Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Published on: 16 July 2020 Last updated: 27 August 2020

Can’t get a job after sending hundreds of resumes that only get rejected by employers? 

Job hunting is no easy process. The lack of employment not only has an impact on your bank account but your confidence and self-esteem. After we get nothing but “good luck in your future job applications” it’s difficult to not feel frustrated or bitter, especially when we know we’re a good fit.

The best thing your resume can do is stand out and make an impression. There’s just one caveat, it should be a positive impression. Unfortunately, there are plenty of all-too-common resume mistakes that make HRs and recruiters remember you as that person they don’t want to hire.

(If you want to know whether your resume is good or not, use this resume checker to get it reviewed within 5 minutes)

Enhancv Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making

In this article, we’ll go through the 14 easily avoidable resume mistakes you need to know about before you apply to your next job.

1. No Personality

People are still worried to show their personality in a resume. They think it’s somewhat childish and unprofessional. They believe that this type of information is supposed to be written in a cover letter, but do employers even read cover letters anymore?

It’s 2020, and resumes have changed…

Think about how many resumes those job recruiters are going to be reading. Then imagine your resume is exactly the same as everybody else – it’s difficult to distinguish you from the other applicants who have applied for the same position.

Company Culture, the personality of a company, is being taken more and more seriously as a way to brand a company and keep employees happy. For employers, one of the ways to create a good company culture is to hire people that are similar or have similar interests. That’s why they need to see more personality revealing sections in your resume – so make their job easier and present your charming self!

There’s nothing wrong with exposing your character as long as you do it in a smart and authentic way. This is why creativity can be helpful – emphasize the unique experiences you have that others probably don’t.

 Enhancv is one of the only resume builders that offer a wide variety of human-centric sections. Try to start there, it got Sam a job in Spotify.

2. Vague & Irrelevancy

When writing your resume, are you being specific or do you start taking a detour and going off in the wrong direction? In other words, are you keeping your content relevant and is everything connected to what they are looking for?

Whatever you talk about, it must be specific and aligned with the things the recruiters are looking for, so delete anything that’s irrelevant and unrelatable.

And for your resume to connect, it needs to be consistent by maintaining a good flow.

To check everything flows well, read your resume out loud. You will notice where some parts might sound off. For those parts that do sound odd, that’s where you need to rephrase and change the wording around until it sounds about right. 

Also, vague language that’s unspecific is a no-go. Here are a few examples of words you should avoid:

  • “Some”
  •  “Might”
  • “Probably”
  • “Could”
  • “Maybe”

Any past accomplishments that you want to talk about, be specific when you’re bringing it up by using any type of statistic or evidence if possible. For example, which of the following sounds more authentic: 

  1. “I probably excel in closing prospects over the phone. In my previous role as a salesman, I generated more sales…” 
  1. “I excel in closing prospects over the phone. In my previous role as a salesman, I generated 20% more sales…” 

From the examples, the second one sounds better. There’s certainty behind the statement and it sounds genuinely authentic because of the statistic that makes it more credible – “I’ve generated 20% more sales.

The list of mistakes is continuing to increase every day. At least use a content analyzer that helps you focus on being straight to the point and showing the value you need to be showing without being ambiguous.

Be specific and listen to Jefferson’s wise words:

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Enhancv Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making

3. Dishonesty

Did you really spend 6 months as an intern in that company? Are you sure you speak 6 languages? Did you increase that Twitter account by 6,000 followers in just a month? If your answer to questions like this is “well, basically” then you need to reconsider.

In short, all the information you provide must be 100% true. Remember that in today’s world, recruiters can verify most details within a few clicks and phone calls.

If you have gaps in unemployment, explain why the situation happened. As long as you justify it for a good reason, there shouldn’t be any major problems. 

In any case, the greatest asset you could have in an interview is confidence. Holding the thought you weren’t quite truthful on your resume is a sure-fire way to replace that confidence with guilt and paranoia: not exactly a recipe for success.

So stick to the truth and be proud of it.

Enhancv Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making

4. Obvious Skills and Clichés

If you’re writing your resume on autopilot (and let’s face it, lots of us are), it’s easy to slip into the habit of relying on clichés and passive voice. The problem with this is that at best it’ll get your resume ignored and at worst it’ll give the reader a big eye-roll. Needless to say, it’s not how you land an interview.

