Resumes & Cover Letters

5 big mistakes Google’s head of HR sees on resumes

Written by Eric Titner

It’s a real truism in life: We often learn best from mistakes—both our mistakes and those that others have made. Humans are creatures of “trial and error”—we bravely take risks and try out new things. Sometimes we meet success; other times we hit unexpected obstacles and find failure.

This tendency to make mistakes impacts all facets of life—including our search for a new job. Talk with any HR professional or hiring manager and ask them if they have any stories of folks who have absolutely fumbled the opportunity to get a new job, and chances are you’ll hear a bunch of them. Some are funny, others odd, and some will be downright sad but they’ll all have something in common—the person likely made a bad choice or neglected to do something they should have, and it wound up wrecking their chances for success.

The unfortunate truth is that some people make mistakes at the very beginning of the job hunt—on their resumes—and take themselves out of contention before even getting started. It happens more than you realize, and in countless ways!

In fact, resume gaffes are such a pervasive problem that Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, wrote a LinkedIn article about it, entitled “The Biggest Mistakes I see on Resumes and How to Correct Them.” Bock estimates that he’s personally reviewed over 20,000 resumes, so he certainly knows what he’s talking about.

Let’s take a look at what he says are five of the biggest mistakes that he’s seen on resumes so you can avoid them on your job hunt.

1. Bad formatting

When it comes to foolish resume formatting Bock has seen it all, from wildly “creative” designs and outlandish fonts to splashes of color and crazy margins, all done in an effort to try and stand out from other resumes and grab the reader’s attention. Unfortunately—what you may earn in attention grabbing could cost you in another key area—effectively, clearly, and professionally conveying your background, experience, and skill set.

Artistic bells and whistles simply don’t work on resumes. A clean, legible, and professional looking document is what works best. If you want to be taken seriously in the job market, save the creativity for your next arts and crafts project.

2. Careless typos

It’s a real shame that such an avoidable problem like resume typos is such a pervasive issue, but Bock reports that a surprisingly high percentage of the resumes he’s reviewed, for positions at all levels, contain pesky typos. And good luck being taken seriously during the job hiring process if the first impression you make is someone who can’t be bothered to put in the extra effort to get such an important document correct. Typos are absolute resume killers, so be completely sure that yours is error free and in perfect shape before sending it out.

3. Excessive length

This is a trickier problem, because the longer you’re in the job market the more things you’ll have to say about yourself. However if your document reads more like a novel then a resume, chances are it’ll either get ignored or glossed over and key parts will get overlooked. Bock has a great rule of thumb for resume length—1 page for every 10 years of experience. Do your best to stick to this guideline, and remember that you’ll have an opportunity to say more about yourself on interviews—if you make it that far.

4. Leaking confidential information

This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it raises big red flags. If you’ve worked with a company that handles sensitive information or have had jobs with which you’ve had confidentiality agreements, be very careful about what you put on your resume. If you cross the line and the hiring manager figures it out, your chances of moving to the next stage of the hiring process are slim to none.

5. Lies

Hopefully this one’s obvious! Despite what you may have heard, there are no such things as “good lies” when it comes to your resume. If you get caught making something up on your resume, there’s just no way to explain it away or cover up for it. Your chances of getting a job with a resume built on lies—no matter how small or insignificant—are effectively obliterated. Even if you wind up getting the job, if your lie is figured out sometime later you could even lose your job. Bottom line—lying is just not a good way to search for your next job.

There you have it: Five of the biggest resume mistakes according to a real industry veteran and insider. Make sure you’re not committing any of these gaffes before you send out your next resume, and you’ll be one step ahead of the job-hunting crowd.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.