The Three Most Common Resume Mistakes - And How to Fix Them

March 12, 2018 by
The Three Most Common Resume Mistakes - And How to Fix Them
Rodney Boman

The most common resume mistake is to fill a resume with so much meaningless jargon (“Results-oriented professional/Motivated self-starter/Proven track record of success”) that it’s almost impossible for the person reading your resume to determine what you’ve done in your career, or what you’re trying to do.

If you stuff corporate-speak jargon into your resume in order to make yourself sound more “professional” you will drown out the human story that is trying to come across on the page.

Get rid of as much as possible of the boring, traditional resume phrases and replace them with normal human language that tells the reader what you do, why or how you do it and what you’ve done with your talents in your career so far.

Here’s an example to inspire you!

The second very common resume mistake is to fill up your resume with bullet points that list the tasks and duties you performed at each of your past jobs. Don’t waste your precious resume space with tasks and duties!

Anybody who is likely to read your resume can pretty well extrapolate your tasks and duties from your job title, and in any case the tasks and duties you were assigned are not a great indicator of what you got done in any past job.

Tell us what you left in your wake instead of listing your tasks and duties!


Here’s an example:

Acme Explosives, Phoenix, Arizona

Project Coordinator

2012 – 2017

I joined Acme Explosives, a family-owned stick dynamite manufacturer, when I heard the CEO speak at a conference and wrote to him afterward.

As Project Coordinator for Acme’s first modular stick dynamite product I prepared marketing materials, worked with our packaging consultant and set up shipping routes to meet the needs of our U.S. customers.

  • In my manager’s absence, I scheduled and led weekly product meetings to keep the new-product development process on track.

  • I created the marketing collateral library for our product launch and organized product training that helped our sales force generate $450K in pre-launch sales. 

What can we see about this job-seeker? We can see that he or she did not merely show up to work every day to do whatever he or she was told.

This job-seeker took the initiative. First, they saw Acme’s CEO speak at a conference, and went home to write to him. They came on board at Acme to help the company launch a big new product.

As we read this person’s resume, we can almost see the Project Coordinator in action — racing around at Acme Explosives getting ready for that product launch. They know the figure for pre-launch orders of the product they worked so hard on — and why wouldn’t they? That modular stick dynamite product was their baby.

Wouldn’t you want to meet this candidate if you were a hiring manager? Maybe your upcoming product launch could be their next baby!

The Project Coordinator told us what he or she left in their wake at Acme Explosives. They didn’t waste time or put us to sleep listing their tasks and duties!

The third prevalent and unfortunate resume mistake is to treat your resume-writing exercise as a Mad Libs game, merely filling in the blanks (company names, dates and job titles) and coming across like everybody or nobody, instead of bringing your individual human story across on the page.

Writing a resume with personality and power takes a little longer than cutting and pasting dates and duties from old resumes or old job descriptions onto a blank page, but it’s so much more effective when you invest that time!

Your resume is your principal branding document. It makes a huge difference in the success, duration and positive-or-negative-energy level of your job search. Take the time to write a resume that sounds like you — not every other job seeker in the world!


This article was written by Liz Ryan | February 23, 2018