These common résumé mistakes lead to recruiter confusion

A few of these formatting blunders may be holding you back from job opportunities.

These common résumé mistakes lead to recruiter confusion
[Photo: Richard Dykes/Unsplash]

A recruiter’s perception of your résumé can make or break your job search. If recruiters can read your résumé with ease and quickly understand the benefits of hiring you, then you will be placed in front of numerous hiring managers and given plenty of opportunities to prove yourself at interview.


However, if your résumé is difficult to digest and leaves readers with more questions than answers, then your applications will be overlooked, and you will miss out on jobs that you are more than capable of doing.

To avoid causing confusion and ensure that you are maximizing your opportunities, avoid some of these common résumé blunders.

Overcomplicating design

One of the most common and damaging mistakes that candidates make is overcomplicating the look of their résumé.

In an attempt to make the document look more modern and professional, they add photos, icons, skills-graphs, borders, and more. These features might make the document look nice, but they often have negative effects on the functionality of the résumé.

When structuring and formatting your résumé, you must remember its audience and purpose. Whilst the design should have a professional appearance, it is more important that it conveys your skills and suitability to time-strapped recruiters. Its design should be more focused on providing an easy reading experience and highlighting in-demand skills, rather than displaying the most modern graphic design trends.

In résumé design, less is more—and simplicity is key.


Does a recruiter want to see colorful borders and a huge photo of yourself taking up the top of the page, so that they have to scroll down to find out what your job title is? Or would they rather open up the document and see a list of your most relevant skills in plain black text?

If your résumé is cluttered and could potentially be hiding the important information from recruiters, choose a simpler layout which quickly highlights your key skills.

Failing to break up text

Huge chunks of unbroken text are a reader’s worst nightmare, especially for a recruiter with hundreds of résumés to read and multiple deadlines looming. You will often read statistics about recruiters only spending around 6 seconds to read a résumé and while these figures may be exaggerated for dramatic effect, they aren’t far from the truth.

Once a recruiter has you on their shortlist, they will invest a lot more time into studying your credentials. However to create that shortlist, they need a quick process of filtering out unsuitable candidates. Most recruiters will do this by skim-reading all of the résumés in their inbox, meaning that the initial scan of your résumé will usually only be a few seconds long.

If the text in your résumé isn’t sufficiently broken up, recruiters will struggle to pick out the skills they are looking for at first glance. This in turn reduces your chances of making it into those all-important candidate shortlists.

The easiest step you can take to break up text on your résumé is to use lots of bullet points throughout. It’s a simple technique, but it improves the reading experience dramatically.


In addition to this, you should make sure that different sections and jobs are clearly titled with bold headings and well-spaced out, so that recruiters can find the info they need, and don’t have to spend a long time scouring through large paragraphs.

Failing to outline role descriptions

When writing your role descriptions, it is understandable that you want to dive straight in and tell employers about all your amazing accomplishments. But without an outline to introduce each role, this could leave readers confused.

Before recruiters read about what you’ve done in a role, they need to understand who you worked for, what is the nature of said business, and where you fit into the organization.
Without that information, it is very difficult for them to assess the impact you’ve made in the position.

While this is a common mistake, it is easily fixed. Ensure that each role starts with a brief introduction that summarizes the role, covering all of the above points. If you work for a global brand like Coca-Cola then you will not need to explain what the company does, but you will likely need to go into some detail around your department and how they feed into the business’s success.

Omitting facts and figures

Numbers can be hugely beneficial when trying to prove your worth to potential employers. They help recruiters to understand the level you work at and the scale of your impact. But many candidates miss out on opportunities to use numbers to their advantage on their résumé.

For example, many people will state that they “manage a team” in their résumé, but they leave out all of the important figures. How many people are in this team? How many locations are this team based over? How many customers are this team responsible for?


A person who manages a team of 50 people over 10 locations is going to have very different skills to somebody who manages a team of three in one location. Figures like these are crucial in hiring decisions, so omitting them from your résumé can have hugely negative effects.

When writing your résumé, always try to include important figures to clarify your position where possible.

If your job search is not attracting the amount of interviews you thought it would, check your résumé for these mistakes. Correcting them might take anything from a few minutes to a few hours, but they could deliver a big increase in responses to your applications and ultimately lead to better job offers.