In an active and competitive job market, your resume should be able to stand out and leave a good first impression of you on the recruiter or the hiring manager. Your CV is the most important document you need when searching for a new job. A strong resume with the right list of skills is what will help you secure a job interview with the companies you want to work for.
However, many job applicants tend to make a common set of mistakes in their resumes that will only hinder their job search. Creating a great resume in the digital age today may not be that simple. From writing outdated objective statements to cramming too much irrelevant information, we’ll be going through 7 points of what makes a bad resume. Here are some of the most common resume mistakes and how you can fix them!
examples of common mistakes in resume and how you can fix them
1. skip the objective statement
An objective statement in our resumes often describes our long-term career aspirations and goals. However, this is already blase and often excluded in a resume in today’s age as many recruiters and employers actually skip reading them these days. They are more interested to look into the summary of your qualifications, your skill relevancies and experience.
At this point in the recruitment process, your long-term career aspirations and goals isn't going to be critically assessed as much as your existing skill sets and experience. The recruiter or the hiring manager is mainly interested to find out if you're going to be the right fit for the current job position through what you indicate in your skills and experience within your resume.
add an executive summary instead of objective statement
Update your resume with an executive summary or a short professional branding statement. This is the first thing that recruiters and hiring managers will read to determine your abilities, so it’s best to put in more effort to make a greater impact through your executive summary.
Your professional branding statement is more important than your long-term career objective. Keep your executive summary within 50 words and summarise in a short paragraph to describe your career achievements and skills. Choose your words and structure your sentences to let your personality shine and give the hiring manager a glimpse into who you are and understand what motivates you. And more importantly, how you align with the company enough for them to consider your application.
Here are a couple of examples of what a professional summary and a personal branding statement could look like:
- Tech specialist with 5 years' experience driving digital transformation projects for leading fintech companies in Southeast Asia.
- Seasoned HR professional with regional expertise in workforce management and organisational transformation in the manufacturing industry.
2. don't put reference contacts on your resume
Much like an objective statement, there was a time when it was considered good to include ‘references available upon request’ at the end of your resume.
Most employers would presume that you’ll have references for them to contact to conduct reference checks, especially if you’ve some work experience. Your interviewer or the HR department will ask for a reference if it is needed at a later stage of the interview.
Hence, it's better to replace that space that you have originally indicated as your references with something else more valuable, such as to expand on your skills and experience.
be prepared with recommendation letters instead of providing your reference contact details
Keep a list of your references and recommendation letters, and keep them handy. Your hiring manager or recruiter will most likely reach out to ask for a reference at a later stage during the shortlisting or evaluation process, which is when you can present the letters to them, along with the contact information of your references.
By doing so, you’ll be saving real estate space in your CV and making it easier for you to choose a more suitable contact for the company or role you are applying for. For example, your interviewer might want a reference of a junior who reports to you to evaluate your management capabilities, or they may want to speak to your direct reports to assess your technical capabilities.
3. stay away from using generic and common words
There are some buzzwords that people include in their resumes so often that they’ve lost their essence. Every hiring manager and recruiter has probably seen adjectives like “strategic”, “game-changer” and “enthusiastic”. Using these words won’t help you stand out from the hundreds of resumes. Furthermore, action verbs like "worked on" or "had done" does not really tell the person who's reviewing your resume much about your skills capabilities.
use specific verbs and adjectives to optimise your resume
Many common and generic verbs like "worked on" or adjectives like "hardworking" will not make you stand out from the pile of resumes that we look at as these words don’t carry much value in the eyes of a recruiter.
Instead, try to incorporate action verbs to describe the impact you’ve made in your past employments. Action verbs like “pioneered”, “reconciled” and “capitalised” are a great way to start your sentences as they show what you’ve accomplished in your career.
Also, remember to use keywords when tailoring your resume for the job that you’re applying for. You can usually find these keywords in the job description or in your list of current work responsibilities. For example, “conducted in-depth AML investigations that uncovered 10% higher unknown threats” or “managed omnichannel content marketing campaigns and increased share of voice by 3.5%”.
The keywords and action verbs that you should use depend on your specialisation. Adding details and statistics to your resume can also help contextualise your achievements. If you need some assistance, you can always reach out to our recruiters for more personalised advice.
4. avoid focusing on tasks over achievements
Too often job seekers get caught up in listing everything they’ve worked on, instead of highlighting how their contributions have made a positive impact on the company. Your resume will start looking like a laundry list of all the work you need to do, and quite frankly, not all of them matter as much.
Hiring managers don’t need to know the nitty-gritty details of how you spend your time at work or whether you are writing emails or churning out reports. We are more interested in the projects you have successfully launched, the number of deals closed, revenue generated, growth achieved - any evidence to demonstrate the impact your work had on the companies that you used to work for.
elaborate on the impact of your contributions instead of the details of your tasks
Quantify the impact of how your work contributed to the team or organisation you work for. Instead of just saying that you were responsible for implementing a social media campaign, you should highlight the results of the campaign. Were you able to increase the number of followers for the account? How did the engagement rate change before and after the campaign?
