These 5 fatal resume mistakes could cost you a job

I don’t have a resume. I haven’t had one for nearly 25 years and they have changed a lot since then.

I’m not sure that anyone ever asked for it. I got my jobs through personal recommendation and reputation and I stayed with my last employer for 21 years.

It is not surprising that people like me, north of 50, are at a bit of a loss when they find themselves back on the job market, having left without having another job in the pipeline.

Karalyn Brown is a resume expert. She helps clients create a “brand” for themselves online and on social media (she has 26,000 connections in Linkedin), she helps put together professionally-written resumes and does interview-coaching. 

“Around 30 per cent of my clients would be over 50, and going ‘help’,” she says. 

They say: “I don’t know what my CV should look like, I don’t know how to sell myself, social media and Linkedin are for younger people”.

Brown says they often hesitate to use other tools that would help them. People find it easier to get another role is they have kept up their networks, kept their skills up to date and are relatively confident.

“In that case, it could take them a few weeks. But if someone has struggled with a few career changes, a few twists and turns, retrenchment has hit them hard and they are in a profession that is shrinking , it could take them a year or longer,” she says.

Brown says there are five common mistakes that mature-age job seekers make with their resumes:

Mistake 1: Too much information
Listing every job and every bit of experience from a work life of 30 or more years is overwhelming for recruiters. You should only include experience that is relevant and reasonably recent.

The applicant needs to reflect on what they have really loved about previous jobs and then use that theme to help set up the front page of their resume like a one-page marketing document.

Applicants need to consider how what they love matches with what is available in the job market today. Then think about the achievements they can write about that will give them credibility to do that job.

Try not to go back further than 15 years, unless there is something really outstanding and relevant to that job.

Mistake 2: Over qualified
Listing every course and piece of training you have done on the front page, again, is pretty useless and stops the recruiter from seeing the most important things you offer. Brown suggests putting the most relevant qualifications at the top and listing anything else in an appendix at the end.

Mistake 3: Bad presentation
If you format your resume badly on the computer, you immediately alert the recruiter to the fact that your technology skills have not kept pace with the times. Things that grate include differently sized bullet points, spacing, silly or varying fonts.


Resume expert Karalyn Brown explains how to make your account stand out on LinkedIn

These mistakes will make the employer ask whether you even have a mastery of Microsoft Word. “That is a big thing as well,” she says.

Mistake 4: Using old lingo
“Fifteen years ago, you might have been a personnel manager whereas, today, you may be People and Culture. Even though the jobs are very similar, it is making sure you are matching the language that the employer is using to describe that profession,” says Brown.

Mistake 5: Novel-length resumes
Typically, a recruiter scans the document for 10 to 20 seconds and if the interesting information is tucked away on page five, they will never get to it. Resumes should be no longer than four to five pages.

Brown says maturity can be a strength if you can demonstrate that having experienced several business cycles and recessions, you have experience in managing through challenging times.

“Talk about the cycle. If you are in a business development role, explain how you expanded the business during a market contraction. If you are a CFO, say how you managed to secure a cash flow when banks aren't lending. Think about the problems faced by businesses that you would like to work for.”

“In the interview, people look at you and your energy. It comes back to how well you can connect and relate to the interviewer, how much respect you show the process, the interest you show in the company and being interested, but not being threatening.”

Do you have any questions for resume expert Karalyn Brown? Let us know in the comments section below.