No one wants to be told they have a "bad resume" or to be rejected from an opening due to easy-to-fix mistakes. But it's hard to know how to fix your resume if you've never seen what a truly terrible resume looks like.
The most common issues that create poor-performing resumes are distracting formats, grammar mistakes, irrelevant information, and overuse of resume buzzwords.
In this article, we'll explore some bad resume examples so you can see how these mistakes affect the readability of a resume and learn what not to do. We'll discuss why these mistakes lead to an unprofessional presentation and, more importantly, how to ensure your resume doesn't include any of these common pitfalls.
Common mistakes and bad resume examples
Most "bad resume" mistakes fit into two categories: things that make your resume appear unprofessional and those that make your resume harder to read. Focusing on clarity, readability, and presentation will eliminate these common errors.
Having a resume that's too long
If your resume is longer than two pages, most recruiters will likely skim the first page and disregard the rest. Remember, your resume shouldn't include every job you ever had, but rather a targeted list of your most relevant and significant experience.
Keep your resume to one page by removing outdated or irrelevant information and focusing on industry-specific skills. A two-page resume is acceptable if you have more than ten years of experience, but ensure you still focus on your most significant achievements.
Spelling and grammar mistakes
Typos and grammar mistakes may seem insignificant, but they make a resume harder to read and appear unprofessional. They also convey poor attention to detail and a lack of genuine interest in the position, creating a negative impression on recruiters. Always proofread your resume to ensure you eliminate the common spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes shown in the example below:
Note how spelling and grammar mistakes give off a poor impression of this candidate.
Including irrelevant information
Including irrelevant information distracts from your skills and experience, making it harder for a recruiter to find critical information. Don't bury essential details in lengthy paragraphs. Use bullet points to highlight your most memorable achievements and use well-structured headings so a recruiter can easily find the information they're looking for.
Listing work experience in the wrong order
Recruiters expect to see your most relevant and recent experience first. If your experience isn't presented in this order, a recruiter might incorrectly assume your lowest level experience is your most recent and disregard the rest of your resume.
To avoid this mistake, list your work experience in reverse chronological order (most recent first), as shown in the amended example below.
Not optimizing for ATS
Even the most qualified candidate can be rejected if their resume isn't optimized for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Complex formatting, special characters, lack of keywords, and incorrect file types interfere with ATS scanners, leading to an automatic rejection. Make sure to build your resume using an ATS-optimized template and use an AI-powered resume scanner to check that the software can pick out the crucial information.
Focusing on responsibilities rather than achievements
Most hiring managers aren't interested in roles and responsibilities. They want to see evidence of your skills. Instead of listing responsibilities, focus on specific, quantifiable achievements. For example, instead of saying that you "managed a team", write that you "Led a team of 5 associates to increase quarterly sales by 5%". Here is an example of a resume listing roles and responsibilities:
And here is an example of how to improve that resume by focusing instead on quantifiable achievements:
Using flashy or bizarre formatting
While creative formatting may look visually appealing, jumbled elements and colorful design distract from your resume's content and make the critical information harder for both recruiters and ATS to find. Stick to traditional resume templates and formatting for the best results. Here is a good vs. bad resume example, showcasing a professional format alongside a creative, stylized design.
And although the following resume isn’t flashy, notice how difficult these center-aligned bullet points are to read:
Including too many soft skills
Including soft skills in your skills list overshadows relevant hard skills and makes your list harder to read. Instead, exemplify soft skills in your work experience bullet points through specific examples and quantified results and save your skills list for hard skills.
For example, here is a lengthy skills list that includes soft skills:
Industry-specific skills are lost in this list, and there is no evidence to prove the soft skills of leadership or adaptability. Instead, remove these soft skills to create a more focused, relevant skills list, as shown below.
Not targeting your resume
Sending a one-size-fits-all resume shows a lack of interest in the position and hides your relevant experience amongst irrelevant data. Always tailor your resume to the job by removing unrelated experience and non-industry skills and reworking your resume summary to target each new position.
To tailor your resume for the job you're applying to, use the hard skills and keywords tool below. It provides a list of skills relevant to the job, helping you identify which of your hard skills to include.
Listing too many short-term jobs
Including too many short-term jobs can raise questions about your commitment. Unless you have an industry-relevant reason for having multiple short-term jobs (seasonal, freelance, or contract work, for example), don't include positions you held for less than six months unless they are specifically relevant to your application. Here is a poor resume example, listing too many short-term positions:
To improve this resume, pick the most relevant positions and remove the rest. For example:
Buzzwords are generic, overused phrases, like "team player" or "detail-oriented", that take up space on your resume without adding relevant information and make recruiters less likely to take your resume seriously. For example:
A motivated and results-driven professional with excellent communication skills and a strong work ethic. Highly organized and detail-oriented with a passion for teamwork and problem-solving. Proven track record of achieving goals and exceeding expectations.
Notice how these buzzwords make claims without providing evidence and say nothing about the candidate's actual experience. To improve this summary, replace buzzwords with specific quantified achievements, or use our resume summary generator to create a powerful and targeted summary.
Experienced Training Manager adept at developing training programs in high-growth industries. Introduced a new onboarding process that decreased onboarding time by 50% and improved employee retention rates by 35% through a comprehensive career development program.
Note how the overuse of buzzwords gives the reader no insight into the candidate's skills.
How to prevent creating a bad resume
After such a long list of resume pitfalls, it may seem like writing a good resume is impossible. But don't worry. That's what we’re here for. To help you write a great resume without worrying about all tohese potential mistakes.
Proofreading is essential to presenting a professional-looking resume. Our AI-powered resume scanner helps you proofread your resume in seconds, correcting any grammar and spelling mistakes and providing detailed feedback on areas to improve.
Less is more
Less content, less irrelevant information, and less flashy formatting. Make your resume targeted and focused by only including recent and relevant experience. Use our Targeted Resume tool to align your resume with a specific job description and cut your resume down to only the essential information.
Use AI-resume tools
Leverage AI resume tools to receive targeted feedback, making editing quick and easy. Our Score My Resume tool offers personalized feedback on formatting, keywords, brevity, and clarity, highlights common mistakes, and compares your resume against industry standards to optimize your resume's overall effectiveness.