Here Are 15 Common Resume Mistakes You Must Avoid in 2018

A resume fit for the modern-day job seeker is more than just concise bullet points and power verbs. Sometimes you can do everything right and still hear crickets. What happened? Where did your resume go? The Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) system happened. And it likely catapulted your work down the infamous resume “black hole.”

Sending up a Hail Mary prayer may help in this instance. But most would prefer a little more control over their careers. It could be that you’re committing common resume mistakes you didn’t even know existed. We’re not talkin’ typos. That’s already been covered, and frankly, there’s not much more we can say on the topic. Companies are placing a heavier reliance on robot-like software systems that scans, sorts, and sends approved resumes to a human recruiter for review. This opens the door to a whole new set of resume mistakes threatening to derail your professional journey.

Ahead, we’ll discuss 15 common resume mistakes you might be making and what you can do to ensure your resume beats the bots.

1. Placing important details in the header or footer

resume crumpled in cyan background

Resume crumpled in cyan background | ragsac/iStock/Getty Images

Applicant tracking software is making strides toward improvement, but it is still a bit wonky. TopResume’s Amanda Augustine says buried contact information can take your resume from ATS-ready to high-risk in seconds. Nearly 25% of resumes analyzed had unidentifiable contact information hiding in a doc’s header and footer. Job seekers hoping for a callback must place important details (i.e. your name, number, email address, and weblinks) outside these compartments for optimal readability.

Next: If you’re still including this info on your resume, it’s time to stop.

2. Listing your street address


It’s way outdated. | iStock/Getty Images

Street addresses are so last year. Ditto your references. The time has come to stop including your mailing address on your resume — unless you are expecting a written letter response circa 1991. Replace the snail mail details with a location instead, like Chicago, IL or Philadelphia, PA.

A note proclaiming “references available upon request” is also a waste of valuable resume real estate. This extra verbiage is redundant as most employers assume this to be the case already.

Next: One of the most dangerous resume mistakes ever

3. Choosing the wrong file format

Make sure the software can read your resume. | iStock/Getty Images

Given that most large companies rely on ATS software to sort through the mounds of resumes they receive daily, it’s imperative you save and submit your documents in the proper format. ATS scans word documents most efficiently, but PDF files are best at preserving design and formatting elements. They’re also more reliable when sending an application via email, as PDFs maintain their shape when opened on a mobile device.

Weigh your options here. It’d be wise to have multiple file types of your resume ready, just in case.

Next: A dangerous resume strategy you must avoid in 2018

4. Going for broke to get noticed

Businessman Reading Resume On Office Desk

You’re better off keeping things simple. | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

The internet is riddled with stories of job seekers using insane resume tricks to get noticed by employers. Going the extra mile to stand out can really pay off but be careful with this risky resume mistake. Outlandish strategies — like carving your resume into a slab of wood for a chainsaw operator position or changing your job titles to something overly clever — won’t work for most applications. Your best bet is to formulate a professional resume with restrained pizzazz that will demonstrate value over flair.

Next: Brand, brand, brand.

5. Inconsistent styling across documents

Business man review his resume on his desk

Format everything the same. | jamesteohart/iStock/Getty Images

Experts are always pushing the importance of establishing a personal brand and style. One way to accomplish this is to create a consistent theme throughout your professional portfolio. Consider using the same design formatting in your resume, cover letter, reference pages, and personal online website. The common theme will help add organization to your documents as well as vital personality distinctions.

Next: Could this be why you’re not getting any callbacks?

6. Eliminating URLs from your contact info

logo for LinkedIn

Consider adding your LinkedIn profile. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Submitting outdated contact information is considered one of the top modern-day resume mistakes. Replace the street address with focal URLs recruiters really want. This could be links to your social media handles (if appropriate), LinkedIn profile, or digital portfolio. Without these links, you’re just adding one more hoop hiring managers must jump through to get to know you.

Next: A common resume mistake too many people commit

7. Embedding graphics for originality

Charts are often unreadable. | iStock/Getty Images

TopResume found that 21% of the resumes submitted with charts or other embedded graphics were unreadable by ATS. Most applicant tracking systems cannot read information presented in fancy graphs, pie charts, pictures, or vector art. So, any key information hiding in these graphics are lost and ignored. Steer clear of these design elements and opt for easy-read text instead.

