Top 5 greatest resume mistakes ever

  • Post published:13/07/2012
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Why do you think that having a great resume is the single most important part of your job search? The right answer: because if your resume does not excite and impress anyone, you will not be invited for an interview. And obviously, if you can’t get the interview you will never get the job. Agree?

The purpose of a resume is really simple and can be said with these few words:

Resume purpose: To get you an interview

Whether we like it or not, the use of a resume is the standard operating procedure in business when it comes to introducing ourselves to a potential employer. That’s the way the world goes ‘round.

Mistake number 1:

Here’s the scary news. Your resume will at best get a quick 20 seconds glance, if that much. The resume either stays on the desk (or computer) or it goes the paper shredder way (or delete button). Sorry but don’t shoot the messenger.

No employer, HR department or recruiter has the time to read page after page. They will look at a few key points to see whether you come near what they are looking for. Things like your current and most recent jobs (company names, industry, function, period), education (overseas in particular interesting).

If you send a CV with page after page, instead of a summary of the CV – which we call resume (except in France), we will guess you are from the stone age, lazy or perhaps have never bothered checking on what is best practice in resume writing. Not really the best introduction to who you are.

Mistake number 2:

I know that accountants feel more at home with Excel than Words and marketing people can’t control themselves when given the opportunity to paint themselves in a PowerPoint presentation. But please, there is time for making your Excel accounts and profit and loss, there is time to make your .ppt marketing presentation; and then there is a time to introduce yourselves in a Word document. I repeat Word. All of you please.

Mistake number 3:

Whatever work experience you have which is over 15 years ago, we don’t want to know. It’s a life time ago and what you learned in school or in your first job have no bearing on who you are today. I have worked well over 25 years and at the time we had no fax, no BlackBerry and iPhone, not even laptops. There was no LinkedIn and Facebook, we used antique marketing tools compared to what we all do today. So don’t even think about giving details of your jobs which are older than 15 years.

Instead, write one or two lines like this: Prior experience includes sales and marketing jobs in pharmaceutical and publishing, in Europe and South East Asia.

Mistake number 4:

Clichés like dynamic, self-motivated, visionary, and similar generic traits say nothing about what you are capable of. They are useless and just take space from where you could add more examples of your achievements. The proofs of what you have accomplished say more than anything else. Please drop these so often worn out clichés. We don’t believe it anyway.

Mistake number 5:

The worst is when an HR professional presents a resume with the current job at the end of the list of jobs. I mean, if an HR  – supposedly a specialist – has not yet learned that best resume writing practice is to have your current job at the top (page one) and then move backwards to page two, finishing with your first ever job, what should the rest of us do?

Well, there is no excuse for anyone no matter the function to miss this basic of all basics in resume writing. But honestly you would expect that HR of all had learned this.



Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.