9 Resume Writing Mistakes That Make Your Resume Downright Awful–Or Just Mediocre

Here are just a few big resume writing mistakes that can keep you from being taken seriously as a candidate.

These resume mistakes practically guarantee yours will be:



–and maybe even ridiculed.

There are millions of resumes floating around out there in both paper and electronic formats.

  • Some are downright awful. They’re an embarrassment. They should be burned or deleted.
  • Most are just mediocre. They’re not horrible, but they don’t make the boss jump up and down with excitement. Being “just OK” is not a recipe for a successful job search.
  • A few are fantastic and make the boss want to pick up the phone to set up an interview.

Here are a just a few of the many mistakes people make with their resumes. Fixing these things may not get you all the way to fantastic, but it will definitely move you significantly in the right direction.

Mistake #1:  Yucky Career Summaries

What better way to start down the road to creating a downright awful resume than with a career summary chock full of career jargon? People who look at lots of resumes practically get nauseous when they see something like this:


Hard-working, results-oriented executive who impacts the bottom-line. Problem solver and team player who communicates well and gets the job done….

 “Results-oriented” is a worn-out phrase. Most people are hard workers. We ALL solve problems. In fact, my dog solves problems. So, don’t tell me that you solve problems; let me know what kinds of problems you solve. What can you do that most people (and my dog) can’t?  Communicate your best skills in meaningful, plain English, like this:

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Eight Ways To Sabotage A Job Interview

Man waiting for job interview trying to look calm
Waiting for the job interview

You’ve heard the obvious job interview advice: don’t be late, dress appropriately, and don’t curse your former employer. You’ve been around the block-you know this stuff. In fact, you can take our Interview Quiz and see how well you do.

So how else might you sabotage your interviews? Here are eight ways you might be shooting yourself in the foot–and losing the offer.

1)Talking techno-speak to the wrong people

If you’re in a technical field, remember that some interviews may be conducted by non-technical people–HR for instance. Because of this, you need to be prepared to speak in “dialects”: one for the technical people and one for the people who need plain English.

Some job candidates don’t understand what a turnoff it is to listen while someone drones on and on, using words and concepts they don’t understand. Don’t make their eyes glaze over. This is particularly important for those whose jobs involve communicating with non-technical people.

2) Not doing your job interview homework

This is a chance for you to score some extra points. If you know in advance who the individual (s) is who will be conducting your job interview, read up on him/her. With LinkedIn, company web pages, and other Internet sources, there’s ample opportunity to come to the interview armed with a good idea of the backgrounds, accomplishments and passions of those conducting your interview.

3) Not researching the company

An even worse turnoff is someone who doesn’t know what the organization is about. Therefore, the more important the job, the more time you should spend on research. Of course, review the company’s own website, but search for other sites to see what you can find, especially if the company has been in the news. Check the web sites of competitors to find out more about industry trends. Sites like Glassdoor.com can give you good inside information from company employees about company culture and even how they conduct a job interview. Most of all, find out about the company’s mission, strategic goals, and new developments to understand where the company is headed.

4) Not being able to articulate your skills

I’ve seen a lot of very accomplished people who can’t clearly identify their skills, especially people who haven’t had to look for work in a long time. In addition, they have been so busy doing, that they haven’t had to think about articulating what they it is they’ve been doing to be successful. Fumbling around for something to say during a job interview is hardly going to impress the hiring decision maker.

This is a time for some real introspection. A lot of people find this to be a tough process. Get some coaching if this doesn’t come easily. Unless you can clearly articulate how you produce value, your chances of getting hired are close to nil.

A good example is a technical writer who worked for a software company. She talked about herself as a technical writer. But as we delved into her accomplishments, it became clear that she could produce value at a much higher level. For example, she observed and talked to scientists using the product and found what they REALLY wanted, as opposed to what her company THOUGHT they wanted. This saved her company a fortune by eliminating work done to create features they didn’t need, and helped produce a superior product.  Therefore, she now talks about herself as someone who “saves lots of time and money by eliminating the guesswork about what end users want and need.”

