They say only three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and making a mistake on your resume. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit with that last point, but you get what I mean. The point is, resume mistakes are hard to avoid — like super-duper hard. And when it comes to your resume, even the tiniest of mistakes can make you seem careless or even outright incompetent in the eyes of unforgiving recruiters.
So how do you make sure this doesn’t happen to you? How do you prevent yourself from making blunders on your resume that can potentially cost you a job interview? Well fear not, for this checklist can help you do just that. Follow it closely and you’ll be able to avoid 99% of the resume mistakes people most often make.
1. Does this belong?
Doublecheck that everything on your resume should be on a resume to begin with. Age, nationality, criminal record, marital status, gender, professional headshot, and unrelated hobbies – none of these things need to be included.
Of course, it’s not always going to be clear whether or not you should be mentioning something on your resume. When such a situation arises, put yourself in the employer’s shoes and ask yourself if it is something you would actually care to know. If the answer is a resounding no, then rest assured you can leave it off your resume without much consequence.
2. Did someone else look over my resume?
It’s darn near impossible sometimes to catch our own mistakes. Even published writers and book authors are not above having their work proofread by their editors, so whether it’s friends or family, get someone to read over your resume and share their thoughts. Even if they don’t catch any actual mistakes, it’s great to have someone offer a different opinion on how to structure a particular bullet point or reword a given sentence in order to take your resume to the next level.
If you’re having trouble finding someone, there are online communities that are willing to offer free resume help like /r/resume on Reddit. Simply post your completed resume and wait for resume enthusiasts to critique it and give feedback.
3. Am I using the proper verb tense?
Resumes should be written using the past tense. The one exception is when you’re describing your current job. In that case, using either the past or present tense is fine and ultimately comes down to personal preference. However, the most common mistake I see is that the wrong tense is used for the action verbs at the start of each bullet point. Not only is this blunder very straightforward to fix, it’s also extremely easy for recruiters to spot, so be sure to doublecheck this particular part of your resume.
4. Did I eradicate the use of pronouns?
Using personal pronouns like “I” and “me” is generally considered taboo in resume writing. While there are some experts who are fine with meddling with the dark arts of using pronouns on resumes, my general rule of thumb is to always play things safe. After all, even though it’s true that using pronouns is acceptable by some recruiters, not using them is certainly acceptable by everyone.
5. Is my formatting perfect?
There’s nothing more discouraging to recruiters than glancing over a resume and immediately noticing a formatting mistake. Whether it’s an oversized heading or a bullet point just a tad bit larger than the rest, formatting mistakes lead recruiters to believe that you’re not as detail-oriented and meticulous as they’d prefer.
While you might think that there’s no way you would ever be silly enough to make this sort of mistake, it’s actually far more common than you would think. Part of the reason why is because the formatting of your resume can potentially be distorted when saved as certain file types or opened from another computer program. This is why it’s usually advised to keep the formatting of your resume as simple as possible. Another way to avoid this is to save your resume as a PDF, which ensures that all recruiters will see your resume formatted the same way.
6. Am I making unnecessary assumptions?
Mistakes are often the results of false assumptions. This is true in life, in writing, and perhaps most of all, in resume writing. When you edit your resume, ask yourself if you’ve made any assumptions during the initial writing process where you might have haphazardly committed to certain decisions you weren’t entirely confident in. Are you unsure about the usage of a particular word but decided to use it anyways? Did you add a bullet point you weren’t too sure about including? Now is the time to scrutinize all the questionable assumptions you’ve made earlier on to prevent yourself from making foreseeable mistakes.
Remember, making mistakes is inevitable, but we always have the ability to spot and then fix them. Don’t just haphazardly glance over your resume in search for errors. Instead, narrow your focus. Use this checklist to hone in on specific types of mistakes that might have been made and then methodically fix each one. Do that and you’ll be able to craft a killer resume that will impress all the recruiters out there who are tired of seeing mistake after mistake on other people’s job applications.