If you want to find a job, you need a great resumé.
Your resumé is the first thing employers will see, and first impressions matter. It’s important to present yourself in the best possible light.
Why a good resumé is important
A good resumé can land you a job interview, but before that happens, you need to catch an employer’s attention. Recruiters can spend as little as 6 seconds deciding whether a resumé makes the cut or goes into the reject pile.
You need to make a great impression and catch their interest right away!
Little mistakes can have big consequences
Mistakes on your resumé send the message that you haven’t put much effort into your application. That can mean you’re careless and lazy and don’t really care about finding a job.
That’s not the impression you want to make!
Knowing what mistakes to avoid lets you take your best shot at landing an interview and getting the job you want.
Common resumé mistakes to watch out for
What application screeners will spot
Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumés. These tracking systems scan for keywords. If your resumé doesn’t include the keywords the ATS is looking for, it will be rejected.
Your resumé will also be rejected if it can’t be read by an ATS. Keep your layout simple. Don’t use columns, fancy bullet points, or visuals of any kind.
What hiring managers will spot
A generic approach
If you really want to get a job, your resumé can’t be generic. Hiring managers will know at a glance if you’ve done your research. They want to see that you’ve listed the specific education, skills, and experience they’re looking for.
Gaps in your work history
Gaps in your work history can be a red flag for hiring managers. Be sure you are ready to explain them.
Exaggeration and dishonesty
Hiring managers have seen enough resumés to know when something doesn’t ring true. Exaggerating your qualifications won’t do you any favours.
Typos and spelling or grammar mistakes
It may seem like a little thing, but typos and grammatical errors can send your resumé to the reject pile right away. Hiring managers see them as a sign that you’re careless or not serious about the job.
Dos and Don’ts
1. Do tailor your resumé for each job
If you’re looking for work, you should have a master resumé that lists everything about you—your experience, training, achievements, skills, awards, references, and more.
Your master resumé is the full meal deal. But that’s not what employers want to see. They want to know if you have the specific skills and experience they need.
If you want to get noticed, your resumé must be carefully tailored to show that you have exactly what it takes for the job.
2. Do watch your language
Use strong action words to show what you can do. Here are some examples: generated, maximized, streamlined, managed, expanded, organized, spearheaded.
Use clear, direct language and standard headings that ATS software will recognize. For example, use “contact information” rather than “find me here.” Use “skills” rather than “what I can do.”
3. Do focus on your accomplishments, not your job duties
Employers want to know what you’re good at, not just what you can do. Pick out your most impressive accomplishments. Use specific details to describe them. Back up your claims with solid facts.
For example, don’t just say you “worked on a marketing campaign.” Use action words and hard data to show what you achieved. Say you “spearheaded a new marketing strategy that brought in 700 new customers” or “increased market share by 160%.”
4. Do choose an appropriate resumé style
5. Do keep your resumé short
Your resumé is not your life story. Unless you’re looking for work in college or university—or you have more than 20 years of experience—it should never be longer than a page or 2.
Only include information that’s directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Highlight the right skills and any special ones that set you apart from the competition.
6. Do make your resumé ATS friendly
Use appropriate keywords
If an employer’s ATS software doesn’t find the right keywords in your resumé, you’ll never land a job interview.
So how do you figure out what keywords to use?
The first and best place to find keywords is in the job description itself.
Keep the layout simple
Keep your layout simple to make sure an ATS can handle it. Don’t use columns. Don’t use visuals of any kind, like graphs, charts, pictures, animations, or infographics. Don’t use fancy bullet marks likes squares, stars, or checkmarks. Some ATS software can’t read them.
Use the correct file format
Be sure to use the file format the employer has specified. A PDF will ensure that your formatting stays intact even when your file is opened on a different computer. However, unless the job ad says a PDF file is acceptable, upload your resumé in the format the job ad asks for. This might be a plain text file (.txt) or a Microsoft Word .doc or .docx file.
Don’t include critical information in headers and footers
Some ATS software can’t read headers and footers. If you use them, make sure they don’t include critical details, like your contact info.
7. Do make it easy to read
Use bullet points, and choose a readable font like Arial, Georgia, or Times New Roman in 10- or 12-point black.
8. Do give your file an appropriate name.
Your file should be named like this: FirstName LastName Resume. Don’t include the job title, the date, version (“final”), or any other information.
9. Do use a professional-looking email address
Your resumé is not the place for cute usernames. Your email address should always include your real name and look professional. A format like this is appropriate: [Name][Last Name]@[Email Provider].
10. Do proofread carefully!
Typos, spelling errors, and grammar mistakes can cost you a job. Before submitting your resumé, read it through—slowly and carefully—several times.
Use Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checks or a free app like Grammarly to pinpoint possible errors or places where your writing could be improved. And make sure any links you’ve included actually work.
As a final check, ask a friend or family member to read you resumé and catch any mistakes you may have missed.
1. Don’t include a photo of yourself on your resumé
Photos on resumés are acceptable in some countries. In Canada and the United States, including a photo is considered unprofessional. It can open you up to discrimination, and it may lower your chances of getting a job.
2. Don’t use buzzwords
Buzzwords like hard-working, ambitious, results-driven, and team player are overused and can make your resumé sound boring and unoriginal. Instead of buzzwords, use action words to describe unique skills that you can back with experience. For example, instead of calling yourself a “go-getter,” use a bullet point that says, "designed new software that streamlined the purchasing experience and saved the company $500,000.”
3. Don’t list obvious skills and irrelevant experiences
Listings skills that everyone has—like knowing how to use a cellphone—is a waste of valuable space. So is listing skills and experiences that don’t relate to the job you’re applying for. Tailor your resumé to what the employer is looking for and show why you’re the best person for the job.
4. Don’t lie on your resumé
This should go without saying, but you should never, ever lie on your resume. It’s one of the most serious resumé mistakes you can make.
If your resumé claims you’re an expert on something, make sure that’s true. If it isn’t, you’ll be found out—sooner or later. And you may find yourself fired.
5. Don’t list references
List your references on your master resumé so they’re handy when you need them. But don’t list references on the tailored resumé that you submit to a hiring manager. You don’t even need to say “references available upon request.”
If an employer is seriously considering hiring you, they’ll ask you for references.
6. Don't say why you left a previous job
Everything you state on your resumé should be positive. If recruiters ask about previous jobs during an interview, be honest but tactful and professional.
7. Don’t disclose personal information
Never include your Social Insurance Number on your resumé. Don’t include personal information like your age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. This will protect you from any conscious or unconscious bias a recruiter may have.