Next: To template or not to template?

8. Using wonky design templates

Resume applications on wooden desk ready to be reviewed

There are mixed reviews. | tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images

Reviews are mixed when it comes to creative resume templates and their functionality. Resumes with elaborate designs and non-traditional formats are visually appealing but they also run the risk of being rejected by ATS bots. You have a better chance at making it to a human review by focusing on a balanced design instead.

Clean, simple, and unique resume layouts are most appreciated. Forgo Times New Roman font and grab Veranda instead. Make use of bold, underline, and italics, too. If you’re feeling really inspired, try adding a little color to your text headers.

Next: A final answer on appropriate resume lengths

9. The document is longer than 2 pages


Stick to one page. | Fizkes/iStock/Getty Images

Thinking about letting your resume creep onto page three? Think again. Ask any recruiter and they will tell you that the maximum resume length is two pages. End of story. A ridiculously long resume is plain offensive to reviewers who scan hundreds of resumes a week and that inconsiderate misstep means your resume is already heading for the trash bin.

Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google says “A good rule of thumb is one page of resume for every 10 years of work experience. A crisp, focused resume demonstrates an ability to synthesize, prioritize, and convey the most important information about you.”

Next: A new resume trend you must know about

10. Not having an online portfolio

business man working in office

Show off your digital portfolio. | anyaberkut/iStock/Getty Images

Job applications in 2018 require extra effort. Offering employers access to digital add-ons — especially in many creative industries where work product is relevant — can give you a leg up from other applicants who stick to simple resume documents. Artists, designers, and writers who forgo creating a digital portfolio of their work, and a link for review, are missing a key opportunity to demonstrate qualifications and leave a lasting impression.

Next: Resume mistakes we all make

11. Implementing the wrong keyword strategy

Make sure you include the right words. | iStock/Getty Images

In the land of redundant resume advice, “including relevant keywords” probably takes the cake. Experts everywhere agree that sprinkling applicable words and phrases from the job description into your resume is key, but there’s a right and wrong way to do so.

TopResume suggests you aim to add relevant terms two to three times throughout your resume for best results. This means listing your technical proficiency with Adobe Creative Cloud software, for example, in your summary, professional experience, and skills sections.

Next: Another reason your experiencing resume rejection

12. Submitting a functional resume

Business Job interview. HR and resume of applicant on table.

It’ll look like you’re hiding something. | ijeab/iStock/Getty Images

It’s in your best interest to avoid functional resume formats at all costs. This format where focus is placed on abilities rather than chronological work history is confusing and usually works against you during the review process. Recruiters view these resumes with a skeptical eye because many applicants use this to hide large employment gaps and other less-than-desirable aspects of their professional careers.

Next: Don’t forget about this!

13. Relying solely on professional experience


They want to know more about you. | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

The best resumes feature information that goes beyond professional duties. So calling it quits with just a “Professional Experience” and “Education” section is among a job seeker’s most fatal resume mistakes. Additional qualifiers such as “Areas of Expertise”, “Technical Platforms”, or “Volunteer Work” provide bonus opportunities to demonstrate value and, thus, are deemed vital resume components.

Next: This next resume element is hardly ever a good idea

14. Including a headshot

They don’t need to see what you look like. | iStock/Getty Images

The interweb’s most intricate resume design templates often include a space dedicated to a professional headshot. Don’t fall into the trap. Unless you’re an actor, a model, or you’re creating an elaborate CV, leave pictures alone. For one, that’s what your LinkedIn profile is for. Recruiters will surely peruse LinkedIn to get more information and see what you look like. Second, you run the risk of seeming egotistical. Yikes!

Next: A resume mistake you must avoid

15. Using the ‘copy and paste’ method

woman having job interview

It will make your work seem irrelevant. | iStock/Getty Images

“One of the common mistakes is feeling that the resume has to include every job and task in chronological order,” career management coach Laura Rose tells Monster. Resume writing is often such a daunting task for job seekers that they fall victim to the “copy and paste” method to describe their job history. Avoid listing everything you’ve ever done — or worse, including the exact verbiage of your job description — into your resume.

This could cause you to stray into irrelevant land, a very dangerous place to be during the job hunt.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.

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