I once read an article titled “10 Ways Your Resumé Irks Hiring Managers.” Back then, I had just read through hundreds of resumes myself as I was looking for candidates for vacant positions. Naturally the title is of great interest for me.
The article listed 10 mistakes applicants make in their resumés. I tried to find the article again with no luck. Luckily I had copied the list. After comparing some of the points with my own experience, here’s what I came up with (my comments in brackets):
1. Spelling Mistakes and Grammatical Errors. (This is a big red flag. This could be an indication of the applicant’s lack of attention to work quality and thoroughness in completing a task. There are tons of resources to check anything for grammatical and spelling correctness, such as grammarly.com, or the spell checker in the latest word processing app.)
2. Opening Objective. (Some applicants found it necessary to include an objective in applying for the position. I personally think it is not necessary. Most of the time it is obvious what someone wants to get when applying for a job. Skipping this won’t be a bad idea, because the real chance to put the best foot forward is in the interview.)
3. Personal Attributes. (Recruiters don’t need to know that a person has a black belt in karate. Unless they are looking for a club bouncer.)
4. Interest and Hobbies. (Some interests do add value to a resumé. Some are better to be kept to yourself. I remember one applicant wrote in his interest, “I hate the government.” Yes, you guessed it. I immediately put it on the “reject” pile. A better strategy to display interests and hobbies is to put it on social media or blogs, and list the link in the contact information. Recruiters love it when they can dig out more information about an applicant.)
5. Details of every task you’ve ever performed in every job you’ve ever had. (Some descriptions of past responsibilities do help to illustrate capabilities. But there is no need to use 10 pages to detail them. This is even evident if an applicant held similar jobs in different companies. A better strategy is to list completed challenges in pervious job posts. This would make it easier for the hiring manager to see if the applicant is a good fit with the challenges of the vacant position.)
6. Excessive Bragging. (Point 5 can escalate to showing off if one is not careful in describing his/her past achievements. For example, listing all the VIPs or celebrities an applicant had previously worked with or the dollar amount of bonuses he/she had won may come across as bragging. Keep the information about job achievements relevant by focusing on what was done in one sentence. The “how” can be discussed in the interview.)
7. Outdated Information. (There is no use to list skills that are no longer in demand just to make a resumé long and impressive. Considering the very small amount a manager can give in reading resumés, it is a better strategy to list the skills that are relevant to the job being applied to, and keep the rest for the interview.)
8. False Information. (One applicant had a suspicious name for his college. I googled it, and I found out the school was banned by the Indonesian Ministry of Education because it sold diplomas. In the era where information is highly accessible anytime, lying on a resumé is downright stupid.)
9. Unexplained gaps in work history. (Some applicants thought they only need to list impressive past job positions and to skip the three-month job probation that went wrong. This may create gaps in a resumé that would raise questions in the mind of the hiring manager. It is best to be honest and write down job experience as it is.)
10. A lack of professionalism. (I got this a lot, especially from first time applicants. They simply type their resumés with no additional formatting. There are many free templates available online, or in Microsoft Word. Again, hiring managers have to go through piles of applications. A professional look can make one resumé stand out from the rest, and improve its chance of being read in full.
Here are a few things that I would add to the list:
11. E-mailing resume to multiple companies in a single send. As soon as I see addresses other than mine in the “To:” field, I either perceive the applicant as being cocky (it’s like he’s saying, “hey, just to let you know I’m not applying just to you,”) or simply as being too lazy to send each application in a separate mail. Cocky and Lazy. Those are two things in a person who I am so keen to keep as far away from being part of my company.
12. Wrong addressee. Some applicants sent too many resumes that they forgot to change the name of the recipient in the cover letter. I got that several times. Since it might be just an honest mistake, I sent a reply pointing out the error, and ask for the applicant to send me another e-mail with the correct name in the address. When the applicant didn’t do what I suggested, I knew the person was just not worth my time.
13. Pictures Not Perfect. In Indonesia, especially in service industry, we do ask for pictures of the applicants. We do not mean to discriminate a person by physical appearance. We can learn about a person’s personality from the way he/she presents himself/herself in a picture. Also, it is a good security measure to know how a person looks like before inviting him in for an interview. Unfortunately, some applicants do not see this as an opportunity to sell themselves. Instead of a well-groomed image, they sent a selfie photo, or a very miniscule graphic representation of themselves, or a photo so blurred it’s hard to identify the person. They took themselves for granted. Why should the hiring managers treat them differently?
14. Too Little Information. This is so true for fresh graduates applying for their first jobs. They thought that resumés can only contain work related experience, when they had none. Since they could not come up with anything they thought worth saying, they simply let their resume to be half a page long. This left very little room for conversation. And even the weather cannot make up for it. I had awkward interview moments when I really did not know what else to ask, and the candidate had nothing else to say! When hiring new graduates, I like to probe for some activities in school that they are particularly good at or at least they love doing. Anything that contributes to work capability discussion is worth noting. If there is little to say in job experience, be more informative on the part of the resumé related to school or social activities.
15. Sending In Multiple Resumés from Different People in a single e-mail. Email accounts are free and very easy to make these days. There is no room for excuse such as “I don’t have an email address so I asked my friend to help send it along with his.”
The way we make our resumés speaks volumes about the way we do our work and, most importantly, about ourselves.
Edited and updated on January 10, 2021