As a manager who’s hired employees and as a journalist who regularly covers career-related topics, I understand what employers want on a candidate’s résumé.
From your layout and font choice to the phrases you use to describe your previous jobs, the smallest details of your application will catch the eyes of hiring managers, so it’s in your best interest to present a polished, professional-looking document if you want that job interview.
Most (if not all) job seekers are aware of this fact and understand how important their résumé is. Though we generally know to check for spelling errors and inaccuracies, many of us continue to send out job applications that are too wordy or include outdated information.
Based on source interviews with career experts and my own experience, here are the four most common mistakes people make on their résumés, and how to avoid them the next time you apply for a job:
1. Listing every single position you’ve ever held
I tend to see this a lot with entry-level employees who are trying to bulk up their résumé, and with later-career employees who want to show off the breadth of their experience. Hiring managers don’t care how many employers you’ve worked for. All they want to know is how an experience is relevant to the job, and what you learned and achieved while you were there.
In the days before social media, it was easier to justify listing all your prior work experience; if it wasn’t on your résumé, it may as well never have happened. Because LinkedIn affords you room to expand, you can use your profile as a comprehensive work history, saving the most important items for your résumé. For example, I interned at a public relations agency during college, but I took it off my résumé years ago when I realized I wanted to focus on editorial. However, it’s still listed on my LinkedIn profile so a potential employer can see that I have some experience working in PR.
The best thing you can do is tailor your résumé to the job you’re applying to. If a previous work experience isn’t aligned with the position or you don’t have a lot to say about it, leave it off and just include it on LinkedIn. Then, insert a hyperlink to your profile on your résumé (because most résumés are sent digitally) so the hiring manager can investigate if they’re interested. Following this method also helps keep your résumé down to a single page by cutting straight to the most important thing a hiring manager needs to know.
2. Using clichés and buzzwords
Does your résumé summary say you’re hardworking, detail-oriented and a team player? If so, you might be wasting valuable résumé real estate.
Hiring managers and recruiters would rather see clear examples of how you’re a “hardworking, detail-oriented team player,” rather than just reading it as a statement. Those phrases have lost their impact. Let your summary be fact-based (i.e., describe your concrete professional qualifications), and let your job descriptions speak to your soft skills.
For instance, if you want to say you’re a team player, include a point about how you collaborate with colleagues in other departments to achieve company goals. To show that you’re a strong leader, write that you served as the point person on certain projects or that you developed and launched an initiative at your company. As the adage goes, actions speak louder than words.
3. Omitting key information
Whether it’s up-to-date contact information or previous employment dates, make sure you’re not missing any important details that a hiring manager would need.
Sometimes job seekers with large employment gaps will try to cover up this fact by writing a functional résumé (where experience is listed by skill set, rather than by employer) or leaving off the dates entirely. Many hiring managers are automatically suspicious of this and may hold it against you if they think you’re trying to hide something. Instead, be honest about your employment history (even if you just include the year), and don’t forget to count any freelance or volunteer experience you may have done in between jobs.
As for contact information, include a current email address and phone number. Your home address isn’t necessary and could hurt your chances if you’re trying to get an out-of-state job, but you can include it if you wish. I would also advise including links to your relevant social media profiles (LinkedIn for sure, but you may also want to add Twitter if you use it for work) and/or portfolio websites, so the hiring manager has access to a wide range of examples of your past work. They’re going to look it up anyway; you might as well make it easy for them.
4. Poor formatting
This one’s a bit subjective, especially given that some industries value creativity and design more than others. No matter how you lay out your résumé, make sure it’s clean and legible. Don’t use an illegible font (no matter how cool it might look), and keep your formatting (bold, italics, bullet points, sizes, etc.) consistent throughout.
Though you certainly don’t have to hire a graphic designer, play around with heading sizes and styles to make the most important information stand out. Even if you simply put your previous employers’ names in bold or caps, it breaks up the document and helps the hiring manager follow your résumé better.
I’m including my own résumé as an example of how formatting can help you organize your résumé and highlight certain sections. Keep in mind that I work in a creative field, where this type of colorful layout is more common and warmly received. Microsoft Word (which I used to create this) has tons of résumé templates that are easy to use and customize right in the program. The Muse has a great list of them.
Nicole Fallon Taylor is the managing editor of Business News Daily, a resource for small-business owners, entrepreneurs and job seekers. Follow her on Twitter @nfallontaylor. A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.