11 resume mistakes to avoid in 2018

I'm an interview coach, so people usually come to me after they've already sent their resume out and had it accepted. That's fine with me, because I used to be a resume writer, and I can tell you that writing ten resumes a day isn't my cup of tea.

But I do enjoy working on resumes (one a day is enough), and sometimes my clients ask me to look at theirs.

I've developed quite a list of things that drive me crazy about resumes and I'm sharing it with you in the hopes you won't drive recruiters crazy and keep yourself from getting a job.

Resume mistakes to avoid

1. Don't invent your own template

Why do people try to do this? Don't, unless you're a graphic designer. Just get one of the free downloadable templates from a site like Monster or one of the thousand other sites that has them. You don't need to create one yourself and it will look better if you don't.

I think the people who do this don't realize the format they're using is unattractive or outdated.

In doubt about your template (or lack thereof)? Ask someone their opinion of yours. 

2. Don't use a creative template if you're not a creative

Stick to a basic template. If you need to ask me whether you can use a "modern" or "creative" or "fun" template, you can't. 

Remember, what is the point of resumes? To get you an interview. How do they do this? By being easy to read. The human brain is big on pattern recognition. We like to see the same thing over and over because it's easier. 

3. Don't overdo the summary sections

Don't use an objective, a summary statement, and a skills section at the top. You can have one of these if you want, and you can have two if you're a tech person (summary and skills), but not three. Simplicity is best.

I had one client this week who had the most sections I have ever seen: career chronology, summary, skills and attributes, key assets, professional qualifications, career highlights, and technical skills. If you use this many sections it's so hard to focus on the key information.

No resume needs to be more than two pages. You can add as much info as you want to your LinkedIn profile. 

4. Use taglines carefully

There's nothing wrong with taglines, but they're not standard format for a resume. In my opinion, this is a reason not to use them. 

What's a tagline? My tagline on my LinkedIn profile (which is not on my resume) is "Interview Coach for International Students and Professionals."

You can have a tagline on your resume if you're successful enough (VP or higher). You can also use one if you're in marketing because they're more common in that field. 

Steve Jobs could put "Visionary" on his resume (not that he needed a resume), but what if I did? If I had that, or any tagline, on my resume you would think I was trying too hard to market myself.

"Jennifer Scupi, Product Leader."

It's okay on a LinkedIn profile but on a resume it's too much.

While resumes are marketing documents, taglines aren't common on them (yet), so when you use one it stands out. Standing out can be good, but when you try too hard to market yourself, it's not good.

5. Don't omit big things

Leaving off your undergrad degree to make yourself look younger or to hide that it's in a different field doesn't work.

It just makes you look like you forgot to add it. We aren't going to forget that college exists just because you didn't write it down.

6. Don't use small fonts

Your fonts should be 12 point. Don't use 10 point font. If you need to use 10 point to fit everything in you are writing too much detail. 

7. Don't use serif fonts

I've gotten a lot of resumes lately with serif fonts. Why? My guess is that people think serif fonts are more interesting or "prettier." 

What's a serif font? Serifs are the little curly ends on the letters. See the red circled tips of the letters below? 

serif vs sans serif fonts

Serifs are old-fashioned and harder to read. They're also hard to choose correctly unless you are a graphic designer. 

What font should you use? 

Arial 12 point is the most common resume font and no one will think about it or complain if you use this.

8. Don't use buzzwords and cliches

Buzzwords and cliches are words or phrases that are used so much they become overused. When this happens we don't notice them anymore, and that's the last thing you want to happen with your resume.

Ones to avoid:

  • "results-driven" Instead you can write about what you did to actually drive results. What actions did you take to do this? What were the results?

  • "results oriented" See above.

  • "data driven" See above, and also, wow, I hear this a lot. You realize what the opposite of this is, right? It means you just guess what to do. So of course you're data driven. I hope you're data driven. You don't need to say it. Stop copying lines from job descriptions and pasting them into your resume without understanding which keywords to copy and which not to.

  • "proven track record of success" This is absolutely the most overused resume phrase of the decade. Instead of saying "I'm an interview coach with a proven track record of success" I could say "I'm an interview coach who's helped X number of clients get jobs." This is a more compelling sentence.

  • "team player" Again, think of what this is saying. You can work with other people? You shouldn't need to say this. It's like saying I'm not a serial killer, please hire me.

  • "hard worker" Tell me things that you accomplished, not what your personality traits are.

  • "think outside the box" Again, this is a personality trait. Tell me what you did with your creativity, don't tell me that you're creative.

  • "ROI" We know you know what ROI is, you don't need to put it into each sentence. Please don't use it unless someone asks you a question with this in it. It makes you sound like a teenager pretending to have an MBA.

  • "disruptive" "Amazon is so disruptive." "This technology is so disruptive." Actually it's really not, not in 2018. It was in 2010, but it isn't anymore. Think of something more creative to say about whatever it is.

As I said above, don't copy words or phrases or entire sentences from job descriptions and paste them into your resume unless you understand how to choose the right ones. You do need to use the same keywords in your resume that the job description has, but if you're using the words and phrases above because you copied from the JD, you don't understand how to choose the right keywords.

9. Don't put personal info on resumes for American jobs

What do I mean by personal?

No photo of you (Americans don't do this), no marital status (this is illegal for American companies to ask), no religion (also illegal), no age (illegal), and no hobbies. 

If you list these things it screams "I'm a foreigner and I don't understand American culture." 

Also no home address or home phone number. 

If you're a US citizen but have a foreign name and have worked abroad, you can put your citizenship status because it will make companies more willing to interview you. Don't list it unless you are a citizen because not being one will make employers less willing to interview you.

10. Don't list references

Many people write "references available upon request" but this is outdated. It will make you seem old and old-fashioned.

11. Use the correct tense

Use present tense to talk about your current job and past tense to talk about your past jobs. Only descriptions of your current job should be in the present tense.

If you'd like a review of the right tenses to use in your job interview (which applies to resumes too), you can read this post.


I hope this post helps you with your resume. If you need help with it, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a consultation or an appointment.

Interview Genie is an interview prep company .