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Avoid These 5 Resume Mistakes

  • Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck National Certified Career Counselors and Life Calling CoachesSM
  • 2009 4 Dec
Avoid These 5 Resume Mistakes


Does your resume help your job search or hurt it? In working with job seekers and career changers, we often find that their resumes under-represent their abilities and background for their job target, creating a weak first impression. More detrimental than that, however, are resumes that actually evoke a negative reaction from the employer.

Here are five resume mistakes you can easily avoid to make sure your resume gets the positive reaction you want:

Mistake #1: Using a general resume rather than a targeted resume.

Employers spend 30 seconds or less skimming a resume. If you submit a general resume, they simply are not going to take the time to see what you have to offer for a specific position. You have to do the work for them by developing a separate resume for each of your job targets. 

To create a targeted, or focused, resume, put a "Job Objective" at the top (under your name and contact information) with the specific job title for which you are applying. Next, include a "Summary of Qualifications" or "Highlights of Qualifications" section that lists your top "selling points" for that position. Make sure that the job duties, accomplishments, etc. you include in your resume are the ones most relevant to your job target. Plan on customizing your resume for every job for which you apply. Doing this will greatly increase the chances that your resume receives the attention it deserves. (See more about targeted resumes in our article, How to Write a Resume that Gets Results.)  

Mistake #2: Using a chronological resume format when a functional format would better represent you.

You want to make the most strategic choice for your resume format based on your job target;  not just use a chronological format because that is most familiar to you. A chronological resume is an arrangement of your qualifying experiences and training listed in reverse chronological order. A chronological resume is most effective when you are applying for a position that is similar or directly related to work you have done previously.

functional resume highlights your skills and lists your qualifications in their order of importance regardless of the time of occurrence. In a functional resume, you make use of the skills and duties from all of your work history (paid and/or volunteer), education and leisure activities that relate to and qualify you for the job objective. Use the functional format if you plan a career transition, or if you do not have specific paid work experience related to the job you want.

Mistake #3: Using a format that is hard to read.

Your resume should be visually appealing and make it easy for the employer to see what you have to offer for the position. Use adequate margins (no less than .75 on the sides) and a large enough font (usually no smaller than 11 pt.).

Use bulleted items, not paragraphs, to present the information about your background and accomplishments. Paragraphs of text are NOT reader-friendly; employers have said that they are more prone to discard text-dense resumes than ones with a clean bulleted format.

Mistake #4:  Advertising your age by going back too far in your job history.

If you are a job seeker in your late 40s, 50s or 60s, you want your resume to showcase your abilities, not present a picture of an "older worker." Age discrimination is a reality with some employers for a variety of reasons; some employers, for example, may think you will be too expensive if you have decades of work experience in a particular area. Depending on the level of position you are seeking, list no more than 10-15 years of work history. Also, omit the year of your college graduation if it was more than 10 years ago.

Mistake #5: Not including key words in your resume.

Due to the high number of resumes employers receive, many organizations utilize software that scans incoming resumes for keywords. If your resume does not contain a sufficient number of the keywords for a particular job position, it will be discarded.  A good way of identifying the key words to include in your resume is to look at several job postings for the same type of job title, and see what the "buzz words" are-that is, the words and phrases that appear most often in describing the qualifications for this type of position.  

How Does Your Resume Score?

While your resume is only one of the job search tools you can use, it is an important one because it usually precedes you when you are applying to advertised positions. Your potential worth to the employer is then based on what is written on a piece of paper (or in a computer file).  Does your resume represent you well?  Will it get you interviews or be dismissed?  You can take our Resume Quiz to analyze your resume's effectiveness.

 December 4, 2009


Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the authors of Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life. Their websites,,, and, feature hundreds of job listings from churches, ministries, and Christian employers; a resume bank; and many other career/job search resources and articles. They also offer career coaching and testing to help you discover work that fits your God-given design, as well as assistance with writing a powerful resume, interviewing effectively, finding job openings, and other aspects of a successful job search. You can schedule a free consultation session today!