7 Resume Mistakes That Give Hiring Managers “the Ick”

published Jul 2, 2023
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I first heard the defiant rumbling in the mid-2000s among professional circles: The resume is dead. Indeed, websites, digital portfolios, and even viral social media posts are popular methods for job seekers in more forward-thinking industries. But like it or not, in most other industries, the resume is very much alive and well.

“Companies use resumes to infer whether or not a candidate has the required skills for a job,” says Dr. Nathan Mondragon, chief IO psychologist at HireVue. “While they’re by no means the most accurate and oftentimes lead to more bias than validated measurements like skill assessments, they’re still incredibly common.”

LinkedIn has been instrumental in getting job candidates and hiring managers to see past the sheet of paper, Word document, or PDF to the person behind the job application. But if you’re in the trenches of a job hunt right now, you’ll know that a one- or two-pager detailing your experience and qualifications is still the vital link to your next job.

Even the most impressive skills can be overshadowed by a poorly executed resume. If you’ve been sending your resume out into the void with little to show for it, perhaps it’s time for a refresh. Here’s what some hiring managers say always puts them off a candidate when they’re looking at resumes. 

No Link to Your LinkedIn Profile

Devin Martin, talent acquisition director at Bader Rutter, is “constantly amazed” by resumes that don’t include a link to their LinkedIn profile. “This should be in the top five of items needed on a resume, not far behind your name and contact info,” she says.

Heather Livingston, career adviser at University of Phoenix, recommends that job candidates customize their LinkedIn URL to something easier to read or type in than the messy URL that is generated when you make your profile. To fix this on your own account, log in and click the pencil next to the “Public profile & URL” section. Then, click the pencil next to “Edit your custom URL” and change it to something simpler, like your actual name or perhaps even a social media handle, if appropriate.

Naming Your Document “Resume”

It’s understandable you’ve got yours saved as “Resume” among your own computer files. But that’s not helpful at all to a recruiter or hiring manager as they download your docs to their desktop. 

“Please, always name your resume file with your first and last name,” says Martin, who gets hundreds of resumes a week and will understandably misplace your “resume” in the mix.

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Inconsistent Bullet Points

I was a career advisor in my “other” life, and I would always encourage students to leave off “detail-oriented” as a descriptor on their resume. Why? Because there was a very good chance that one of their bullet points had a mistake or inconsistency that would negate this proclaimed attention to detail.

Martin agrees consistency on a resume is key — especially when writing and formatting bullet points. “If you are going to use a period at the end of one bullet point, then use it for all bullets,” she explains. “If you are going to make a bullet point past tense under a job, then every bullet point under that job should be past tense.”

Using Pronouns Aside from Gender Identifiers

Let’s be clear: Many companies are in favor of job candidates including gender-identifying pronouns after their name. But other than at the top of your resume, pronouns don’t belong elsewhere in the document.

It’s true that resume writing flies in the face of much of what you’ve learned about grammar and style. While it’s likely your spelling and grammar checker will take issue with it, be sure to leave out any pronouns referring to a first- or third-person point of view. “Clear and concise statements should be used on a resume,” says Livingston. Here’s how she would correct and enhance a line.

Incorrect: I answered the phone and I talked to clients. 

Correct: Answered approximately 35 incoming calls per hour.

All Words, No Numbers

See what Livingston did there when she corrected that bullet point? She added a number to show the rate or intensity with which a task was completed. That act of adding relevant numbers to your list of accomplishments is what hiring managers and professional resume writers call quantifying your experience.

“Qualitative accomplishments are absolutely valid, but if you can’t quantify anything you’ve ever done, it’ll be hard to persuade the reader that you can bring value to an organization,” says Dawid Wiacek, career coach and founder of The Career Fixer. “Every single bullet doesn’t need a metric, but numbers do sell, so think about percentages, dollar amounts, or other ways to concretely show that you’ve made an impact and improvement to your organization,” he explains.

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A Cramped Format

While it’s certainly easier to glance at a single page than leaf through multiple ones, that doesn’t mean experienced candidates should attempt to cram everything on a page. “If you have great experience that spans more than 10 years, then you should definitely have a two-page resume to tout those accomplishments,” says Livingston.

I used to remind my students that a 12-point font was for term papers, not resumes. So go ahead and make that font a bit smaller to fit your resume format. That said, if you find yourself going below a 10-point font, it’s time to rework a section or take the brave leap onto a second page.

An Outdated Document Design

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to have a nicely formatted resume. But if you graduated 10 years ago and your resume still has the format a career advisor taught you to use, then it’s time to log onto Canva and download a snazzier resume template

“You don’t need to go super-fancy with your format, but opt for a clean, modern approach,” says Wiacek. “Recruiters’ eyes can get bored with the same outdated design. You need to stand out.”

Make These Tweaks to Your Resume

Jason Lamonica, COO of Spec on the Job, suggests the following tips to refresh up your resume.

  • Spruce up your summary. Lose the objective line at the top of your resume. After all, the objective of any resume is to get the job — plain and simple. It’s time to swap “seeking an entry-level position at a nonprofit organization,” for example, with a professional headline or short summary. Write a few lines that distill your experience and an overview of your skills — search LinkedIn profiles for some inspiration.
  • Limit industry jargon. ROI and KPIs are important, but there’s no need to mention these or other acronyms in every line. (Watch a Corporate Natalie video to get the hilarious gist of this misstep.)
  • Add relevant action verbs. The Muse has a nice list of action verbs across industries, so peruse it and see what fits your resume. For starters, remove any instance of “responsible for” — there’s probably a verb hiding after that trite phrase anyway, so lead with that instead.
  • Avoid inappropriate use of fonts and colors. Resumes don’t have to be so bland, especially if you’re going into a creative field. But don’t choose anything inappropriate (Comic Sans should stay in the comics, for example) or harsh to the eyes.

Above all, don’t rush your resume. “Ensuring that your resume is tailored to the job description and is easy to read and understand will increase your chances of getting shortlisted for an interview,” says Lamonica. He adds that it’s easy for him — and quite annoying, too — to see when someone rushed through a resume. “Take your time. It’s the first impression [you’ll make] on your potential new employer.”