Avoid talking about obvious skills anyone could talk about. For example, you’re talking about how you developed your basic IT skills using software everyone knows how to use such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

Don’t focus on topics centered around basic skills, and don’t use any joke skills either like saying you’re an amazing wingman who was able to set up a date between two other employees in your previous workforce – it’s cringe for anyone that’s reading.

5. Visual Appearance (Font, Colour, Design, and Layout)

Wouldn’t you rather use software that’s easy to use and simple to follow through rather than something that’s overly complex and confusing?

The same thing for your resume – if it’s difficult to read or it’s not visually appealing, it’s going to cause the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Stress
  • Frustration

There might even be a chance you’ll get rejected before they even start reading your resume because it’s an eye-sore…

Make sure your resume doesn’t get out of hand by using a number of different fonts, graphs, and neon colors. Keep it neat, clean, and easy to read.

It’s overlooked, but font plays a part in whether you’re going to get the job or not.

Try identifying the good and bad font choices from these examples: 

1.) My Resume

2.) My Resume

3.) MY Resume

 The second font is the best to use compared to the others, it’s more important to have a readable and scannable resume that’s clear rather than trying to look extravagant or as complicated as the universe.

Make it easy for your employers, don’t give them a hard time to decipher your resume.

 (Sometimes you’re required to send your resume in a certain format depending on the company’s Applicant Tracking System. Unless there are specific instructions, the safest way to send your resume is in the form of a PDF – the main reason being a PDF doesn’t change depending on the computer’s operating system.)

What matters more is having clarity – it should look sensible and authentic.

Not only should you have a clean font that makes it readable, but you should also be using modern resume templates that stand out. The best layouts are the ones that get the job done, so don’t go overboard and use certain fonts or layouts just because they look fancy. 

Color choices also have an impact so make the right choices but again, don’t overdo it and keep it professional. 

Here’s an example of what a good format looks like:

Enhancv Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making

6. Typographical Errors

Any typo errors, spelling, punctuation, or grammar – these kinds of mistakes will get your resume tossed straight into the reject pile. 

You’d be shocked how often these kinds of simple resume mistakes make it to a recruiter’s desk. There’s simply no excuse for sloppiness, misused words, incorrect spelling, or punctuation overuse on your resume.

But how do you catch these simple but easily missed resume mistakes?

After you finish with your resume, sleep on it, and take your mind off it. Then give it a look with fresh eyes. You can prevent your resume from being thrown into the trash easily just by properly proofreading your work. 

A technique I use sometimes is reading all the content backward, which forces you to slow down and catch more mistakes. Then just to be safe, let a trusted friend look at it (obviously, a spell-checker should factor in as well). Once you’ve done all this, you can send your resume off with confidence. 

Remember that you can always edit but once you click ‘send’, there’s no going back.

Enhancv Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making

7. Not Tailored For The Job

In return for the work you’ve put into creating your resume, you get nothing. That’s straightforward and expected if you don’t know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

Before you craft your resume, there are 2 steps you should do: 

  1. Know Exactly What You’re Getting Into

Before you even start on your resume, one of your first steps should be reading through the job requirements carefully. Pay close attention to the keywords they use and get the grip of who they’re actually looking for. 

You should know what type of person they are looking for and what exactly you need to include and what you need to avoid.

  1. Research The Company

Go through the company website, social media profiles, blogs, and anywhere else they’re active. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • “What’s their company culture?”
  • “What kind of people work there?”
  • “Would you fit in the team?”

All this information will give you a head start and provide clues for your resume design, content, and overall feeling. Make it specific to the company and the job requirements.

After that’s done, check your resume accurately matches the job description by using a free assessment tool.

8. Keywords and Phrases

Something you should be doing to increase your chances of getting a response is to use keywords and phrases. If you’ve read the guidelines properly and you understand what the job requires as mentioned earlier, then you might even be doing this unconsciously. 

However, the keywords on your resume should be the exact words that the recruiters want to see. For example, if the role you’re applying for requires attention to detail, your resume would be scanned to see if you’ve included that phrase.

Take a look at what words and phrases they would want to see on your resume and implement them. Use those words directly to make your resume more compelling to get them eager to work with you. 

You can match your resume easily to the job description in 3 easy steps using this free tool.

