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Biggest Resume Deal-Breakers and How to Avoid Them

Biggest Resume Deal-Breakers and How to Avoid Them
Credit: Frame Angel/Shutterstock

The main sections of a resume exist for a reason. You want to put your best foot forward in a limited amount of space, so you need to make sure that everything on your resume speak to your talents and experience. There are a lot of resources for the "dos" of a resume, and also for the "don'ts," but job candidates still seem to get it wrong.

TopResume recently asked almost 400 recruiters, hiring managers and HR executives what they consider the biggest resume deal-breakers. Here are their top 10 mistakes:

  1. Spelling and/or grammatical errors
  2. Incorrect or missing contact information
  3. Unprofessional email address
  4. Outdated or irrelevant information (hobbies, age, marital status, etc.)
  5. Failure to demonstrate and quantify results
  6. Annoying buzzwords or obvious keyword stuffing
  7. Too generalized or not customized to match job listing
  8. Repetitive words or phrases used in multiple job descriptions
  9. Including a headshot
  10. Overly elaborate format or design

"Employers find this list of resume don'ts to be so off-putting because, in most cases, job seekers have 100 percent control over them," said Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume. "With a few extra minutes of review and care, you can easily eliminate typos and grammatical errors, confirm that your contact information is accurate, remove your profile picture, upgrade to an appropriate email address for professional use, and so forth."

When asked if these deal-breakers cause employers to reject a candidate before they even finish reading the resume, almost 70 percent of those surveyed said yes.

"It's all subject to the type and level of position you're pursuing and the individual recruiter's personal preferences," Augustine said. "If you're new to the workforce, it's more acceptable to include a list of hobbies on your resume because, frankly, you have less material to work with and may need the information to fill an entire page for your resume."

Augustine also said that if your hobbies are somehow relevant to the work you are pursuing, then they're more likely to be looked upon favorably. However, with all of the resources available to job seekers these days, there is no excuse for spelling errors and other obvious and careless mistakes.

Another reason these resume deal-breakers leave a bad taste in employers' mouths is because of what they tell the employer about the candidate. Augustine broke it down for Business News Daily.

Lack of interest in the position: If you can't be bothered to properly proofread your resume for typos and tweak the content to demonstrate how you're qualified for the job, how interested can you really be in the position? All things being equal, the candidate who best represents their experience, talents and interest in the position will end up with the job offer. An employer will begin assessing all those things in the first glance at a resume.

Lack of judgment and/or attention to detail: Aside from making sure a candidate has all the technical skills and experience to execute a job, employers also look at soft skills that may not be explicit in a resume.

"While it can be challenging to demonstrate that you possess certain soft skills on a resume, it's fairly easy to send employers the signal that you lack other soft skills, such as sound judgment and an attention to detail," Augustine said. "When you include details and images that recruiters find to be inappropriate, opt for an over-the-top resume design, or don't proofread your application, you're allowing employers to question your judgment and decision-making skills."

The list of deal-breakers above should be used as a checklist of sorts before sending out that next job application. Since many of the items on the list are easily fixed, taking the time to adjust your resume before moving forward could reap huge benefits.

"If you're having trouble finding the right words to describe your role and optimize your resume, gather a few job descriptions that represent the type of position you're interested in and qualified to perform," Augustine advised. "Then, identify the keywords that routinely pop up in these job listings. If you possess those skills or experience, be sure to incorporate that language, as it appears in the job descriptions, into the appropriate parts of your resume."

She also suggested using an online thesaurus to vary the language in your resume, as that's one of the easiest ways to describe your job skills and experiences without sounding repetitive. If you get really stuck, turn to one of the many online resume-writing services available to job seekers. They can evaluate and even rewrite your resume for you if you just can't get it right.

In Augustine's expert opinion, the best resumes have a specific job goal in mind. She suggested revisiting your work-experience section and brainstorming how each job you've held has allowed you to build certain skills that are relevant to your current career goals. The end goal is to write a resume that comprehensively explains your qualifications to your target prospective employers, and doing so without any of the biggest resume deal-breakers.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily and Business.com. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.