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What is Wrong with My Resume? — 10 Things that Can Go Wrong

What is Wrong with My Resume?  — 10 Things that Can Go Wrong

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Maybe you’ve made a resume and are not getting any interview callbacks.

You could be qualified, and you might have everything the job description is looking for, so you can’t figure out why you’re not being selected.

Maybe you are about to make your own resume for the first time or just want to polish up a current one.

It might seem as though there are now a million different expectations of your resume from recruiters, so you just want to be sure you go about it the right way.

To avoid missing job opportunities and secure interview invitations, here are 10 things that could be wrong with your resume.


What is wrong with my resume?

  1. Messy Format: A cluttered and disorganized layout can make it difficult for recruiters to quickly identify your qualifications.
  2. Excessive Information: Including too much information can overwhelm the reader and obscure your most relevant skills and experiences.
  3. Resume is too generic: Failing to customize your resume for each job application can result in a generic document that doesn’t highlight your suitability for a specific role.
  4. Spelling and Grammatical Mistakes: Typos and grammatical errors can make you appear careless and unprofessional.
  5. Incorrect Personal or Contact Information: Providing inaccurate contact details can lead to missed opportunities and communication issues.
  6. Lack of Keywords: If your resume doesn’t include industry-specific keywords, it may not get past automated applicant tracking systems.
  7. Cliché Phrases: Overused phrases like ‘team player’ and ‘detail-oriented’ don’t provide meaningful insights into your abilities.
  8. Bad Professional Summary: A weak or generic professional summary fails to grab the reader’s attention and showcase your unique qualifications.
  9. Cliché Words or Phrases: Avoid overused phrases like ‘hardworking’ or ‘detail-oriented.’ Instead, provide evidence of your qualities through specific examples.
  10. Professional Summary Issues: Keep your professional summary brief, with 2-3 sentences and a list of core competencies. Highlight your relevant experiences, awards, and noteworthy projects.


1. The resume format is messy

The format of your resume is one of, if not the most important aspects of your resume.

That is why you have to do it the right way.

You could have all the right words, experiences and qualifications, but if it’s messy or unreadable, your resume could be discarded straight away.

Recruiters have to go through hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes and they would not want to put in extra effort to read your resume.

Your format includes the layout of your resume- how the sections are divided, what text font and size you use, headings and subheadings, and the use of bold and italics.

Make sure to divide your sections following the standard if you are not too sure. 

This would start with your contact information, followed by a professional summary, work experience, and education. 

Then, you can incorporate skills, extracurricular involvement, internships, or volunteer work on your resume.


Replace any fancy or unprofessional fonts with classic, easy-to-read Sans Serif fonts which are the best resume fonts.


Font size should be 10 to 12 for text and 14 to 16 for headings.


Do not overuse bold or italic text. Keep it for headings and subheadings only.


2. There is an excess of information on your resume

The resume standard is a maximum of 2 pages.

You can push it to 3 if you really have much relevant information to add, but it is not recommended at all.

If you exceed this limit, a recruiter might disregard your resume completely. 

They don’t want to go through essays of all your experiences; they only want the gist of the type of qualifications you have.

Do not be excessive with your bullet points per job either- the maximum should be 8, but an ideal number is 4 to 5.

Each bullet point should include one sentence only.

As for the number of jobs to include, more than 3 to 4 tends to be excessive.

You should not be giving details about every previous job you’ve had; it should only be relevant experiences.

If you are creating an Executive or C-suite level resume, only give details about one job. 

This should be a job where you’ve had the most senior position and a noteworthy impact on the business operations.

If you want to mention previous work that is not as relevant, you can create a timeline where you only add the job titles, locations and dates.

This also shouldn’t take up too much space on your resume.


3. The resume is too generic

A big mistake many job applicants make is submitting a resume that is not tailored to the job description. 

One where all their experiences are generic and not specific enough to apply to one target job. 

When you make one resume for all the positions you want to apply to, some experiences or details become irrelevant depending on the different job descriptions.

You lose out on the opportunity to market yourself as the right fit for that position.

Tailoring your resume to a job description is very substantial to securing a call-back for an interview, especially if you have extensive experience.

This could be adding or removing certain keywords, work experiences, internships, volunteer experiences, short jobs, or skills.

It could also be the tone and language you use on your resume.

Depending on the formality and work environment of your desired position, whether it is highly formal or more casual, you have to adapt your writing accordingly.

By being specific with what you put on your resume, it will be easier for the recruiter to pick up at first glance that you are a suitable candidate.


4. There are spelling and grammatical mistakes

It is very unprofessional when resumes have spelling or grammatical errors.

It paints you as someone who does not pay attention to details or is pretty careless with their work.

That is why it is so vital to proofread your resume several times before sending it.

It would be even better if you could ask a friend or family member to go through it, too, as they could spot a mistake you might have missed.

You should also be extra vigilant of these errors when you change formats because sometimes the words or sentences get jumbled. 


5. Your personal information is unnecessary

Including unnecessary personal information on your resume is also wrong. 

For example, you should never include your age or birth date, your ethnicity, religious or political beliefs, marital status, family situation or a picture of you in your resume.

Due to the discrimination laws in place, recruiters are not allowed to judge your qualification based on any of those factors, so don’t give them the chance to do so. 