(Quick reminder: don’t just blatantly copy and paste the job description)

9. Your Social Media Account

You might be applying for a position in the business, finance or marketing space such as social media manager or content marketer. In roles like this, there’s a good chance they are going to judge your social media profile. Assuming your profile doesn’t contain anything inappropriate, there shouldn’t be a problem. 

On the other hand, if there’s a video of you being drunk on a Saturday night, it could influence the decision on whether they want to hire you or not. 

It’s worth taking the time to clean out anything inappropriate on your social media just before sending your resume to optimize your chances.

10. Looking In The Wrong Place

There’s a chance that you’ve made it this far without making any of the mistakes that have been mentioned. 

But you might not be getting the response you’re expecting because you’re looking in the wrong place.

For example, if your resume is specifically tailored for the job position as a mechanical engineer but you’re applying to work as a doctor in a medical health center, your chances are little to none.

As a result, no matter how good your resume is you won’t be valued the same way if you’re in the wrong place. It won’t matter how good it is because ultimately, it’s not going to count – you won’t have the experiences, qualifications or achievements they want…

Even if you’re applying in the right places, who knows how long it’s going to take before you actually land a new job. It depends on multiple factors. For some, it might be easy and quick, but for others, it’s going to take a bit longer. One way to get an estimate of how long it will take is by using our job calculator.

11. Outdated Resumes

Don’t ever submit a resume that’s out of date – it should always be up to date with relevant information at all times.

Consider leaving out that summer job you did 10 years ago…

Unless you achieved something significant and relevant to the job position you’re applying for, it’s just a distraction. A rule of thumb I like to use is to look at every piece of information on my resume and ask myself whether it makes the resume more effective. If it doesn’t add any value, I cut it.

The experience content of your resume should exponentially progress with you.

12. Responsibilities VS Accomplishments

This is one key area where we see how resumes are changing in 2020. 

Just a few years ago this wasn’t a very common practice, but today it’s absolutely expected that you list accomplishments and not just responsibilities on your resume.

Ultimately, it’s your accomplishments that make you stand out from all the other applicants and it’s those achievements that make you feel proud when you step into that interview.

Also, make sure you quantify these accomplishments wherever possible – specifics always have a greater impact.

Enhancv Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making

13. Paid VS Unpaid Work Experience

Another common mistake on resumes is the fact that people believe that the only experience that counts is paid experience. But this massively limits you in how you can go about showing off your skills and accomplishments. 

Think about volunteering, that old car you restored, a disease you overcame, or how you learned how to sew and make your own clothes. In other words, what makes you proud and shows your skills?

These don’t necessarily have to be connected to your job title. It can be one of the most striking sections on a resume, as long as you back it up with concrete facts, numbers and figures. Plus, an experience like this can be a great conversation starter in an interview.

Enhancv Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making

14. You’re Only Crafting One Resume

Forget your one size fits all mindset because resumes in 2020 need to be tailored for the specific job. A small start-up and IBM certainly don’t hire the same way, so you shouldn’t apply to them the same way.

Use the other tips mentioned in this article to craft your resume for each job position you’re applying for.

Conclusion

It can be a nightmare creating your resume and perfecting it as best as you can – that’s why Enhancv’s resume builders are one of the easiest you can use to create a unique resume that wins job opportunities. You can start off using our templates that got people’s job positions into big brand names such as Tesla, Spotify, and Amazon. 

Now that you’re confident and ready to stand out, you can finally get that job you’ve been waiting for!

Crafting an outstanding resume isn’t an easy job. Sometimes, we just need a little push, a reminder of what’s important to add or leave out.

If you haven’t yet, try Enhancv’s Content Analyzer feature. It was developed after reviewing over 300,000 resumes to help you improve your content and make the most out of any job opportunity.

Go ahead and craft your resume with Enhancv now.

Good luck! 

***

Do you agree with our picks? What are some other resume mistakes we might have missed here? Go ahead and jump in the discussion below!

Kal Dimitrov

Kal has 10 years of experience as a marketer and lecturer in youth leader organisations, with a focus on career and job skills enhancement. He has written and edited over 100 resume creation guides for different jobs. Kal is also a co-founder of a career accelerator hub that helps students and recent graduates excel at job interviews and get the job of their dreams.

