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5 Common Resume Mistakes—And How To Avoid Them

These common resume mistakes could get in the way of your job or b-school application. Business school experts weigh in on how to steer clear of them

Mon Mar 14 2022

Crafting a strong resume is no easy task. Despite being just a page or two in length, writing a resume that stands out to recruiters can take hours of dedicated work.

And since the average hiring manager spends just 7.4 seconds looking at your resume, this small document has to deliver a lot of information fast. 

With so much on the line, it’s important to understand the pitfalls you’re most likely to encounter when it comes to writing your resume.

Here are five of the most common resume mistakes to watch out for.

Download our BusinessBecause Resume Guide

For more expert guidance on your resume and free CV templates, download our BusinessBecause Resume Guide: 10 Steps To A Winning Resume 2022, where we reveal the 10 steps it takes to put together a resume that recruiters will remember.


Resume mistake 1: you don’t include tangible results

To really stand out, your resume should be more than a list of positions you’ve held. One of the most common resume mistakes you can make is to not include the concrete achievements you had in a job.

Perhaps you consistently beat sales targets, implemented a new process, or increased traffic to a company website. Whatever your accomplishment, let the hiring manager know.

“Remember that you’re looking to highlight your distinguishing achievements,” advises Margaret O’Neill, head of careers at Cambridge Judge Business School.

“Saying you were ‘responsible for’ something doesn’t tell the reader how good you were at it, so try to avoid listing your job description and focus on the impact and legacy of each role you held.” 

Resume mistake 2: including irrelevant information

When creating a resume, you have limited space to work with. This means thinking carefully about what to include, and what to omit.

Many candidates make the mistake of trying to cram their entire life story into a resume, making it tricky for the reader to identify what you can bring to their organization. 

“Don’t make the reader have to work too hard to sift out the gems from a lot of extraneous information—make it easy for them to see the value you can bring,” advises Margaret from Cambridge Judge.  

Resume mistake 3: neglecting applicant tracking systems

Wasting space with irrelevant information can send you straight into another resume trap: ignoring applicant tracking systems (ATS).

Around 99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software, which can scan, organize, and even rank applications a company receives for a job opening.

To ensure your resume isn’t thrown out by the ATS, you’ll need to pay careful attention to the job description, and pick out key skills and traits to include in your resume.

“Be sure to use keywords to capture your experience so that in a scan your resume will meet the criteria being used in the search,” recommends Beth Briggs, associate dean of career services at NYU Stern Business School.

Resume mistake 4: your design is too elaborate

A confusing resume design can be equally off-putting to hiring managers and admissions teams. 

If your resume is full of patterns, colors, and too many sections, readers might find it difficult to get a quick overview of your profile.

“I’ve seen too many over-engineered resume formats that both confuse me as a reviewer, and the company’s applicant tracking system,” says Jerry Wang, associate director of career and leadership for MBA programs at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“Boring is generally better unless you’re applying for a design or artistic job,” he adds.

Resume mistake 5: not having someone proofread

Even when you’ve spent hours writing, rewriting, designing, and editing your resume, typos and errors can still slip through the net. For this reason, not having a trusted friend or mentor proofread your resume is a big mistake.

“An application with mistakes is almost always discarded, which is quite a shame when you see all the work that has been done beforehand,” says Isabelle Chevalier, director of talent and careers at NEOMA Business School.

Getting a fresh pair of eyes on your resume can help you avoid this dreaded situation. 

Download the BusinessBecause Resume Guide: 10 Steps To A Winning Resume 2022