If you work in cybersecurity, were you able to minimise the organisation’s risk levels or uncover more threats, and by how much?
The great results that you’ve achieved at work are something that you should be proud of and can help differentiate you from other applicants.
5. don’t include too much irrelevant information
We are all guilty of this. We always feel the need to include as much information as we possibly can in our CV to impress everyone with how much we have done.
Sometimes, people may include so much that they end up with a CV that is 10 pages long. If you are a recent graduate or don’t have much relevant work experience for the job you're applying for, it is certainly not encouraged to have a long resume. Having to go through so many applicants, the chances that the recruiter would actually look through all of the details is very low.
Sharing too much information, especially irrelevant ones, means that it’s harder for us to find out what you’re really good at or if you possess the qualities or competencies our clients are looking for. Unfortunately, when it is difficult for us to read your resume, it’s quite likely we’ll put your application in the reject pile.
only include relevant information
Reference the job description of the role you are applying for, and tell us why you are the best fit for the job. Your resume should look like a greatest hits album - where you only include your proudest achievements from your entire career. You should also use:
- A clean font like Tahoma or Arial
- Bullet points to come across as clear and concise
- Short sentences for easy reading
Resist the urge to shrink the font size or margins to fit in more information. It's always best to keep your CV or resume to two pages. Depending on your work experience, a two-page CV should be able to capture the information that recruiters look for. It is also acceptable for technical workers may have a list of certifications and technical qualifications to extend beyond 2 pages.
Take time to review your CV and include only information that matters to your future employer.
6. try not to be too modest
We have been taught from a young age that we should not talk about our achievements because bragging is bad. As a result, many of us have the tendency to downplay our successes for fear that expounding on them will come across as arrogance.
However, highlighting your achievements is exactly what you need to do to impress your future employers. For all you know, they are looking for someone who has experience in what you’ve accomplished or worked on so far.
back your accomplishments up with evidence
The key to striking a good balance between being humble and arrogant is to remain factual by quantifying your work accomplishments.
If you claim to be an expert in your field, make sure you back that up with actual data, statistics and results. Instead of just saying that you’re “a highly-efficient project manager”, talk about how you were able to complete the project before the deadline or how much resources you were able to save for the company. The more specific and detailed you are, the more impressed we’ll be by your accomplishments.
Always remind yourself that it's about the 'how' that hiring managers are interested in and not just the 'what'. A clear description of your accomplishments and stated evidence can help strengthen your resume to leave a positive impression on the recruiter.
Say you want to impress the recruiter with good leadership skills, you’ll need to elaborate, with examples, the factors that exemplify and prove the quality. An example of your leading accomplishments would be "Led an award-winning project with a team of three through effective work delegation; using 85% of the allocated budget.”
7. refrain from using only one resume for all your job applications
Some statistics revealed that less than 2% of online job applicants are contacted, and even fewer make it to job interviews. Many job seekers use only one CV to apply for several jobs. However, these resumes tend to include only general information that you can find on almost all other CVs.
Using just one standard CV could reduce your chances of securing a job interview because it can be quite forgettable in the eyes of a recruiter who has to go through hundreds a day.
Furthermore, a lot of big organisations adopt HR technologies such as automated tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes for keywords to shortlist candidates. If your resume doesn’t have the keywords that the software is looking for, then your chances of getting a job interview just became slimmer.
prepare a tailored CV for each job opportunity
There are benefits to tailoring your CV and ensuring that you draw parallels between your skills, competencies and achievements to what we want to look for in an application.
Take some time to customise your resume for the role that you’re applying for. We’re not suggesting you create a new resume every time you apply to a new job as the time spent to payoff ratio wouldn’t make sense that way.
Instead, take a look at the company’s career site and job descriptions to find out which keywords appear most frequently and incorporate them into your resume to increase your odds of getting a call-back.
If that sounds like too much work, then you can consider preparing a few versions of your resume ahead of time that is tailored to different types of employers or job roles. For example, you could have one version for a start-up and another for a global organisation; one that highlights your people and management skills and another that focuses on your technical and analytical skills.
By having these different templates, you’ll just need to spend a few minutes to tailor your resume or CV every time you apply to a new job that has these specific requirements.
are you ready with your new resume?
Remembering what you’ve accomplished in your job can be a whole lot easier if you track your career growth. Instead of waiting until you need to find a job to update your resume or LinkedIn profile, do it every time you acquire new skills or gain new work experiences. You should also amend it to match the current job market requirements to appeal to employers who are looking for top talent.
We hope that this article has been helpful to you to edit your common resume mistakes and better prepare you for your job application.
If you are ready with your revised (and tailored) resume, our expert consultants are here to guide you towards your next amazing new opportunity!