June 20, 2018

The 3 Most Avoidable Resume Mistakes


It’s an often repeated fact that recruiters and hiring managers only spend about six seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether to keep it or toss it.

If your resume only has mere seconds to capture a decision-maker’s attention, you need to be certain to avoid any of the triggers that can send it to the “no thanks” pile. Here are three such triggers that are incredibly common but easily fixed:

1. Hedging Your Bets with a ‘Jack of All Trades’ Resume

It seems perfectly logical to try to improve your chances by cataloguing your entire skill set in the top half of your resume, but you must resist the urge. A hiring manager wants to immediately verify that you can do the particular job they are trying to fill, so they eagle-eye your resume for concrete examples of your aptitude. Give them satisfaction, not distraction. Too many bullets of industry jargon in a “core competencies section” or a dense, wandering summary statement can land your resume in the digital dustbin.

2. The Stalagmite Effect

If you stayed awake during eighth-grade science, you’ll know that stalagmites grow into towering pillars of rock over millions of years. Up close, they are breathtakingly impressive. A stalagmite resume, however, is decidedly not.

The stalagmite resume is the product of many years of adding jobs to your resume without removing any of the old ones or otherwise editing the document. This hasty cut-and-paste approach creates a towering stack of jobs, many of which are irrelevant to the role you want.

Treat your resume as a living document. Every time you edit it, edit it completely from top to bottom, taking care to tailor it specifically to the job you are after.

Take a structured approach to explaining each relevant position. A predictable flow invites the eye to move through your resume with rhythm and interest. Start with a situational bullet that describes what was happening at the company when you were hired. Follow that with a responsibility bullet that describes your mission in a brief but compelling way. Lastly, deliver a results bullet that quantifies the value you brought to the company or describes what you achieved with real numbers. Here’s an example:

XYZ.com, VP Sales, New York, 6/2014 – Present
Situation: Recruited by a former boss to join XYZ.com, a top SaaS-based social sharing platform that suffered from lack of repeat customers and poor market visibility.
Responsibility: Restructure and revitalize the sales team of 3 directors and 15 account executives; increase pipeline; overhaul go-to-market strategy on a tight budget.
Results: Delivered consistent YOY increases from $3 million in 2014 to $18 million in 2017. Added 76 new clients. Resized team to 4 directors and 12 account executives.

A time-starved hiring manager will skip to the results bullet of each of your jobs, and provided your achievements are concrete and convincing, they will move you to the “yes” box.

3. Failing to Include a Profile Section

Remember the good old days when you would make a visit to the bookstore? You would pull books from the shelves, scanning each dust jacket for a compelling synopsis that would convince you to head toward the cashier.

Your resume’s profile statement should perform the same function as these synopses, telling the hiring manager about your value to their company in 45-60 words. Here is an example of a cogent profile statement that got an interview and the job:

Senior enterprise-level marketing technology sales hunter with an entrepreneurial spirit and long history for value-based selling. Accomplished revenue generator who is comfortable working in matrixed environments built to fuel topline attainment and strong pipeline health. Accustomed to collaborating with product teams that are dedicated to uncompromising excellence and executive teams focused on responsible but aggressive growth.


The snap judgment of an overworked hiring manager is never completely avoidable, but if you skip these three resume mistakes, you will net far more positive results. Above all, be sure to approach the process with one mission in mind: Show the value you can bring to employers.

Sherry Ailsworth is a recruiting partner for Chameleon Collective.

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Sherry Ailsworth is a born connector. She excels at connecting people with unique needs to people with unique capabilities in the shortest amount of time. Nothing is more exciting to her than watching a talented professional discover the right fit with a new opportunity — unless you count the thrill of satisfying a client who discovers an amazing new recruit whose fit score is off the charts.

It was not until she got into recruiting in 1998 with Microsoft that Sherry realized being a connector was a gift. Connecting people most certainly is a gift, and she is committed to bringing that gift to the digital marketplace. Sherry believes the time has come to reform the field of recruiting from the numbers game that many have called it. That's what cynics say. Recruiting needs a new focus, and that focus is fit. Her specialties include executive recruiting, digital ad sales, digital marketing, advertising agency, marketing services, big data sales and consultation, and SEO/SEM.