Other personal information about your previous work experiences, apart from your achievements or responsibilities, should not be added.

Don’t mention why you no longer work for a previous employer, or your previous or current salaries, and never bad mouth a prior employer on your resume.

All of these could eliminate your resume from selection.

When it comes to hobbies or interests, it depends on how relevant they are to the job description.

If the hobbies or interests are helping you develop transferrable skills, then include them only if you have space.

If not, leave them out entirely. You can save that discussion for the interview.

Otherwise, they are doing you no favors and might even make you come off as unprofessional.


6. Your contact information is incorrect

The contact information can also be a problematic part of your resume. 

Whether you are adding unnecessary or incorrect details there, you could miss out on a job opportunity.

Firstly, the contact information section should contain your phone number and email.

These two are the basics that must be there.

Your phone number should follow a format.

For example, instead of writing:


Write it this way:

+1 234 567 890

As for your email, make sure it is professional. 

Whether you are sending your resume via your email, or just including your email address in your contact information section, it cannot be informal or silly.

The best would be to use a company or university email.

If you do not have either, use one that contains preferably both your first and last name. 

For example: [email protected] or [email protected]

Always proofread your phone number and email before sending applications because a mistake could make you miss out on an interview invitation. 

Most applicants also include their full address along with their contact information.

This is not recommended because if you are too far away, the recruiter might decide against hiring you because of the trouble of you having to commute long distances.

You can just include your city and state; the rest is unnecessary.


7. Your resume turns into a job description

Another common mistake is turning your resume into a job description.

Many times, when applicants list their bullet points, they add roles and responsibilities from their jobs but not their achievements or contributions.

The recruiter can most likely tell what your role consists of based on your job title, especially if it’s in the same field.

You would be wasting valuable resume space by mentioning roles and responsibilities. 

What you should do instead is provide the scale of your impact.

The best way to do so is by listing quantifiable achievements, recognition or awards, and instances where you went above and beyond to achieve company objectives.

You can put 2 to 3 bullet points summarizing your main duties, but not more than that.

When listing bullet points, use powerful action verbs such as:

  • Championed
  • Pioneered
  • Spearheaded
  • Seized
  • Achieved
  • Outperformed
  • Executed
  • Enhanced
  • Empowered
  • Rectified


Do not write accomplishments or tasks in the first or third person. 

The recruiter knows the resume is about you, so there is no need to write ‘I’ or ‘me’. 

You should also avoid using ‘we’ and instead refer to what you’re talking about.

For example, instead of saying, ‘We exceeded set targets,’ you can write, ‘Outperformed set targets with the department team’


8. There are not enough keywords

Applicant Tracking Systems play a huge role in the selection of resumes.

If your resume cannot surpass an Applicant Tracking System, it won’t even reach the hands of a hiring manager.

Apart from the overall format of the resume, the presence of specific keywords determines whether you surpass an ATS or not.

So, it is important to research what keywords correlate to the specific position and industry and include as many as you can.

Include them in your bullet points but also in your professional summary.

In your professional summary, after you have summarized your qualifications and experience, you can mention core competencies.

When adding core competencies, include the most relevant keywords to describe your capabilities.

There are also plenty of websites available where you can conduct ATS testing on your resume and receive a score.

All of this is highly important to do before submitting your resume. It is one of the main determining factors for whether you receive an interview opportunity or not.


9. There are cliché words or phrases

Another resume disqualifier is cliché phrases that are so overused in resumes but don’t really say anything.

Words or phrases like hardworking, think outside of the box, problem solver, and detail-oriented are empty.

Anyone can add nice-sounding words to their resume, but not everyone can prove they really are like that.

Therefore, instead of adding those cliched words or phrases, write what you have done that checks with your claim. 

If you ‘think outside of the box’ provide evidence of a project or innovation that was truly unique and creative.

If you are a ‘problem solver,’ demonstrate a time when you solved a problem and, in return, helped operations run more smoothly.

Even if the job description contains these words, the recruiter does not want to see your resume regurgitate them back, they want to see instances that prove you match these requirements.


10. Your professional summary is not written right

The final 10th possibility of what could be wrong with your resume could be the section right at the very top of your resume- the professional summary.

Your professional summary is the very first thing that a recruiter will read when going through your resume. 

It is important to summarize your relevant experiences, academic background, awards or recognition, projects, or anything noteworthy about you that makes you an ideal candidate for your resume.

You should not make your professional summary too long.

Save the longer descriptions for your cover letter or personal statement.

Your professional summary should contain 2 to 3 sentences maximum and a shortlist of core competencies.


Professional summary in a resume example


Professional Summary:

Strategic and proactive Digital Content and Communications Specialist with over 5 years of external and internal digital communication-based experience. Specializing in web design, innovative digital content implementation, and social media management in compliance with brand policies and goals. Dedicated to enhancing communication needs, departmental visions, brand image, and strengthening partnerships.

Core competencies include Organization, Communication, Creative Problem-Solving, Interpersonal Relationships, Project Management, Leadership & Training, Collaboration, Personal Ownership, Time Management, Strategic Planning & Execution, Compliance, Performance Tracking & Reporting, Research & Analysis.