Are you making these critical resume mistakes?

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Is your resume working for you? Recently I wrote an article to help you interpret the silence that can be deafening in today’s job search. In that article, I identified one question to assess how effective your resume is, “Are you getting calls for interviews?” If you’re not getting called for interviews, odds are high your resume needs a boost.

In writing and reviewing many resumes for clients the past few weeks, I have found three critical mistakes people make in their resumes. These mistakes can mean the difference between getting called for an interview and getting tossed into the “No” pile. I want to share those with you here, along with what steps you can take to correct them.

Mistake #1: Create a generalized resume.

In today’s job market the resume needs to be targeted for a specific position or job type. That means you need to identify what you want to do, along with your unique qualifications, at the very top of your resume. One way to do this is to replace the old “Career Objective” section below your name with a “Career Summary” section. Then include a version of your personal (professional) branding statement, along with some key strengths and expertise.

For example:

Office Manager…Personal Assistant… Organize and manage offices for small businesses (especially art studios and architectural firms), efficiently and with attention to details. Provide trustworthy support and administrative assistance to owners and senior management to ensure office is run smoothly. Work collaboratively with others across departments. Expertise in bookkeeping and event planning.


Mistake #2: Make it easy to calculate your age.

Be careful about the dates you list on your resume. When readers see dates, they do math. And if they do math, then they can easily pre-judge you as old or dated without ever meeting you.

Here are a few guidelines you can apply to avoid this pre-judgment.

  • If your education or training took place more than 5-7 years ago, simply don’t list the dates.
  • Don’t list jobs from more than 10-15 years ago. If there is some specific experience you want to show from that time in your career, then add a section that you label “Prior Experience” and list the relevant experience without dates.

For example:


Teacher, Brown High School, Springfield, IL

Counseling Associate, Smith College, Chicago, IL

Documentation Manager, Jones & Associates, Inc., Champaign, IL


Mistake #3: Mix your job responsibilities and special accomplishments together.

It is important to separate out your daily or weekly responsibilities and tasks (those things anyone who holds your job title would have done) from your accomplishments. Many people struggle with accomplishments on a resume. Some things to consider include special assignments or projects, solutions you initiated or created, awards or informal recognitions, and, of course, promotions! When writing accomplishments, be sure to describe how the company benefited, quantifying your results if you can.

Here is an example:

Sales Representative

Sold insurance products to 6000 members of the Illinois Law Enforcement Association. Worked with law enforcement professionals to provide thorough insurance coverage for home, auto and accessories. Provided weekly production reports to management. Tracked production daily and audited commission statements weekly.

* Increased business portfolio 400% over five-year period.
* Brainstormed new marketing strategies with Sales Manager, resulting in 20% increase in leads in 2012.
* Secured 50 new accounts per month.


I challenge you to pull out a copy of your resume right now. Are you making these mistakes on your resume? If you have questions about these mistakes, or other resume questions, please ask them on my blog below.‎

My clients rely on 1-on-1 support to help them create compelling tools that get results in this job market. If you would benefit from a free review of your job search tools, simply click this link and schedule your review now.

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Client Stories

Lori took my old, tired, out of date resume and transformed it into a resume which got results.  In transitioning from owning a business back to the corporate world, Lori asked the tough questions to dig out all the relevant skills and accomplishments which would catch the eye of a potential employer.   One of the first employers to receive my new resume and customized cover letter (created by Lori) called me for a phone interview, followed by a face to face meeting, and finally offered me a job twenty-four hours after the interview.  I'm convinced I would not have even been able to get my foot in the door without my new resume created by Lori.  As I told my wife, retrospectively, spending the money to work with Lori was well worth it.

Howard Kier, Evanston, IL