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Top 9 Resume Mistakes

Top 9 Resume Mistakes Top 9 Resume Mistakes

Here are the top 9 resume mistakes that cost qualified applicants interviews.  You have one chance and one chance only to stand out and get their attention with your resume. There are no do-overs, and the damage done by the top 9 resume mistakes is not repairable.

Recruiters see hundreds of resumes. They weed out applicants by eliminating those with the following top 9 resume mistakes.

Top 9 resume mistakes

1. Typos and Grammatical Errors 

Typos and grammatical errors are seen as careless mistakes by employers. Careless mistakes give employers reason to believe you’ll be a careless employee and are reason to immediately discard your resume in favor of an error-free resume. Recruiters and resume readers develop an eagle eye for editing, and are not forgiving of mistakes.

We all make typos because our eyes see what we intended to write and not what we wrote. Or maybe it’s a matter of being tired, or in a rush.

Top 9 Resume Mistakes

Top 9 Resume Mistakes

Have 3 other people proof your resume. Common errors include forgetting to update the submission date, providing a wrong phone number, and even listing the wrong potential employer.

Microsoft Office and spell-check can actually create errors. You must read your resume over carefully before you hit “Send”. Watch out for errors not caught by spellcheck such as “their” and “there” or certified nursing assistant (CNA) auto-changed to “CAN”.

Do not use the pronouns “I” and “me”.

2. Using a Generic Resume and Not Using Keywords

It is easy for a reader to spot a generic resume. Sending the exact same resume to every employer without customizing it to each company is a fatal error. Recruiters  can recognize a resume that was blasted to 50 different employers. The market is competitive- if you don’t submit a customized resume, someone else will.

Target the keywords used by the employer in the job description. Identify keywords that appear early in an ad as they are likely the ones to be programmed into their keyword-searching software. Read 16 Tips for Nursing Resumes and Keywords for a deeper understanding of applicant tracking systems (ATS).

Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and visualize what they are looking for. Find out about their culture. What skills and attributes are they looking for? Highlight those skills and attributes in your resume.

Hiring managers are looking for a good fit for their units and your resume must reflect the values that align with theirs. Winning resumes are customized to each  job opportunity…and culture of the organization.

3. Failing to List Accomplishments

Software will typically not be searching for “responsible for..” and “duties included”. It is better to list accomplishments over a list of duties. “Administered medications” is a duty, and an unremarkable one at that (use if you find it to be a keyword, however).

Top 9 Resume Mistakes

Every resume needs improvement

  • Voted Employee of the Month
  • Served on unit based council that reduced patient falls by 80%
  • Senior Class President

….are all accomplishments. Include metrics when able. Internships, summer camp, and volunteering experience are all noteworthy and set you apart. See Sample Resume for a New Grad. If you are brand new and fresh out of school, you still have accomplishments. Did others always look to you to organize and lead study groups? If so, you are a leader with initiative.

4. Ho-hum Objective or Summary Statements

“Seeking challenging position” or “Looking for opportunity to provide safe, compassionate, quality care” really says nothing and is a waste of real estate (unless you are keywording “compassionate). Better to simply forgo an objective statement or summary if it is dry, cliche-ridden, self-evident, and/or does not add value.

Summary statements are more useful for applicants with experience, and if used, should pack a punch. Writing a resume when you have no experience takes a different strategy.,

5. Painful to View

Dense blocks of text, long paragraphs, confusing hierarchy, multiple fonts, and run-on sentences are a visual turn-off.

Often these are due to:

  • Not knowing how to condense thoughts for the highest impact (get help from a friend)
  • A belief that creative formatting is preferable to traditional formatting (go with traditional)
  • Inability to view your resume from a recruiter’s point of view (stuck in student-think) Why Your Resume is not all About You

Multiple fonts are a visual distraction, not a creative artsy addition. Set yourself apart by substance and content, not by atypical formatting.

Use plenty of white space, brief paragraphs and bullets to help the reader see and process key chunks of information. Use a 10-12 point font, and a .8 margin. Use a sans-serif font throughout such as Arial.

  • Strive to be succinct
  • Words should WOW
  • Lead with strong action verbs

When using bullets, keep the points short and use sentence fragments, not full sentences. Use bullets consistently throughout your resume. Bullets provide structure and give importance to material of equal weight in all sections.

6. Outdated Give-Aways

Do not put “References Available on Request”. Do not use double spaces after a period.

Use a professional email address such as and not Include your LinkedIn url. Use a contact phone number that is answered by you alone. It is not necessary to include your home address if you’re concerned that you won’t land an interview because you live far away, although it’s possible some ATS are set to give a lower score when the address is missing. It really depends on where you are applying to, and the experience they’ve had hiring applicants from”away”.

Often you can use a cover letter to allay any possible concerns up front.

7. Clichés

Edit your resume for clichés and fluffery such as “thinks outside the box” “team-player”, “results-oriented”. Everyone is a results-oriented, team-player who “thinks outside the box” and has “excellent communication skills”. If you are just like everyone else,  you have not set yourself apart.

Use action verbs such as “resolved”, “reduced”, “directed”, “handled”, “managed”, “organized”.

Use superlatives such as “only”, “highest”, “top”, “first”, “best”.

Give examples of your abilities. “Consistently made highest tips” in a waitressing job speaks to your people skills.

8. Not including Skills

No one wants to read a job description presented as a resume, but a skills-based resume will set you apart. “Speaks Spanish fluently” will set you apart.

There are hard skills, such as “Experience with Cerner and Medi-Tech platforms”, and soft skills, such as “customer service”.


9. Making Your Resume Too Long

It’s not length so much as relevance.

One to two pages is right for an entry level resume. Many nursing students make the mistake of painstakingly listing every clinical rotation and taking up to a half of the first page (prime real estate) with wordy descriptions. “Passed meds” and “Inserted foleys” does not set you apart from other candidates. It’s a given that you went to nursing school if you are an RN.

If your senior practicuum was in a prestigious facility or a speciality unit, it bears noting. Otherwise condense this portion.

Top 9 Resume mistakes

If done well, your resume will tell the story of you and capture the reader’s interest. Sending a well crafted resume puts you ahead of the game, but don’t overlook networking and don’t believe the 5 Networking Myths . Sometimes landing a job is a matter of being persistent..or is it pushy?





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Until next time friend,top 9 resume mistakes

Nurse Beth

Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question :) 

About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

2 Comments on Top 9 Resume Mistakes

  1. NurseAmelia@RN_Solutions // August 1, 2016 at 5:01 pm // Reply

    We just finished interviewing for several positions. In my 5 years in my Day time role ( Care Coordinator by Day, Social Media Consultant by Night) , resumes have really changed! All of the applicants that got to our review had Measurable Outcomes and Examples of Leadership and Community Service. Thank you for sharing these valuable tips!

    • You’re welcome, Amelia. You are so right, it’s anew world when it comes to landing a job, and even an interview. I’m interested in hearing about the measurable outcomes and examples of leadership and community service.

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