The Worst Mistakes Young People Make On Their Resumes (And How To Fix Them)

The Worst Mistakes Young People Make On Their Resumes (And How To Fix Them)

We’ve interviewed hundreds of job applicants over the years. Usually we’re very impressed with the calibre of candidates. But… young people are human, too. They make mistakes. And the following mistakes have cost them jobs that their CVs and resumes otherwise said they were good for…

Resume image from Shutterstock

Typos in your cover letter, CV or resume

Your command of written English — spelling, grammar, and punctuation — is a shorthand test of your intelligence. Or at least, of your ability to memorise the rules of the language. Typos make you look unintelligent, even though smart people make mistakes all the time.

Tip: Get someone else to edit your letter and CV before you send it.

Sending email attachments

We hate downloading email attachments because of the malware risk they pose. If you only use text and links in your application email, we can see your stuff on our phones as well as on our laptops.

Tip: Your CV or résumé is best displayed as a LinkedIn URL. Examples of your work are most easily seen if they come as links within the email.

Using bad picture of yourself on your Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts

If you’re using personal social media accounts to apply for jobs, then we also see Mr. Snuffaluffagus the adorable terrier when you send us your CV/resume.

Tip: Send test messages to a friend who will let you see how all your email/social accounts appear to others, and sanitize accordingly.

Forgetting to follow up via email

When we reject a good candidate it’s usually because we never received an email follow-up. We want to recruit people who really want to work here, and a simple ‘thank you’ note ticks a big box for us.

Tip: This needn’t be a big production. Just a single sentence offering to answer any further questions is all it takes.

Putting career ‘objectives’ at the top of your resume

Young candidates pad their CVs with fluffy, cliched career goal statements. Do not do this!

Tip: We want to see only a simple list of your education and work experiences, and maybe a list of other useful skills at the bottom.

Making your CV three pages long when you have no experience

Don’t worry about your CV not looking full enough — that’s OK. We don’t have a lot of time to figure out what your job history is.

Tip: Less is more with resumes — we skim them for only about 30 seconds anyway.

Sending us a video resume

We need resumes to be sent easily via email to other HR staff, and we may want to print them out so we can compare candidates side by side. Off-format CVs are useless for this.

Tip: Your best bet? LinkedIn.

Failing to provide a link to your LinkedIn profile

We can’t emphasise this enough: When you have to compare hundreds of CVs, LinkedIn is really useful because it makes all candidates’ resumes look the same — and that makes it easier for us to figure out who is relevant and who isn’t.

Tip: A LinkedIn URL in an email is a lot easier for us to deal with than a Word or PDF attachment.

Of course, impressing us with your resume is only half the battle. Here are some pet peeves to avoid during the actual interview.

Not telling a good story about your life

Who are you, what are you good at, and what do you want to do with your life? We want a quick, clear history of your life and career so far. At Business Insider storytelling is literally what we do, but at any company communications are key. If you cannot communicate who you are quickly, you’re not getting the job.

Tip: Write it down beforehand and rehearse with a friend.

Being overly sarcastic or negative

We do not expect you to be a cheerleader. But if we hire you, we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, so we don’t want you killing the buzz.

Tip: Just be nice. Smile.

Being arrogant

Sure, we’re interested in hiring you. But that doesn’t mean you’re a rock star, and our company won’t collapse without you.

Tip: Just because you got the interview doesn’t mean you got the job. You still have to sell us.

Not knowing anything about the field you’re interviewing for

If you’re interviewing for a job that requires you to stay abreast of the technology industry, obviously we’re going to ask you what you think is so interesting about tech. So if your answer is …

‘Er … ‘

Then we’re going to be less than impressed.

Tip: Prepare! Literally write some speaking points on a notepad before you arrive at the interview. It will help you in case you freeze.


We get it. You’re young and cool. And we love [insert hipster band], too.

Tip: Make us feel as if you’re a safe bet by wearing a shirt and tie (men) or go conservative but stylish (women). One candidate impressed us by wearing a shirt and tie to a Google Hangout video interview.

Men forgetting to shave

Beards and mustaches are fashionable on men right now, and many guys brought them along on their job interviews. But what looks good at a 19th century bare-knuckle boxing match is sometimes not so great when you’re up close and personal with a prospective employer.

Tip: If you’re rocking facial hair, make sure it is impeccably groomed.

Trying to negotiate your salary in the first meeting

We understand that you’re trying to make sure you aren’t wasting anyone’s time. But asking salary questions early marks you as a rookie.

Tip: Remember that this is a process: The further you get through the process, the more it shows we want to hire you, and the stronger your negotiating position eventually becomes.

Trying to impress us with your off-the-wall creativity

We’re looking for people who seem reliable and trustworthy. We’re not looking for weirdos who want to blow our minds. One job application began, ‘I am a chameleon …’ It went downhill from there.

Tip: We want to be able to trust you. So behave and communicate in a way that feels reliable and trustworthy.

Having bad breath

Everyone suffers from dry mouth at the office. But there’s really no excuse for this when you’re trying to make a favourable first impression.

Tip: Chew a piece of gum and then remove it five minutes before the interview.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.


  • Much of this advice is awfully specific to certain situations. Replacing a resume with a linkedin profile might be useful to this person, but you lose the ability to customise it to a certain job, and not every employer is as hip and forward thinking; plenty of old fashioned people who would mark down anything other than a standard resume format.

    • The only one that’s vaguely career specific is the LinkedIn one.
      Nothing stopping you from attaching a tailored resume and a LinkedIn link which will have your complete history.

      Everything else I thought was common sense. Under dressing, being arrogant, grooming, seems like basic life skills to me

  • I considered putting my linkedin profile address on my resume but wasn’t sure how that would look. Hasn’t hurt so far, managed to get an interview arranged already. My biggest challenge was fitting 8 years of experience in the same company across 7 different roles and several locations.

  • The biggest mistake young people make is listening to recruiters who tell them one thing and then do the other. And even then the recruiters don’t agree on what makes a good Curriculum Vitae. No matter what they do there is always some excuse because…

    There simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone graduating from many fields and someone has to miss out. It has just become ultra competitive which doesn’t suit all personality types.

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