5 Key Elements of a Successful Resume: Lessons From Common Mistakes

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December 12, 2023
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • 5 elements of a successful resume (and common mistakes to avoid)
  • Best practices for creating a successful, professional resume
  • How to use the Teal AI Resume Builder to mitigate some common mistakes

When you're looking for a new job, your resume is usually the first thing a potential employer sees. And that means it needs to be good. Like, really good. 

Hiring managers sift through hundreds of resumes for every job opening, so creating a successful resume means that yours not only needs to grab attention quickly but also that it needs to hold that attention.

The trick?

Highlighting why you're perfect for the job by focusing on some key resume elements while steering clear of some common common mistakes so that your resume stands out for all the right reasons.

Understanding resume fundamentals

The job of your resume is to tell your professional story in a way that aligns with the role you're applying to—landing you an interview and, ultimately, the job. But there are multiple layers to crafting a good resume that often go unnoticed or ignored.

Elements like how you write your achievements, describe your experience, provide clarity, and more play an important role in balancing your story in a way that sparks curiosity and leaves hiring professionals with a sense of how you can impact their organization.

Element 1: Highlight achievements over responsibilities

Common Mistake: Listing every responsibility from previous roles

✅  Key Element: Emphasize impact and achievements

Your resume bullet points showcase your impact in previous roles (and the skills you used to get there). Rather than focusing on job duties or responsibilities, quantifying your resume work experience:

  • Demonstrates impact and value
  • Shows you're results-oriented
  • Improves credibility
  • Sets you apart from other candidates
  • Compliments keywords searched for in the ATS
  • Suggest ways to measure and articulate the impact on past roles.

One of the best ways to write impactful achievements is to use the formula:

Success Verb + Noun + Metric + [Strategy Optional] + Outcome = 1 bulleted achievement 

Teal's VP of Marketing, Lia Zneimer, has read thousands of resumes. And when it comes to highlighting achievements over responsibilities, she says:

"For each bullet point you write, ask yourself: 'So what? How did this affect the business? How is this relevant to the role I'm applying to?' If you can't come up with an answer, then it's worth reconsidering including it in your resume."

Write impactful achievements with Teal

If you're feeling stuck writing achievements that highlight your impact over past responsibilities, Teal has built-in, customizable AI generation to help you craft resume bullets that showcase your skills and how you used them to have impact.

With Teal, you can opt to focus on a job description, include specific keywords, or draft your own AI prompt so you get the best (and most relevant!) output every time you use AI.

Element 2: Prioritize content over aesthetics

Common Mistake: Choosing heavily designed templates that limit content space

✅  Key Element: Balance between design and content

Applicant Tracking Systems are digital filing systems. And while there's no such thing as an "ATS-compliant resume" (Seriously, there isn't.), using a simple, one-column template without fancy design elements (or images) can help ensure your resume parses neatly on the back end—making possible and easier for human hiring professionals to read.

That said, the entire purpose of your resume is the content found within each section. When all else fails, modern resume templates (like those in Teal!) are always best.

A successful resume using a simple design
Focus on content over aesthetics when writing your resume.

Element 3: Tailored resumes for each job application

Common Mistake: Not personalizing your resume to the job description

✅  Key Element: Resume customization

A tailored resume is a crucial tool in demonstrating how your specific skills and experience align seamlessly with the needs and requirements of the role you're applying for. If you fail to bridge this gap, your resume may not resonate with a prospective employer, potentially causing you to miss out on an opportunity that could have been a perfect match.

Echoing this sentiment, Lia states:

"If I'm looking to hire an influencer marketing manager and the target title on your resume is "customer success coordinator," and I don't see any keywords related to influencer marketing...it's hard for me to connect the dots.

It's best to show how you're the right fit for this role using your relevant skills and experience by aligning your content with the language from the job description."

So how do you do it?

