Six Serious Résumé Blunders

Résumés are tricky: If done well, they can put you in the running for a job; if done poorly, they end up in the hiring manager's recycling bin. They should be easy since you're just talking about yourself. No one knows your work history, qualifications and skills better than you. Unfortunately, they are hard work.

Making years of experience fit on one or two pages is no easy task. Yet, while there is no one way to craft the perfect résumé, there are some moves guaranteed to hurt your job hunt.

Here are some résumé blunders you should avoid at all cost:

1. Forgetting the employer
Although the résumé is about you, it's not for you. After all, if you were the intended audience, you wouldn't bother sending it out. The résumé is meant to show prospective employers why you're the perfect match for the job. They want to see the skills, experience and qualifications mentioned in their job postings. If you have skills that don't line up exactly with the position but you know are transferrable, make that clear in the résumé. Don't assume they'll infer what you mean, because if they don't, you won't be considered for the job.

2. Not using keywordsKeywords, like career summaries, are signs of the time. Today, many employers use software to scan submitted résumés for keywords that suggest an applicant is a good match for the job. Although you won't know which exact words the software is looking for, a job posting can give you a good idea. Incorporate phrases and terms from the posting, and see what words reappear in several industry ads. Concrete terms such as "infrastructure development" and "strategic planning" will fare better than generic phrases like "hard worker" and "team player."

3. Using an objective instead of a career summaryAn advantage of updating your résumé regularly is that you can not only update your skills and accomplishments but also its format. For example, just five or 10 years ago most résumés included an objective at the top. These days, the career summary has taken its place. Like an objective, the summary should give the employer an idea of who you are, except it allows you to focus more on your experience than on your goals. You can briefly mention your career highlights, including past roles and your strongest skills.

4. Not proofreading
Typos and grammatical errors on a résumé are the textual equivalent of showing up at an interview chewing gum and wearing tennis shoes. A résumé full of mistakes suggests you care neither about the quality of your work nor the impression it makes. An employer wants someone who produces exemplary work and will be an excellent representative of the company.

5. Lying
Embellishing is a common practice that rarely impresses hiring mangers because they've seen it all. They know "childcare leadership executive" means "baby-sitter." Outright lies, however, have no place on a résumé. For one thing, it's not hard to verify any information you put down, so you could get caught at any point between submitting your résumé and getting a job offer. Plus, it's a small world, and the truth has a way of coming out when business associates bump into one another at conferences. If your boss mentions your name to your supposed former supervisor only to be told you never worked there, you could get fired.

6. Not keeping up appearances
Before an employer even reads your résumé, he or she forms an impression based on how it looks. It's a snap judgment that can't be avoided – after all, don't you immediately zone out when you receive an e-mail that's one huge block of text? Make your résumé visually appealing by using bulleted lists, plenty of white space and subheadings. Also, avoid fonts that are full of distracting swirls and colors. It doesn't matter how well-written your résumé is if no one wants to read it.