As a millennial, it can be hard to transition from that university resume to a young professional resume and it can be super easy to make these 6 mistakes. There are as many resumes articles out there as there are resumes. However, after hours of research, I have found the most common resume mistakes for modern resumes from recruiters and from job seekers. And it goes way beyond spell check (but that’s still an important mistake not to make so have someone else proof read your resume!). But let’s face it:
And prior to this, many concepts seemed so allusive. Like what is ATS and why is it important? How do you transition into a professional resume? How much information is too much information?
These are the concepts that will be covered in this article. And there is a special surprise at the end as well!
So if you’re tired of painfully reading through forums on what a good resume is and what is not, here are the 6 resume mistakes you definitely need to avoid.
1. Always Adding Your Education At The Beginning Of Your Resume
By default, it’s so easy to add education to the top of your resume because that’s what you’ve always done. And while it’s definitely reasonable, it may not be the best use of visual space on your resume. As we’ve all heard before, recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds glancing through a resume. And those precious first few seconds after your name make a huge impact on your whether they decide it is worth spending more time reading through your resume or not. And your education may not always be a deciding factor in that decision.
The only exception would be if you are still in school, and your position requires a certain level of education for that profession. For instance, if you are still in school for being a teacher, but are looking for work as a substitute or part-time teacher, it’s definitely relevant information because the position probably requires you to be working towards a teacher’s degree. The same goes for if you are in accounting and are still in the CPA program, if you are an articling student still in law school, or if you are in a post-graduate program applying for jobs in academia, working towards a masters/Ph.D. is a requirement.
If you have finished your degree and are now working (related or unrelated) in a professional field than your education should go at the bottom of your resume, not the top.
But otherwise, it’s best to put information that will make you stand out the most as a candidate at the beginning of your resume. So instead of education, start off with a skills summary or even your work experience if that is what is most relevant to the job posting. Speaking of relevancy, the second most common mistake is….
2. Not Starting With Relevant and Recent Information
At the beginning of your career, it’s easy to write everything you’ve ever done on your resume. And that’s perfectly fine because in high school and university, you probably have limited work experience and so it’s easy to fit all of your jobs on a resume with a few bullet points here and there because your work was probably not super complex.
However, as you move further along in your professional career, your experience will grow and resume will get longer and longer. But instead of trying to squish in all of your experience into one or two pages with tiny font, really go through your resume and evaluate what is relevant and important to the job.
And it will be different for each job posting.
I will use myself as an example. Back in university, I used to volunteer for a non-profit organization as a music teacher. However, I was also on the executive team which meant I worked as the Director of PR in communicating and liaising with community centers across the Lower Mainland.
Is this great experience? Yes. Is it relevant to every role? No.
I only add this experience to jobs postings that work with non-profits and organizations. In my current role, I assist in distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to non-profits and organizations every year as a part of the grant program. So I included my non-profit work and experience as a part of my resume. But for more research-based job postings, I leave it off because it’s not relevant.
Go through each experience and job posting and only include what’s relevant.
3. Still Including References Available Upon Requests
There are many reasons that you don’t need to add “References Available Upon Request” on your resume, but the most obvious answer is that if an employer needs references, they will ask for it. You don’t need to tell them that they need to ask for it.
It is best practice in the HR community that you do not need to have “References Available Upon Request” on your resume.
Of course, it does not hurt your resume. But it does make it look dated and it takes up precious resume space.
4. Having Too Many Graphic Elements
Disclaimer: This is the point is not for people who work in marketing, advertising, social media or graphic design where art/design/visual creativity is a huge component of the role.
A well-designed resume will do wonders for your job search. But if ever seen those beautiful resume templates on Pinterest or Etsy, you’ll notice that they also have lots of visual graphics. There’s nothing wrong with a few icon graphics here or there or a beautiful font, but it does go too far when it doesn’t
I’m an avid believer that the most important part of your resume is the content. And how you display it is important, but unless your in creative profession, you’re not trying to convey your artistic abilities, you’re trying to demonstrate your competency and skill set for the job.