  1. Analyze the job description and align your resume accordingly using the same (or resume synonyms for) keywords, skills, and language in the job description.
  2. Frame your experiences in a way that clearly shows you’re an ideal candidate for a particular role. For example, if the job emphasizes tools like Linear and Notion, highlight how you've used them for success. If it’s a leadership role, showcase the number of people you lead and what you accomplished in a way that's relevant to the position.
  3. Make sure your resume is a perfect match using a tool to compare your resume to a job description.
A match score for creating a succesul resume by tailoring the content
Use a tool like Teal's Match Score to align your resume every time you hit apply.

Pro Tip: Create a base resume with all your experiences and achievements. This gives you a comprehensive place to work from, making creating customized versions for each application easier.

Element 4: Concrete examples over vague descriptions

Common Mistake: Using "fluffy," non-specific language

✅  Key Element: Specificity and real examples

Listen, language matters. And while you might think on a resume, "It's numbers that do the talking" (and they do!), the language you use to frame those numbers is also part of your story. Simply put? Don't jus tell; show instead

As Lia puts it:

"Instead of saying "highly organized individual," try to include an achievement that shows how you organized a past project. Instead of saying something like "driven and passionate" (which are both great qualities!), talk about a time you initiated or spearheaded something. This level of specificity serves as concrete proof of your capabilities."

Element 5: Clarity and Readability

Common Mistake: Presenting information in dense, hard-to-read formats

✅  Key Element:: Clear formatting and skimmability

One of the best ways to ensure your resume is readable is to make it easy to skim.

Start with a good resume format, or use a reverse chronological resume template. A reverse chronological resume is the most recognized layout. Working backward, list your work experience and incorporate 3-5 bullet points for each role.

To ensure readability, break up your text with section headers, ample white space, and margins that are 1/2" - 1." Make sure you use a font that's easy to read and maintain consistency in all of these areas.

If you want to take the guesswork out of formatting your resume, an initiative resume builder like Teal's will do this for you.

Teal's Design Mode offers resume customization while taking the guesswork out of things like:

  • Resume header and headings
  • Margins
  • White space
  • Bullets
  • Fonts
  • Colors

So you can spend your time and energy focusing on crafting quality, relevant resume content. 

Maximize your impact with a successful resume

Creating a resume that gets you noticed takes some thought and effort.

But by focusing on what you've achieved (not just what you were responsible for), making sure your resume looks clean and professional (without sacrificing content for style), tailoring it for each job you apply to with specific language, and maintaining clean readability you can showcase all you have to offer in a compelling and impactful way.

The Teal AI Resume Builder can streamline this process, helping you tell your professional story effectively and clearly—highlighting your strengths and relevant experience in a more seamless way.

Sign up for Teal for free today and create a resume that grabs attention for all the right reasons

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common mistake to avoid when crafting a resume objective or summary?

The most common mistake is being too vague or generic. Your resume objective or summary should be tailored to the specific job you're applying for, highlighting your relevant skills and experiences that align with the job description. Keep it concise and focused on how you can add value to the company.

How can I ensure my resume's work experience section stands out to hiring managers?

To make your work experience section stand out, use action verbs to describe your accomplishments and quantify your achievements with data when possible. This not only demonstrates your impact in previous roles but also makes your contributions clear and measurable. Be sure to align your experience with the job requirements.

What is a key element to remember when selecting skills to include on my resume?

When selecting skills to include, it's crucial to focus on those that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. Instead of listing every skill you possess, choose the ones that align closely with the job description and provide evidence of your proficiency through specific examples or achievements. This targeted approach shows employers that you have the exact skills they're looking for.

Kayte Grady

Kayte, Senior Copywriter at Teal and Champion of ADHD professionals, is a seasoned writer passionate about storytelling and career growth. With a data-driven approach to content marketing and a word-nerd knack for resume builder analysis, Kayte’s on a mission to empower job seekers to land a job they love. Constantly pivoting and reinventing herself, this social-worker-turned-marketer found growth and camaraderie in tech—a genuine surprise given her never-ending devotion to the paper calendar.

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