Avoid These 5 Big Resume Mistakes

A woman works on her computer at a coffee shop

There’s a scene from Legally Blonde where sorority-girl-turned-lawyer Elle Woods passes her resume to her professor. She’s applying for an internship at his law firm. “It’s pink,” he said, holding the piece of paper weakly by its corner. Elle responds, enthusiastically: “And it’s scented! I think it gives it a little something extra, don’t you think?”

That classic movie moment comes to mind when thinking about resumes: We’re all trying to stand out from the crowd in the competitive job market. Maybe pink scented cardstock isn’t your thing, but it got her professor to notice and — most importantly — remember her application.

Certain deal-breakers on resumes, however, could make for a sour first impression or cost you the opportunity altogether. According to a recent survey by hiring site TopResume, 70% of employers said that personal pet peeves of theirs — such as an unprofessional email address or incorrect contact information — were enough to “reject a candidate before they even finished reading the resume.” Here’s how to ease your job-market blues and craft a resume that attracts the right attention.

Why Do I Need a Resume? 

When applying for jobs or internships, resumes give future employers a snapshot of who you are. By highlighting your education, accomplishments, and prior work experience, hiring managers have a better understanding if you are the right fit for the job posting. Remember, the reviewer is not only looking for their ideal candidate to jump off the page, the document also serves as an extension of you. 

Pay Attention to Detail

Spelling errors? Missing punctuation at the end of sentences? It’s all about the little things. The power of proofreading is substantial when crafting your resume. Make sure to use every opportunity to show you pay attention to the finest details. The ultimate goal is to prove that this will translate to your on-the-job performance and what you’d provide for their company. Don’t let any inconsistencies slip through and you’ll be on your way to being welcomed to the team.

Who are you called to be?
Pursue your purpose at PLNU.


Quick Tip: Connect a service like Grammarly to your web browser. It’ll catch grammar mistakes within everything you type — from Google Docs to emails. Think of it as your virtual writing assistant.

Delete Irrelevant Job Experience 

It’s key to communicate to your future company or organization that this resume was personal for them. Failing to delete positions or aspects that aren’t relevant to solving the manager’s needs reveals a lack of judgement. Noting that you were a clothing sales associate for a few months five years ago isn’t necessary on your resume when submitting it to a technology startup. 

Quick Tip: Keep separate resumes saved for different types of fields you are applying in, and group like-minded positions and special skills accordingly. 

Use Action Words, Not Fancy Words

When getting down to the nitty gritty of your previous job descriptions, be direct about what you accomplished in each role. Word choice is key; cut the fluff. The use of strong action verbs like directed, managed, delegated, and led show a high-level of assertiveness. List how you moved the needle at the organization, describe any awards that you received and include initiatives you executed. These hold more weight than fancy filler words that take up precious space on the page. 

Quick Tip: Create a brag sheet where you figuratively pat yourself on the back. List your unique perspective you brought to your previous roles, 3-4 major projects you completed, and think about the organization’s larger achievements that were based on the result of your work.

Include Keywords From the Job Description

It’s important to know what recruiters are looking for in their top candidates. Usually, they’re explicit in required skill sets, duties, and expectations. Include those keywords within your resume when describing who you are. Hiring managers will notice your keen eye and appreciate the built-in assist.

Quick Tip: If uploading a PDF of your resume onto your website, make sure that it’s searchable. Including those keywords, action verbs, and other click-worthy phrases will serve as built-in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for headhunters to find you.

Keep Your Resume Design Simple

Don’t get too cute with the design. Elle Woods aside, unless you’re applying for a graphic design position and an aesthetically well-produced resume would help your chances at the position you’re vying for, keep the template you choose simple and limited to one page. Bright colors, a headshot, and a busy layout could cause confusion and distract from the mission at hand: to land the job based on your merit and talent. Keep it concise.

Quick Tip: Research for the best simple template online and note the eye-catching elements that initially drew you to it. Chances are it will be the same for the hiring manager. Focus on those sections and make them count. 

Get the Resume Advice and Help You Need At PLNU

Take note of every little thing when it comes to your resume. Certain mistakes or deal-breakers could be the reason you didn’t land your dream job. Managers pay attention starting with how you name your resume file (avoid a messy ‘Resume2021v5.pdf’) down to the font size you chose. 

If you need someone to take a look at your resume, help you find a job or internship, or help you practice through a mock interview, PLNU’s Career Services is a great resource. Career Services is an on-campus career development center that serves students with all aspects of your career journey. (Learn more and connect with them here.) Reminder: Your resume is a quick highlight reel for employers to see you’re the perfect candidate they can’t do business without. Make it unforgettable.

About the Author 
Jordan Ligons is a former PLNU women’s basketball student-athlete and is a 2016 graduate in journalism and women’s studies. Currently, she’s a journalist for The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website, in Los Angeles, CA.