medicine, Boulder, CO
- Diagnose and treat patients of all ages
- Check on patients in the hospital
- Assist with complex medical procedures
This resume only explains what the job entails. An enhanced version describes how performing these responsibilities has a positive impact on the company:
Physician Assistant, June 2019–Current
Homer Family Medicine, Boulder, CO
- Diagnose and treat patients of all ages, including a 30% increase in pediatric patients since hire date
- Check on patients in the hospital, allowing the physician to see eight more patients per day, resulting in $4,500 in increased insurance reimbursements monthly
- Assist with complex medical procedures, facilitating quicker procedure times and the ability to perform 20% more procedures than the previous year
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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