Leadership

5 common resume mistakes that make smart people look dumb

Jo Lo Truglio as Charles Boyle, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta on NBC's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine.'
Erica Parise/NBC

You could graduate top of your class from an elite university, with great work experience to boot. But if your resume is chock-full of errors, there's a good chance an employer will toss it out.

A resume needs to be perfect before you hit "send." Some of the most cringe-worthy resume faux pas are the more obvious ones, according to Jennifer Lasater, vice president of career services at Purdue University Global.

Lasater has nearly 20 years of experience in recruiting, staffing and career services. Here, she shares the five common resume mistakes that make even the smartest people look dumb:

1. The one-size-fits-all resume

Sending out one generic resume to any job that seems interesting is a big no-no, Lasater tells CNBC Make It. Recruiters are highly intuitive and can easily detect a resume that hasn't been modified to reflect the needs of the job description.

Instead, Lasater suggests taking the time to do a focused job search, even if it means submitting fewer applications. Once you find the right job, tailor your resume to fit its requirements.

"[Make] sure you're hitting all those skills the employer is looking for," she says. This helps your resume stand out to an employer who's reading it or an applicant tracking system, which scours your resume for keywords.

"You're ensuring that as an applicant you're showing that you're the best candidate for the job," says Lasater. "And that's what you want to do."

2. A lengthy resume

The average recruiter spends just six seconds on a resume during the initial screening stage, so your work history must be concise and to the point.

"Your resume reflects what you would be like on the job," Lasater explains, noting that employers want candidates who are succinct, focused and incisive.

"If you can't get yourself down to a page or two, then that's kind of an indicator of what you might be like on the job," she says.

Cutting your resume down to an appropriate length can be difficult, so ask yourself what purpose the document serves, advises entrepreneur and investor Abhishek Agarwal. Your resume should display only the necessary information that will help you get the job, not your entire life history.

"As you grow, a lot of your older accomplishments have little meaning, if any at all," Agarwal explains. "Let them go."

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3. An unprofessional email address

No recruiter will seriously consider an applicant whose resume boasts a "cute" or "sexy" email, says Lasater. To an employer, these types of emails scream that you're unprofessional.

Along those same lines, if your email address includes your birth year, it's probably a good idea to take it off your resume. "That's not a good choice when you're looking for a job," says Lasater.

Also look out for simple things, such as the type of email platform that you're using, she adds.

If you're applying for a marketing or tech role and you have an outdated email account, like Hotmail or AOL, it tells the recruiter that you're not up to speed on current digital trends.

"Think about how you're putting your email out there," says Lasater.

Better yet, she suggests creating a separate email for business purposes. "Keep it very concise," warns the career expert. "'First initial, last name, at Gmail' is a great example."

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4. Spelling mistakes

Spelling errors on resumes are painfully common, according to Lasater.

"People sometimes suffer from brain drain when they're working on their resume," she explains. "They may look at it for an hour, two hours, three hours at a time and then they start getting sloppy."

But according to research, having typos on your resume could be a career-killer. A survey by the staffing firm Accountemps found that even just one or two misspelled words can remove you from consideration for a job.

To avoid this, Lasater recommends taking breaks as you tweak your resume so that you can come back to the document with a fresh set of eyes. And don't rely solely on spellcheck, she says, because it doesn't catch every mistake.

5. Grammatical errors

Always think about the context when writing your resume, says Lasater. This will save you from making costly grammatical mistakes like using the wrong type of "they're, their or there" or the wrong subject-verb agreement.

"Sadly, [poor grammar] can put the applicant in a negative situation and could demonstrate that you're not paying attention to detail, that you're rushed and that you're not taking your time," says the career specialist.

Lisa Stern Haynes, a global staffing lead and senior recruiter at Google, agrees. She tells the Google Partners podcast that she frequently sees applicants misuse the past-tense of the word "lead." Instead of spelling the word as L-E-D, applicants spell the past-tense version as L-E-A-D. "This one drives me nuts," Haynes admits.

Lasater's biggest pet peeve is when candidates use the word "roll" instead of "role" and she notes that these types of grammatical errors can really damage your credibility.

To avoid this issue, make sure that you're continuously reviewing your resume, reading the document aloud and asking friends to give it a look-over, says Lasater.

"It's really important to make sure you always put your best foot forward because whether you want to or not, this is the image you're sending out there," she adds.

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