Recruiters Spell Out the Biggest Deal-Breakers Costing You the Job

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When you face tough competition for the job, even the smallest mistake can eliminate you from the hiring manager’s pile.

TopResume recently asked 379 former and current recruiters, hiring managers, and human resources professionals, “What are your biggest resume deal-breakers that can cost a candidate the job?” They revealed the following top 10 resume faux pas:

  1. Spelling and/or grammatical errors (80 percent)
  2. Incorrect or missing contact information (52 percent)
  3. Unprofessional email address (46 percent)
  4. Outdated or irrelevant information (hobbies, age, marital status, etc.) (45 percent)
  5. Failure to demonstrate and quantify results (33 percent)
  6. Annoying buzzwords and/or obvious keyword stuffing (32 percent)
  7. Too generalized/not customized to match job listing (32 percent)
  8. Repetitive words or phrases used in multiple job descriptions (28 percent)
  9. Including a headshot (28 percent)
  10. Format and/or design is too elaborate (23 percent)

These seemingly small resume mistakes can cause hiring managers to dismiss your candidacy before they even finish reading your resume.

The good news? With a little effort, all of these resume deal-breakers can be avoided. Carefully review your resume before you submit your next job application to be sure it doesn’t contain any of the deal-breakers listed above. Then, follow these tips to further improve your shot at the job.

1. Go Beyond Spell Check

Since the advent of spell check and autocorrect, we’ve grown accustomed to relying on technology to proofread our documents. While these tools can help you catch simple spelling errors, you can never assume they will detect contextual errors — for example, you meant to say you thrive in a “fast-paced” environment but instead typed “past-faced.” These tools also fail to flag inconsistencies in tense and format.

To avoid typos of this nature, print out your resume and read it aloud. Our brains tend to pay more attention when we read something in print versus online, and reading the information out loud will help you identify awkward sentence phrasings. If you stumble over the words in your resume, you can safely assume a recruiter or hiring manager will have the same problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, either. Reach out to friends who majored in English or journalism and request they review your resume for spelling and grammatical errors.

2. Avoid Headers and Footers

Triple-check that your name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile URL are accurate, then type this important information at the top of your resume just below the header section. Applicant tracking systems (ATSs) often can’t read the information stored in the header or footer section of a Word document.

3. Create a Separate Email for Your Job Search

The email address may have been funny when you were in college, but it’s a poor choice to represent your professional brand. The same goes for shared family accounts such as, email addresses that can be offensive, and ones that use outdated providers such as Comcast, Hotmail, and AOL. Sign up for a free address with a provider like Gmail, and reserve this account exclusively for your job-search and networking activities.

4. Remove Anything Irrelevant

There is no reason to include personal details like your marital status and social security number, nor should you include a headshot. While some recruiters won’t dismiss your resume for including hobbies, it is completely unnecessary to list generic activities like reading or traveling. Don’t include interests that could indicate your religious or political affiliations. You only have limited space on your resume, so save it for the important details that reinforce your qualifications.

5. Aim for White Space

Regarding your resume’s design, less is truly more. Stick to a simple, clean format that makes it easy for the hiring manager to skim your information and quickly understand what you’ve done and why you’re qualified for the position. Save the charts, images, and other design elements for your online portfolio, if applicable.

6. Show, Don’t Tell

Avoid fluffy marketing terms that tell the recruiter who you are but don’t provide proof of your skills. Instead, incorporate the keywords that routinely pop up in the job description, and use the bullet points within your “Work History” section to demonstrate how you’ve used these qualities to produce results.

Consider the tangible benefits of your work. How have you made things run better, faster, cheaper, or smoother? What would fall through the cracks if you missed a few days of work? If you’re having trouble quantifying your contributions and achievements, talk to a professional resume writer who can help with the wording.

Amanda Augustine is career advice expert for TopResume.

By Amanda Augustine