5 Biggest Mistakes Made When Writing a Resume

Mistakes are easy to make when writing a resume for a sales and marketing job. The good news is that you can get help to avoid those mistakes.

Here at CVIA Careers, we provide job seekers with free resume appraisals and, as a consequence, we see hundreds of resumes each month. Seeing so many resumes, you can’t help but notice trends, and the same mistakes are made time and time again.

People’s attitudes towards their resume are a funny old thing; we all accept that things in life progress such as brochures becoming websites, letters becoming email, cash becoming debit cards, not to mention the advances in the field of marketing – but why is it that the average person is still using the same resume format that they stumbled upon when leaving school, college or university? 

Below is a list of the top mistakes typically made by job seekers.

What’s a resume?

what is a resumeTo write a great resume, first you must understand what a resume is! “Of course I know what a resume is!” I hear you cry, but many a resume has been written with the wrong mindset.

Let me clear up where I am heading with this – many job seekers see their resume as a historic list of where they have previously worked – let’s call this their rear-view mirror. What I recommend you do when writing your resume, is focus on the front windshield.

Focus on where you are heading in your career and how you can add value to a future employer, rather than merely describing the duties and responsibilities of your previous jobs.

The key is to think of your resume as your personal marketing brochure. Don’t just present a simple list of jobs – it should be an evidence-based document that communicates why someone should hire you, a business case that explains where you can add value, and a marketing document that sells you to a potential employer.

First impressions on your resume

first impressions resumeYour opening paragraph is your opportunity to create a good first impression. Some call this section a Professional Summary, some a Personal Profile, and some use all sorts of variations, but one thing is for sure, creating an opening paragraph full of clichéd behavioural competencies such as “working well in a team”, “working under pressure”, being “honest, reliable and trustworthy” or having “excellent communication skills”, isn’t going to make the right first impression.

Perhaps the heading “Personal Profile” is partly to blame as it may lead some job seekers to think about describing their personality, but this is not what recruiters are looking for. Focus more on job-based skills that are aligned with the requirements of the role described on the job description.

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Accomplishments help your resume stand out

resume writingFailing to include accomplishments in your resume is arguably the biggest mistake you can make. After writing your resume, ask yourself the question “How can a prospective employer ascertain that I am good at my job?”. If your resume is failing to communicate this, you have a problem. A resume should be at least 25% focused on accomplishments, providing tangible evidence that you are good at your job.

For the avoidance of doubt, an accomplishment is something you did that made a difference. It is not a task or something that is simply part of your everyday responsibilities. It’s something that had a tangible outcome, where your actions delivered a measurable business benefit.

Being too brief on your resume!

Resume briefA resume shouldn’t be War & Peace, but it should provide enough information for the reader to understand what you have been doing in your career. Many job seekers are under the impression that a resume must never exceed two pages, and although this length is not a bad yardstick, a slightly longer resume isn’t the end of the world.

Focus more on describing what you have done and how you can add value, than how long your resume is, and if it drifts onto a third page, don’t lose too much sleep about it. This is especially true the more experienced you become in your career.

Information architecture on your resume

Resume accomplishmentsCreating a list of duties and responsibilities in a random order is another common faux pas. The flow of information in a resume must be well thought out, and random lists are difficult to follow.

Start with a description of the organization, follow that with a summary of the role, then describe how your role is measured, and if appropriate, include a bullet point to describe the structure and size of your team that you lead. You can then hit the reader with your key responsibilities, not forgetting the all-important key projects and accomplishments.

As previously mentioned, a resume should be at least 25% focused on accomplishments rather than just tasks, and having a sub section of each position dedicated to your key projects and accomplishments will help to demonstrate that you are indeed, good at your job.

Help is at hand!

Join us for a free webinar

Learn how to create a world-class resume using innovative marketing techniques


Matt Craven is Founder of CVIA Careers.