12 comments on “Keep Getting Rejected Job Applications? 14 Resume Mistakes You’re Probably Making
  1. Shane on

    I’m not sure I agree with most things on these example resumes here. A picture of yourself? A pie chart about what you do during the day? Links to social media and a quote? “Things you do in your free time, diseases you overcame”? Nobody needs this information. Yes, it looks different and will be interesting to some people, but I’m not so sure anyone would sacrifice the time to sift through all this nonsense to get to the only part they actually want – your experience, and even that is in smaller font than everything else. Using this template is a shot in the dark, and not one that I’m willing to take.

    Reply
  2. Tatiana Rehmova on

    Hi Shane, thanks for the comment! Adding the things you listed can actually reveal a lot about the person, their attitude towards tasks, the way they deal with different situations and all that can be translated into how they’ll actually act at work, interact with the team and deal with difficult situations. Of course, it’s completely up to you to choose what kind of information you share on your resume. And it also depends on the position you’re applying for, as well the type of company. These are some of our suggestions, things that we – as an employer – love seeing on resumes, and things that have worked for many of our customers who got hired in great companies. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Jeremy Sullivan on

    Hi Tatiana,

    Back to “what people really care about” thing… can you/Enhancv provide case studies or referrals/testimonials with specific job titles and company names where the above has worked? I’d love to believe hiring managers have evolved to this point (having been one), but I have seen zero hard evidence of it. I regularly have ex-coworkers coming to me for resume advice, and I am hesitant to advise them to move to this sort of “marketing style” resume. Citations, please? Show me the money.

    Reply
  4. Tatiana Rehmova on

    Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for your comment! 🙂 We have a whole list of candidates who used our resumes and got hired in different companies. The ones that do want to share their success are in this section of our blog – Enhanced Lives. And there are many more to come. I’d like to emphasize that it very much depends on what kind of company you’re applying for, what kind of people work there and what their culture is, that’s what can give you a hint – would they care about seeing what I like doing in my free time? Or are they a corporate company which only cares about how many years of experience I have? So, research is the key.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  5. Mayur kohli on

    I have found this post very good and useful for candidates to avoid some resume mistakes in this year. Inconsistency in resume is common mistake that candidates makes in their resume . You have explained so well what to avoid in resume and it will surely helps to build effective resume in current year for getting selected by recruiter.

    Reply
  6. Wakuma Dufera Tesgera on

    I have found this post very good and useful for candidates to avoid some resume mistakes in this year. Inconsistency in resume is common mistake that candidates makes in their resume . You have explained so well what to avoid in resume and it will surely helps to build effective resume in current year for getting selected by recruiter.

    Reply
  7. Riya Patel on

    Nice Tips !! Thanks for your great guidance !! The information was really helpful. it’s really informative and covers all the aspects. I agree with all the points you mentioned here. This was exactly what I needed to read today. I would be sincerely obliged to your kind help and guidance. I really liked your tips. The clearness to your publish is simply spectacular and i can assume you’re an expert in this subject. please keep up the enjoyable work. Thanks for sharing…

    Reply
  8. Bob Lamar on

    Some good points, but the sample resume was awful for the average applicant. A CEO can get away with talking about baking cupcakes in a pie chart. For anyone else this will not get you taken seriously unless the hiring manager is quite eccentric. These articles should be for the average Joe and not senior management.

    Reply
  9. cody simpsons on

    nice blog post! the content seems very useful, all the tips are very necessary to keep in mind while writing a resume. Thank you very much for sharing this important information here.

    Reply
  10. Hector Uba on

    Thanks for the tips on mistakes you should avoid when writing a resume in 2018. I agree that you should be 100% truthful on your resume and you shouldn’t lie on it because it could come back to bite you. My brother is applying for a new job and he needs help writing his resume. I will be sure to share these tips with him.

    Reply
  11. Jimmy on

    One should be 100% truthful? I’ve never understood the need to quantify truthfulness. So, 90% truthful doesn’t cut it? Using language in your CV that you wouldn’t normally use and presenting only your strengths and concealing your weaknesses is hardly “truthful.” It’s not painting an accurate picture. Another point that has been overlooked is that a polished (“perfect”) CV can sometimes work against applicants. It reeks of BS, which some recruiters are sensitive to.

    Reply

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