Remember to focus on your target audience
It's likely most job seekers have heard about a prominent figure losing a job as a result of a resume lie written early in his or her career. This kind of huge mistake attracts a lot of attention. However, most "worst" mistakes aren't headline grabbers or news stories; they are mistakes almost every job seeker makes when on the prowl for a new opportunity.
If you have a resume, and it hasn't been professionally written, one of these "worst" mistakes likely lurks in your materials.
It's all about you.
This category of error can be one of the toughest to identify, because you think your resume is all about you. Think again. In fact, while it is a document to market your accomplishments, your resume's job is to connect with the hiring manager. To be most successful, it should appeal to its target audience.
Check your resume for these overly self-centered red flags:
An objective. "A position with a growing company where I will feel fulfilled and get experience necessary to achieve my goals." While most objectives are not quite so self-centered, the nature of the objective is that it focuses on the job seeker and not the employer. Regardless, the objective is a dated vestige of resume days gone by; avoid it in favor of a "headline" and quick bullet points that clearly connect with the employer's needs.
"I, me or my." While some resumes break this rule successfully, in general, resumes should be written in the "first person implied." For example, "Oversaw 50 employees" instead of "I oversaw 50 employees." If your resume is peppered throughout with self-referential language, it will probably strike the reader as a bit "me centric." (Note: keep this in mind for your cover letter, too. While you can say "I, me or my" in your letter, make sure you aren't beginning every sentence with "I.")
Oversharing. It's very nice that your family is the most important aspect of your life, but the resume isn't the place to discuss it. Incorporating too much personal information, especially when it is not a requirement of the job, is a key indicator of the job seeker's preoccupation with what he or she wants or needs. In the U.S., resumes should never include personal information, such as age, marital status or religious affiliation.
Seeking experience. It's the very rare employer who wants to hire someone who does not already have the skills necessary to do the job. If you are looking for experience, that is fine, but keep it to yourself and focus on the skills you do have to help qualify you for the job.
The biggest category of resume mistakes are the ones you will probably never notice when you edit your own document. These resume killers don't make the nightly news, but they are your job search's worst enemy.
Careless errors. Spell check does not catch all spelling errors; do not rely on it to proofread your resume. Ask an eagle-eyed friend or take other steps to edit your materials. For example, try reading it backwards, print it in large font and read the words aloud to a friend. Sometimes, you'll be able to catch misplaced words and spelling or grammatical mistakes.
Formatting. While resumes may have their formatting stripped for an initial read via an applicant tracking system, it's possible your actual resume may make it into the hands of a hiring manager. If you have an awkward page break, too many fonts or inconsistent formatting or spacing, the hiring manager may decide your lack of attention to detail disqualifies you for the job.
Missing the Point
Your resume's goal is to convince the hiring manager of your qualifications. Your job is to submit a resume that clearly conveys how and why you are a good fit. Unfortunately, many job seekers make the big mistake of failing to read the job description. (Learn about other killer job seeker mistakes .)
Target your materials. Read the job description carefully and decode what the employer seeks in an ideal employee. (Review my series of "Job Descriptions Decoded" for advice and specific information about how to successfully target your resume.)
Unnecessary details. No, you don't need to list every job you've ever held for the past 25 years on your resume. Generally, it's appropriate to include the last 10 or 15 years of experience, but be sure to focus on the most relevant experience. Especially if you're transitioning to a new field, feature the experience in past jobs that's more relevant and interesting to your new target employer. Don't spend a lot of time listing things you've done that have nothing to do with your goals.
Include accomplishments and skills. Resumes that are a laundry list of "stuff" usually fail to make the cut. What you've done in your past may be relevant, but don't forget to incorporate language addressing your skills and accomplishments. For example, if you worked on a team, make a point to indicate your specific role in the end product.
When you write an error-free resume that accurately portrays your experience and takes into account what the employer hopes to see, you'll be way ahead of the competition.