5) No good, concise stories

Many people make very impressive accomplishments sound ordinary. Others have stories that go on and on–boring! Still others just get tongue tied. You should have at least eight clear and concise stories that powerfully show you in action. I call them CCAR stories (Context-Challenge-Action-Results), while others call them PAR stories (Problem-Action-Results). Don’t just tell them WHAT you did. Take it a step further and answer the question, “Why should people care about what you did?”

One client organized a move of an office with 30 employees. Her story stopped there. That doesn’t work. After probing, I learned that the move was carried out without a hitch. While the new office could have been a chaotic mess, thanks to her efforts people were able to hit the ground running on the first day in the new location. Her story injected energy into her job interview.

6) Cocky attitude

Don’t be one of those people who go into a job interview with an “I’m so great” attitude. They may know they’re good at what they do, but they inadvertently communicate that they’re somehow above the process. I’ve heard too many hiring decision makers say this about older workers in particular. Be sure to check your ego at the door.

Are you the type who thinks you’re really good at interviewing? Do you tell yourself, “I’ll just wing it”? This is a recipe for disaster. Roll up your sleeves and attend to those preparation details you may be taking for granted.


7) Not having a good answer to sensitive questions

Are you ready if an awkward question confronts you during a job interview? If you don’t handle these questions right, then you’re dead in the water. The good news is that most of the time, you know what these questions will be in advance–so be prepared! These are questions like:

Why were you fired?
Why the gap on your resume?
Why have you been out of work so long?
What have you been doing since you lost your job?

Follow these steps:

  • Listen to the question. Make sure you understand exactly what the interviewer is asking and why.If you’re not clear, ask for clarification.
  • Take time to think. If caught off guard, pause a moment and give a thoughtful response.
  • Use Positive Information. Put yourself in a favorable light. Be truthful, but remember, you are marketing yourself. Don’t volunteer negative information. For example, Jane is moving across the country to reunite with her high school flame, but she should keep such private details private.
  • Refocus attention by asking a question of your own

Don’t let the conversation linger on your liabilities. Take the initiative to refocus attention by asking the employer a question.

8) Not being prepared to talk about money

They may screen you out because you were making too much or too little, concluding that you won’t be happy with the salary or the job demands exceeds your skill level. This is a big topic for another day. Be sure to read Jack Chapman’s book, Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute.

One last thought for your job interview

Finally, remember that thorough preparation wows employers and makes you a top candidate.

Age Discrimination: Getting Hired When You’re “Too Old”

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Many employers have a lot of opinions and stereotypes about older workers. They think:

  • They are over the hill
  • They cost too much
  • Their skills are out of date
  • They can’t work with younger workers
  • They won’t take direction from less-experienced bosses

No one wants to hire me–I’m too old


I run into a lot of older workers who have been out of work for a long time: six months, a year, two years, and more. Many have given up, though they’re still technically in the hunt. A lot of them feel bitter. I often hear them say, “No one wants people over fifty anymore.”

So what can you do to make sure that you’re not one of those who languish in long-term unemployment?

1,  Be sure you’re handling the fundamentals well

Many of the long-term unemployed aren’t running very good job campaigns. Their resumes are mediocre—or worse, they don’t have a credible LinkedIn presence, they don’t speak about themselves well, and they don’t have a solid marketing plan. Sitting at home in front of the computer sending out bad resumes all day is highly unlikely to get you hired.

This might get you calls for commission-only sales jobs or multi-level marketing schemes, but not good jobs.

I recently worked with an over-fifty client who had been laid off after working for the same company for over 18 years. Since then, she had been out of work for nine months, despite her impressive credentials and solid track record. But she didn’t know how to sell herself. For years, she’d kept her nose to the grindstone and did great work, but never tooted her horn. She didn’t have to because everyone at work knew how good she was. But when the company let her go, that changed. She had to sell herself.

