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With all the conflicting information out there, how do you know what makes a bad resume? Here are 7 resume mistakes you need to avoid if you want a job interview.

bad resume

As a career consultant, I’ve seen an occasional ineffective, bad resume over the years and usually there are a few common themes.

This post is about identifying a bad resume and avoiding common resume mistakes.

What is a bad resume?

Essentially a bad resume is an ineffective one.

A bad resume refers to a resume that doesn’t facilitate a candidate moving to the next stage of the recruitment process (usually a job interview).

Let’s take a deeper look at the most common resume mistakes.

Bad Resume mistake 1: Non-ATS friendly resume

Most people are aware that correct formatting is key to an effective resume.

If you need a refresher, check out What you NEED to know about Australian resumes and the best tips for success

But in trying to develop an eye-catching resume, many fall into the trap of using a free resume template found from software (like Word or Canva) or on social media.

These resumes may look fantastic, but if no one ever sees them, they are completely ineffective!

Why don’t I recommend using these types of free resume templates? Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is why.

ATS is software designed to assist recruiters to collect, organise, screen and track job applicant information throughout a recruitment process. The software is designed to eliminate applications based on missing keywords (amongst other things).

This means your resume needs to be written in a way that will ensure it’s progressed through ATS.

These systems have difficulty finding key information if it’s included in brackets, tables, graphics or headers and footers.  Free resume templates are designed to look visually appealing and unfortunately (usually) include at least one of these elements.

It can be difficult to create an eye-catching resume without some of these formatting options. However, while experts will always advocate for good-looking documents, there needs to be a balance with functionality, otherwise your resume won’t get through the initial screening.

If you’re unsure, always consult a career development professional (like me 😉) as we undertake regular continuing professional development on topics just like this!

Check out my free ATS friendly resume template here: Free printables

Bad Resume mistake 2: Inconsistent or untidy formatting

While your resume doesn’t need to be expertly designed, the format does need to look consistence, tidy and legible.

Here are some essential guidelines for resume formatting.

Clear writing

Resumes should be written clearly and concisely, and in plain English.

Avoid including acronyms or references that won’t have any meaning to someone reading your resume outside of your organisation. Acronyms used across entire industries or that are commonly known are acceptable can be included if you provide some context.

Display of information

Resumes should be very easy to read or scan for key information. You can achieve this by:

  • using lists over paragraphs, including bullet points or numbers
  • ensuring sections are appropriately spaced or separated
  • using standard size page margins
  • using consistent and complimentary fonts, font sizes, bullets, alignment and minimal colour
  • ensuring the information is prioritised and the most important content is listed first
  • employment and education history doesn’t have to be in reverse chronological order, but in most cases it makes sense to do so

We’ve already discussed the pitfall of using templates in Canva or Word, however if you stick to the principles in this post, you should be able to avoid them 🙂

Bad Resume mistake 3: Multiple spelling and grammatical errors

Okay, this should go without saying, however I regularly see grammatical mistakes in resumes.

Usually this isn’t caused by the ‘don’t care’ factor. Even the best writer makes mistakes and it’s extremely difficult to identify all of them after reading a document many times. (I’m sure I’m guilty of this on this blog 🤪)

This is why getting someone to proofread your resume is so important!

If you’re making claims about your ‘strong written communication skills’ and ‘attention to detail’, submitting a resume full of grammatical errors will quickly refute your claims!

And hey, you might even get some ideas about how to take your resume from great to awesome 😊 Even the smallest improvements can have a big impact in a competitive job market.

Bad Resume mistake 4: Weak professional profile (or none at all)

The first paragraph of your resume is the most important! It needs to grab the reader’s attention and entice them into reading more. 

If you don’t have a professional profile (or similar) at the start of your resume, you need to add one.

Important: This section is not used to explain what you are looking for in a job or your career goals! It’s used to communicate to the reader what you can bring to their organisation. 

In fact, I have a formula for writing a professional profile : 

  • state what your profession is and how long you’ve been doing it for 
  • elaborate on this further and explain your specialist area of expertise 
  • summarise what you can bring to an organisation (this should be a segue into your unique list of skills, expertise and strengths!) 

Bad Resume mistake 5: Including too many personal details

Your resume is THE key job document used to demonstrate your unique set of skills, knowledge, experience and achievements as it relates to your career.

Read that again – as it relates to your career.

Therefore there’s no need to include many personal details in your resume. If you’re keeping your resume to 2-3 pages, you won’t have room for it.

Personal details such as date of birth, gender, marital status, nationality and appearance have no place in an Australian style resume.

Why? None of these details have any impact on a candidate’s ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job. Including these details in your resume may leave you open to discrimination.

A note on interests and hobbies: I generally recommend not to include these in a resume, unless you can demonstrate the skills developed from these activities are relevant to the vacancy you’re applying for.

Bad Resume mistake 6: Not using resume keywords

Resume keywords refer to words or short phrases included in a job advertisement. These words or short phrases are usually the critical skills and attributes employers are looking for in candidates.

Referencing these keywords in your resume is absolutely crucial for your job application to be successful!

As we know, ATS search for keywords in job applications and screen candidates based on the results of the search.

Effective use of keywords also helps the reader to quickly scan a resume to search for skills, knowledge and experience that are critical to their vacant role.

Be sure to highlight key transferable skills such as ‘excellent communication skills’, ‘good attention to detail’, ‘ability to solve problems creatively’ and so on. These skills should align with the key skills and attributes of the position you’re applying for.

You might also like: How to explain an employment gap on your resume

Bad Resume mistake 7: Keeping your resume generic (not having a tailored resume)

A tailored resume to each job application is perhaps THE most important tool in your job search kit.

I really can’t stress the importance of customising your resume enough! Here’s why:

  • Your resume will include the all-important keywords required by ATS
  • You can better demonstrate your suitability for the role
  • Employers will easily find the key information they’re searching for
  • Employers will get a better sense of whether you’re a good fit for the role
  • Employers will acknowledge your effort to tailor a resume and be more inclined to accept your application
  • The job market can be competitive – other candidates will have a tailored resume

I know tailoring a resume to each job application can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, but trust me on this one, it’s a must!

Bad resume example

Here’s a look at each resume mistake in action. bad resume example

Bad resume example


With all the conflicting information out there, it can be difficult to know what an ineffective, bad resume looks like.

Many people find it very difficult to objectively review and critique their own resume, however this is essential to improving the content!

A bad resume will stop a candidate moving to the next stage of the recruitment process (usually a job interview), resulting in a frustrating and long job search.

Becoming aware of common resume mistakes and how to fix them can dramatically improve results!

This post was about identifying a bad resume and avoiding common resume mistakes.

Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward

Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward

Your go-to career development and human resource practitioner, guiding your career towards true north.

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Hi there, I'm Danielle! I've got a combined 15 years of experience in the career development and human resource industries. I'm passionate about helping people live empowered, purposeful and fulfilled lives through engaging in meaningful work. Calibrated Career provides innovative and affordable self-guided career exploration tools and resources to facilitate your career development and empower you to achieve your career goals.

Help others with their career development!