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Top 7 Signs Your Resume Is Poorly Written

Your resume is likely the reason you didn’t land that job interview you really wanted.

That may seem like an obvious statement, but many applicants don’t realize just how much of an impact a poorly written resume can have on their job prospects. Business Wire cites a national survey by recruitment firm that found 73% of HR professionals believe that most candidates do a “bad job” of tailoring their resumes to the positions they want. And three-quarters – 75% - say that they’re having trouble filling positions because candidates are unqualified.

But are candidates unqualified? Or are they simply doing a poor job of explaining their qualifications with their resumes?

Thankfully, this distaste for bad resumes can be an opportunity for you. Catch these seven signs of a poorly written resume before you send yours off, with the assistance of a resume writing company, and you drastically increase your chances of getting an interview.

man pulling hair out because resume got rejected with the words "Reasons Why Resumes Get Rejected"

Sign 1 – It’s Filled with Generalizations

“Generic” is the enemy of any good resume.

In other words, a lack of specificity means your resume is poorly written because you don’t give a hiring manager the details they need to make a decision.

Compare these two statements:

“I have experience in programming and have built several software packages.”


“Senior IT Director with 10+ years of experience with C++, along with 5 years of experience with JavaScript, and have used my skills to deliver software projects delivering over $350,000 in revenue for my past employers.”

Yes, the second statement is longer. But it’s loaded with key details – including your experience level and examples of what you’ve delivered – that make it extremely valuable to a recruiter.

Sign 2 – A Strange Flow

When it comes to a resume’s flow, remember this crucial rule:

Your resume should highlight why you’re a good fit for the role, rather than be an overview of your general skills and experience.

Forgetting this rule leads to resumes that place too much emphasis on irrelevant subjects – the two years you worked at a fast-food restaurant while in college, for example – and not enough on what the hiring manager wants to see.

magnifying glass over a resume with the words "So, What Does A Recruiter Look For In A Resume?"

Sign 3 – The Resume Contains No Keywords

In the context of resumes, keywords are words and phrases that appear in the job description that an employer expects to see in your resume. Consider the programming example. An employer may require you to have experience in a specific language – such as SQL – as well as a formal qualification, such as a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

“SQL,” “computer science,” and “bachelor’s degree” are all keywords in this example. If they don’t find their way into your resume, you have a poorly written document.

Why do these words matter so much?

Over 90% of large companies use applicant tracking software (ATS) to scan resumes before the documents ever reach a human. These systems look specifically for keywords and will reject any resume – even one from a highly skilled candidate – if they don’t find them.

Sign 4 – Typos and Grammatical Errors

It seems obvious that poor writing would be a sign of a poorly written resume.

But if that’s the case, it’s difficult to explain how 64% of resumes contain at least one spelling error, with 10% containing five errors or more.

Every single one of these types of errors on your resume is a sign to a recruiter that you don’t take due care with your work. In this case, taking 15 minutes to run the resume through a spellchecker – or software like Grammarly – can be the difference between success and a resume that ends up in the trash.

resume thrown in the trash with the words "Common Resume Mistakes"

Sign 5 – It’s Over Two Pages

Though there’s still debate over whether a resume should be one or two pages, one thing is for certain – any longer than two is a sign of poor writing.


A resume should be tailored specifically to the position for which you’re applying. The odds are that you have several accomplishments – as well as past jobs – that aren’t relevant. Leaving those in, and extending your resume as a result, is often seen as “fluffing” the resume, which is the practice of using length to make it seem impressive over clarity of content.

So, if you have a resume that’s over two pages long, the odds are that there are sections, or even phrases, that you can cut to make it more succinct.

Sign 6 – Poor Formatting

Large blocks of hard-to-read text, varying font sizes, and even the order in which you list your work history and education are formatting issues that lead to a poorly written resume. This sign links to the “flow” issue mentioned earlier – every formatting error creates a break in the reader’s attention.

You don’t want a hiring manager to wonder, “Why did they change the font here? That means they’re not paying attention to the content.? You also don’t want them feeling like they have to wade through an indecipherable and clunky paragraph when you could have used bullet points to put the same information across.

Sign 7 – Cliché Overload

“Good team player.”

“Hard worker.”


These are clichés that find their way into millions of resumes even though they don’t really tell a hiring manager a thing about you. Anybody could claim to be a “good team player,” for instance. But the truly great candidates provide examples of situations in which their ability to work as part of a team led to a tangible result, leaving the “good team player” part to be implied by the example.

Every hiring manager has read the standard resume clichés dozens, if not hundreds, of times before. When they see them in your resume, the first thing they’ll think is “poor.”

Craft a Superb Resume to Impress Recruiters

Though a poorly written resume can scupper your chances of getting an interview, a well-written one ensures you stand out. Thankfully, many of the signs highlighted here can be dealt with if you’re willing to spend some time editing and refining your resume until it reads well.

Or, you could have Expert Resume Pros handle the hard work for you.

Our professional executive resume writing service in Denver is underpinned by a team of 34 resume and copywriters – each qualified to write for a specific industry – and our 45-day guarantee. If your new resume doesn’t land you an interview within 45 days, we will give you your money back.

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