The Seven Deadly (Resume) Sins: Top Resume Mistakes to Avoid

Image of crumpled resume in trash.

A meticulously crafted resume will open doors to job interviews. You probably know this. A quickly thrown together document filled with resume mistakes can sink your chances. You probably know this too. Yet despite all the warnings from employers, recruiters and countless career experts, some job seekers still don't think strategically (or type carefully) when writing their resumes. 

Here are some of the biggest kinds of goofs you can make, along with some amusing examples of real-life resume mistakes — dubbed Resumania® by our founder — that our company has collected:

Resume mistake #1: Being careless

A spelling faux pas or grammatical error can call into question your seriousness and attention to detail. Avoid blunders by establishing a step-by-step proofreading system. In addition to running your computer’s spell-check function, take the time to read your resume several times aloud on screen and on paper. Also, don't forget to ask friends or family members for editing suggestions. The following job applicant’s miscalculation indicated to employers that they wouldn’t be able to “count” on him if hired:

“HOBBIES: My three biggest hobbies are cars, racquetball, golf, and reading.”

Resume mistake #2: Going negative

Bad bosses aren’t uncommon. You're bound to have at least one during the course of your career. But regardless of how difficult a current or previous manager is or was, never bad-mouth him or her in your resume or cover letter. Even if the criticism is justified, your negative comments will reflect poorly on only one person: you. Coming across as a potential problem employee who has a hard time dealing with authority won’t get you anywhere. Check out this example of what not to do:

“REASON FOR LEAVING: The horrible new incoming manager took an instant dislike to the fact that I knew how to handle things better.”

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Resume mistake #3: Lying

Your word matters. While the practice of “resume padding” isn’t new, a competitive job market can lead otherwise honest people to embrace embellishments. This is always a mistake. Falsely claiming to possess a certification, slightly stretching dates of employment or inflating your job title simply isn’t worth the risk. Most companies conduct reference or background checks, and just one “little white lie” can cause employers to question your character and eliminate you from consideration. It took very little time to confirm suspicions that this poor speller’s claim was a work of fiction:

“AWARDS: Finalist for the most recent Pulizter Prize.”

Resume mistake #4: Failing to customize your resume

Different companies have different needs, so it's a mistake to send the same version of your resume to every organization. Tailor your resume by highlighting your skills and qualifications that most closely relate to the requirements of that job. Carefully review each prospective employer’s job ad and mirror their language when discussing your strengths and work experience. Make it easy for hiring managers to see how you will play a role in helping them be successful and accomplish their goals. This next job candidate did not get off to a good start:

“OBJECTIVE: To find any type of job.”

On the search for a new job? Need more advice? Check out the Robert Half Career Center.

Resume mistake #5: Mentioning money

Never cite your salary requirements unless an employer specifically requests that information. Mentioning the money, benefits or perks you want in your resume can come across as obnoxious and presumptuous. Wait until you’ve secured a job interview and the employer has expressed interest in hiring you before broaching the subject. Focus on the prospective employer’s needs — not your wants. This job hunter missed the memo and left a bad impression:

“REQUIREMENTS: $100,000 a year, medical, dental and vision coverage, pension, 401(k) plan, and my own office. All non-negotiable.

Resume mistake #6: Not writing in a straightforward manner

Hiring managers are drawn to professionals who communicate clearly and concisely. Write short, crisp and compelling sentences. Applicants hurt themselves when they weigh down their resumes with flashy five-dollar words, corporate-speak and tech jargon. Aim to answer questions, not raise them. This job candidate managed to be both vague and wordy:

“SKILLS: Able to remedy posterity and proficiency to the desired cumulus within the work arena. Once expounding upon these various constitutional elements, affinity is achieved, and I sequester the cultivation essential for yielded efficiencies.”

Resume mistake #7: Including unnecessary information

Certain pieces of personal information simply don’t belong on a resume. There’s no reason to include your date of birth or marital status, for example. In fact, doing so puts hiring managers in an awkward position because they are not supposed to take information like this into account when making hiring decisions. Also, omit details about your hobbies, reasons for leaving a previous job and non-work-related achievements that have no bearing on your career — such as this one:

“HONORS: I won an award for an essay in first grade and got my picture taken with the principal. That was a big win. My parents took me for ice cream.”

For more resume advice, check out our article, Red Flags on Your Resume? Craft a Cover Letter to Address Them.

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