Common Mistakes Too Many People Make on Their Resumes

Part 2 of the “It Seemed Like a Good Idea for My Resume, But It Was Not” Subseries


By Brian Sullivan


Last time on the R&W Group Blog, we started looking into common issues people have in their resumes, particularly as it comes to sharing relevant vs. irrelevant information. Including a headshot or a job in an industry you moved away from years ago aren’t helping you as much as you think they might be. If you missed that post, please go back and check it out here.


This time, we are continuing with 5 more missteps that even the savviest resume writers will sometimes make. If the previous edition was about relevance in your resume, this one is more about making yourself sound impressive. The resume is an important tool to impress a potential employer, but there are otherwise innocent-enough choices that can sometimes really send a hiring manager the wrong message about you. Don’t get caught making one of these mistakes; let the R&W Group Blog help you!



1. Glass Half-Empty Wording


Resumes are a first impression to a hiring manager, and it’s no coincidence that “impression” and “impress” come from the same root word, the Latin premere, which means “press”, often extrapolated out to also mean “imprint/ affect significantly”. Your resume is meant to impress and significantly affect its reader, so much so that they hire you!


Many applicants fall prey to inadvertently wording things pessimistically, focusing on things they haven’t completed, like saying they have “not yet graduated” from the college where they’re enrolled, rather than saying “Expected Completion: May 2022”. Or they might minimize past tasks by saying they “just answered phones and organized the office” instead of “Provided excellent customer service on telephone, and maintained an organized and inviting shared workspace”. Neither of these examples were “negative” like “I had a dumb job where I worked with dumb people at a dumb company” (which is obviously not advised for anyone’s resume), but they still detracted from how impressive the resume could be.


2. Unprofessional/ Too Professional Email Address


Providing an email address on your resume these days is practically mandatory. While some hiring managers might opt to call a candidate out of the blue, most will want to establish that connection electronically first. It gives them an insight into your sense of urgency and your ability to communicate in the electronic medium. Additionally, if they’re reaching out to you during your current job, a family commitment, a personal errand, or (heaven forbid!) another job interview, that can be disruptive and might not sit well with you when it comes to your impression of them. Including your email address makes contacting you that much easier, and so much more likely!


A questionable email address can do unexpected amounts of damage to your candidacy though. This can come in many forms, but we can bucket most of them into three categories.


  1. The email address associated with an outdated or less secure provider like AOL or Hotmail (the most minor offense)

  2. The email address associated with a business server (either one you own or one that employees you)

  3. The email address username that is unprofessional or even inappropriate (ranging from references to your hobbies all the way up to things that would result in HR documentation).


These will all be discussed in future editions of the R&W Group blog, but the main thing is finding a reputable email provider and using a username that is professional. While less fun, something like “sarahmichaels_89@email.net” is going to be to be received better by a hiring manager than something that is more umm… adventurous?


3. Rating Your Skill Level


Resume templates have become popular lately. They can help save a ton of time with formatting, and can add a special touch of aesthetic design most of us couldn’t achieve if left to our own devices (note: this is different than a social media platform-generated resume, which is subject for another day). However, they sometimes offer features that aren’t actually something you want on a resume.


One example that perplexes us is allowing candidates to rate their skill level, sometimes on a 1-10 scale, 0-5 stars, or a similar metrics. You could grade yourself with an A in Microsoft Office, or a C+ in QuickBooks. But how does this work in practice? Do you give yourself top marks in everything? No, because that looks dishonest. Do you approach it more humbly, and give yourself some variety of middle and high marks? No, because that doesn’t look impressive. Do you give greater weight to the skills the job requires where you might be more of a novice while deemphasizing your actual strengths? That might look suspicious if you have 10 years of a particular skill and only rate yourself a B in it, but another skill you started learning over the past 10 months (that just so happens to be more applicable to this particular opening) is graded at an A+.


It quickly gets messy and, out of the dozens of times we’ve seen it on resumes, only one or two times did it actually add value. Cool feature in theory, but in reality…


4. Objective Statement


The objective statement is an outdated paragraph that tells a resume reader what your career goals are. A professional summary is similar in appearance and, while recruiters are split in their feelings about them, most will agree that it conveys your message more effectively than the objective statement. See, in a professional summary, an applicant describes what they’ve done in their career so far, and how they’ve become a uniquely qualified candidate through these experiences. Conversely, an objective statement usually has a core thesis of what the candidate hopes to find for themselves in their next job. One covers what the candidate can do for the employer, the other covers what the candidate hopes the employer can do for them.


When you think about it that way, it makes you wonder why people ever used objective statements in the first place!


Even if you scrap your old objective statement for a more fashionable professional summary, be careful it isn’t too vague (i.e., “I’m a worker with some experience doing stuff for people at various places”), but also that it is general enough to give you some flexibility without pigeonholing yourself. Especially if you’re posting your resume to a major job board like Indeed or CareerBuilder, you don’t want to dissuade recruiters from contacting you if they feel your summary doesn’t align with their job description.


5. References


There is no need to include references on your resume. Especially if you’re conducting a full-scale job search, do those three or four people want to potentially be contacted by every single place you’re applying? Probably not, but they could be, considering their contact info is right there in plain sight.


Employers assume that good candidates will have references. Once it’s appropriate to contact them, you’ll be asked at that time to provide them.


This segues into a related point: you also don’t need to include “References Available Upon Request” on your resume. Again, employers assume that if they request your references, a reasonable candidate will provide them without making too big of a fuss. Putting it in writing is another example of valuable resume real estate being mismanaged (similar to including hobbies and personal interests on your resume), where something more impactful could have gone.


That’s a Wrap!


Sculpting with clay has been described as removing all the excess material that isn’t your sculpture, unearthing the desired artwork hidden within the material. While these last two blogposts won’t leave you with instructions on crafting the perfect resume, they will hopefully provide you with some tools to carve away some of these common missteps and get yourself closer to your next professional endeavor. Please be sure to check out future editions of the R&W Group Blog and, if your job search could use support for staffing professionals, we have a team of experts that would be delighted to speak with you. Please feel free to contact us at info@r-wgroup.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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