After I helped her upgrade her marketing materials and self-presentation and develop a solid marketing plan, she quickly got hired – and avoided the stigma of “long-term unemployed.”

2.  Be sure your skills are up to date

It’s hard to compete if your skills aren’t current. Get training if you need it, so you’ll have the “right stuff” employers want. Low on cash? A lot of excellent training is available free or very inexpensively. If you’re near a community college, they may have affordable courses in what you need. Your local community center or public library may have free courses, and there is a lot of good material online. Just one excellent online resource is Lynda.com, with many offerings in software training and more. You can access it for a low monthly fee – or check with your public library. My local library gives cardholders free access to Lynda.com, and you can even access it from your home computer.

3. Address the technology issue 

Let them know that you’re not a “dinosaur” and you know something about technology. If you’re on social media, put your social media links on your resume. Likewise, be sure your command of technology is visible on your resume. Many younger hiring decision makers prefer texting, so communicating with them this way shows you know how to do it. You might take a tablet with you to the interview. You don’t even have to open it; just have it with you. Borrow one if you don’t own one. You may want to confront this issue proactively in job interviews.

4. Use a job interview strategy that works: Look for “pain”

It’s not good enough to handle job interviews like everyone else. If you do, the boss may think, “Why should I hire this expensive guy/woman (meaning YOU) when I could hire that college grad I met with yesterday for cheap?”

It is important to do what good sales reps do. They know that people usually don’t buy unless they are in some kind of pain. People might say, “My car works just fine. I don’t need a new one.” But if that sales rep asks good probing questions, they may uncover some pain. The sales rep might find out that the prospect:

  • Was very embarrassed when she couldn’t attend a party at a friend’s house because her car broke down.
  • Lives next to a family that just got a new sports car–and HATES being shown up by this neighbor.
  • Wants to visit family, but doesn’t trust the car on a long trip.

Aha! PAIN! Now there may be room for a sale!

So act like a good sales rep. Probe to find the employer’s pain. They’re not hiring just because there’s an opening. The pain may look like this:

  • The Public Relations Department is in hot water for bungling a sensitive call from a major newspaper. It made the company appear clueless, and the company president is LIVID.
  • An ace project manager is moving to Alaska, and the boss is worried about all those upcoming critical deliverables.
  • Sales are down and the boss is under the gun to turn things around-FAST.

After uncovering the boss’s pain, you can talk about how you’ve solved similar problems in the past and how your experience and talent will make an impact far beyond what recent college grads can do.

You’ve been around the block a few times, and have deep knowledge of how things work. Your database “cup” of useful contacts runneth over. You’ve demonstrated that you can be cool under fire and fix disasters. You’ve got good judgement. Plus, unlike the 20-somethings who often change jobs every couple of years, you’re a stable kind of person whom the boss can count on to stay around for a while.

5. Convince the boss that you can work with younger people

The boss may very well be wary of you, concerned that you’re not going to take direction. She may think you’re going to be another arrogant SOB, like the last older guy she interviewed who didn’t want to take orders from a younger person – especially not a woman.

Smile at the boss and put her at ease. Reassure her that you enjoy working with younger people and the great synergy that comes from teams composed of workers from different generations. If it’s true, you might say that you’ve done the high-level, high-stress jobs like hers, and at this point, you’re content to work under her.

Be sure to have a conversation with her about what you can do to make her look like a superstar.

Is it time to take control of your career? Let’s have a no-obligation conversation about your situation. Don’t procrastinate, call today at  847 673 0339. 

Remember, though age discrimination presents a tough challenge, people can – and DO – overcome it and finish their careers doing satisfying, well-paid work. According to an AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll of baby boomers, 61 percent surveyed said their age is not an issue at work; 25 percent called it an asset.

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