What do I mean by too many graphics? A common one on modern resumes is to show skill levels through bars or by filled out dots like this:
But what does that even mean? Who’s judging you? And with what standards?
It’s much better to use descriptive words to describe your skill level like “Proficient in X” or “Intermediate knowledge of Y.”
Don’t believe me? This career expert said the same thing in this video to Business Insider.
Again, I’ll use myself as an example. One of my skills is being intermediate in French. What is easier to understand on a resume?
Intermediate French (DELF B2 Level; B1 Exam 85%)
And if knowledge of French was required in the job posting, I would also add that I was Intermediate level during my Summer Immersion program at Laval University in Quebec City.
Unlike the black dots, this kind of information is tangible. It’s clear, concise, and backs up my skill set against national standards and institutions (if you don’t know, DELF stands for Diplôme d’études en langue française which is a recognized French accreditation program).
Trust me, I love design and graphics but there’s a time and place for it. I know that these types of layouts and graphics make understanding info super easy on a photo or video content, but a resume isn’t having the most visually appealing resume. It’s about highlighting your best skills and showcasing it as best as possible. Not as pretty as possible.
Another problem with using lots of graphics is that you usually have to use a software like Photoshop or Canva. And these softwares generally don’t have the same spellcheck and grammar finding functions as a word based application like Microsoft Word.
Design is important, but it never triumphs spelling/grammar mistakes (unless you are in an art field).
And speaking of over-doing the design…..
5. Ignoring the ATS Bots
The next mistake I see a lot of people making is overdoing their resume to the point where the text isn’t the main component.
Again, disclaimer: this is only for professional resumes, not for resumes in marketing, advertising, or in creative arts.
What is ATS? ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System. It’s basically like a bot that scans through your resumes for keywords to see if you are even qualified for a job (before a recruiter sees it).
First of all, it would require that you know how to use those programs, which not everyone does. And second of all, it can severely hurt you in the job search process for big companies!
Not every company uses ATS but many companies do. Think about, how many resumes do you think Google or Amazon or any large organization gets every single day. There is no way for anyone to physically read through every single resume (and even then, they are only using 6 seconds).
So for large organizations, they have bots that help them sift through the resumes from serious candidates and the ones whose experience is mostly food delivery. Yes, that happens. I used to work in an office where people would send in resumes when they had absolutely 0% related experience or skills and it’s just a waste of time at the end of the day.
If you want to see if you’re resume is ATS friendly – I highly recommend putting it in the job search tool JobScan.co. It allows you to see what your resume looks like against the ATS system. During my previous job searches, I always wondered why I never heard back from big companies. So I put the resume template I bought on Etsy through this system and you know what I found out? That due to all the graphics and layout of my resume, it couldn’t even read my name! Use this tool to see what recruiters are seeing.
6. Not Using Keywords
While some of the other points had exceptions, this one does not.
It doesn’t really matter what your resume looks like, how fancy or beautiful it is, or how great your experience is if you are not using the right keywords to get your resume past the initial 6 second phase.
So when you are going reworking your resume, make sure it’s catered to each job posting using related keywords.
What are keywords? They are the words used in a job posting that express the qualities an employer is looking for in a candidate for that role.
For example, if you work in sales. Some keywords that might come up are communication skills, strong negotiator, customer service skills, etc.
Make sure you are adding in those keywords from the job posting into your resume to make sure it get’s past the bots. Or even if you are sending your resume directly to a person, make sure they know within the first 6 seconds that you have all the core skills for the position and it’s worth their time to find out more!
At the end of the day, a resume is an extension of you. It’s your first impression; it’s your professional highlight reel; make sure it counts.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a new resume template or wanting to really see samples of what a ATS friendly and design resume looks like, be sure to check out the MLA Resume Template Packages that not only come with an ATS Friendly Resume, it comes with matching reference and cover letter template – and a free workbook! Check them out here.