5 Common Mistakes That Will Ensure Your Resume Gets Tossed

Here’s a prediction: If your résumé feels boring, stilted, and borrowed, no one’s going to want to hire you.

5 Common Mistakes That Will Ensure Your Resume Gets Tossed

Recruiters look at a résumé for six seconds. So how do you stand out from the crowd, aside from awesome design?


By avoiding threadbare phrases like “stand out from the crowd,” as David Mielach observes at Business News Daily. Once distilled, his points flow like this: Get as specific as possible, avoid tired phrases like the plague, and show–don’t tell–the hiring manager why you’re the person they need.

Chuck-worthy offenses include:


Don’t lean on buzzwords like “innovative,” “team player,” or “results oriented,” says Employmentology author Darnell Clarke. Better to get specific.

“Instead of saying you have extensive experience in sales,” Clarke says, “note that you’ve worked in sales for 10 years, hit your quota the last 12 quarters, and note specific deals you’ve closed.”

References available upon request

Never let the above phrase pollute your most precious page. The whole “references available by request” thing is already understood by recruiting and hiring managers–it’s kind of their job to know that–so trotting out that formality is a waste. If they want your references, they’ll request them.



Hiring managers want to know your skills and experience–they don’t care about your objective, says Stefanie Carrabba, senior consultant at Eliassen Group.

“Candidates should never put an objective on their résumé,” she says. “Their objective is to get the job.”

Vague claims

Kimberly Bishop is an executive recruiter. She reports that on a recent search, 75% of the candidates had “transformational leader” on their résumé, a description that “doesn’t specifically mean anything that translates to a specific experience.”

Rather than claiming to be transformational–without explaining what that even means–Bishop recommends carving out exactly what your skillset is.

Qualitative descriptions

Want to get glossed over? Opt for jargon like “seasoned,” “experienced,” “creative,” and, again, “innovative.”


“I would leave off any qualitative description that is not accompanied by an example or metric,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career and business expert at SixFigureStart. “Just give me years of experience and what exactly did you start or improve.”

And while you’re at it, give a little thought to your cliche-strewn personal brand, as well.

Words to Leave off Your Résumé

[Image: Flickr user Leland Francisco]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.