Everyone knows to look out for typos, but they’re not the only blunder that could sabotage your chances of hearing back about a job.
In fact, many hiring managers and recruiters are kind human beings—not bloodhounds out to get your prized one-pager for tiny things like Oxford commas (unless you’re applying to a newspaper).
But, there are a few genuine mistakes even the most experienced professionals make. And in my experience, it’s not for a lack of trying; People just don’t know any better.
The best part? Not only do these changes remove potential turn-offs, but they also make your resume stronger, more appealing, and more suited to jobs you’re applying to.
The root of the problem
Times have changed. Resumes have shifted from scrolls of boring job duties to strategic personal pitch documents to help get your foot in the door.
That’s where most people go wrong—even experienced ones. They feel scared to let go of the pre-LinkedIn-era job search that saw resumes start with objective statements and end with “references available upon request.”
And wouldn’t you know it, all the fixes I’ll share are modern updates. So if you’re shooting to score—no matter your career level—make sure to maximize everything on the page, not just the words.
Here’s how to do that.
Separate titles under the same position
I get it. It makes sense to save space by grouping titles together if you held those roles at the same company. But for every line this saves, it works against you in wow-factor and slashes your ability to show growth.
Looking from bottom to top, your professional history should show progression—including within individual jobs. Instead of listing multiple titles above a composite list of bullet points, separate each position with its respective achievements underneath.
Lemmo Technologies, City, St (2009 – 2012)
Director of People Operations, (2011 – 2012)
- Accomplishment …
Senior Operations Analyst, (2009 – 2011)
- Accomplishment …
The exception to this rule occurs when you’ve progressed through every position you’ve ever had, or climbed your way through one company and racked up a ton of titles along the way. In those cases, group the most junior positions together so your senior-level experience can still shine.
Give yourself a title
Your name appears in big, bold letters at the top of your resume. And if you want to maximize your impression, you’ve probably also added your middle initial (since the presence of that letter makes you look smarter).
But the next set of bold letters on the page shouldn’t be a section title; It should be a personal title. If your expertise encompasses a few different avenues, it’s okay to have a few.
Claudia K. Xander
Email · phone · City, St
Chief Executive Officer · Head of Strategy Development · Venture Capitalist
Not only do these titles give your resume a more striking appearance, but they help the reader associate specific fields with your name. Then, you’ve set the reader up to understand and value your experience.
Lessen the bullet count for more impact
By the time you reach senior- or executive-level roles, your resume will have crept onto a second page—but don’t give it a third. It’s tempting to list every single thing you’ve done, but doing so just bogs down the reader with generalized details.
Instead of squeezing a position for all it’s worth, focus on 6-7 memorable achievements. Those should be the bullet points you use. When you add them in, make sure they’re arranged to both meet a target job’s requirements while also having the most impressive points near the top.
Also read: Turn A Long Career Into a Short Resume
Customize the layout and design
Have you heard the saying that “people eat with their eyes first”? It’s true. And researcher Brian Wansink also said, “The more colors we see, the more we eat.” Obviously, jelly beans and a stack of crisp resumes won’t have the same savory appeal, but it’s still important to consider how you present all those notable accomplishments.
Feeling bold? You could consider challenging the classic layout. Adding a thick left-hand column, for example, can streamline the document’s organization and save space. If you go with a design that uses this formatting, your contact details, education, and other “short” must-have details can fill the margin space, rather than valuable body space.
If you’re not keen on vibrant bells and whistles (and unless you’re in a creative field, you shouldn’t be going crazy anyhow), consider small updates that show you’re up with the times. Examples of little changes with big impact are details like icons to denote contact information or scan-able QR codes that link to your portfolio.
See what I mean? This mix of organizational and visual changes doesn’t include standard resume rules. And if your resume is already spick and span content-wise, these may be just the things to push you over the top.
Also read: Resume Formatting Guide for Executives