3 experts who've read over 300,000 résumés share their biggest pet peeves

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Not all résumé mistakes are created equal.

Some are pretty common. Others are major.

Then there are the errors that are just plain annoying.

Business Insider recently asked Résumé Writers' Ink founder Tina Nicolai, Chameleon Résumé managing director Lisa Rangel, and Five Strengths CEO Amy Adler to share their own biggest résumé-related aggravations.

They all came up with somewhat different answers. It just goes to show you that pet peeves are relative — even when it comes to CVs.

1. Keeping things too vague

Rangel says that she dislikes skills-based résumés, which are heavy on lists of skills and light on context. She explains that oftentimes job seekers will adopt such formatting to conceal a non-linear career background or an employment gap.

"Well, since people with 'normal' backgrounds do not use functional or skills-based resume formats, when someone does, all it does is make me think, 'what is this person trying to hide?'" Rangel says. "Essentially, using this format does the absolute opposite of what was intended by using it: it brings attention to the nonlinear background."

2. Cramming in too much

Adler says that she doesn't really get annoyed at résumé mistakes. However, she says that it's important to remember the purpose of a CV, in order to avoid annoying hiring managers.

"A résumé should be about the candidate but for the hiring executive," she says. "The candidate needs to think about what would be easiest for the hiring executive to digest and understand."

That's why it's a huge error to cram in a massive career history into one page.

"This doesn't annoy me per se, but I never could understand why so many people, even the most experienced, think that one page is a divinely inspired and rigid page limit," she says.

3. Overly long summaries and stiff jargon

Nicolai previously told Business Insider all about her biggest résumé pet peeves, namely: "Summaries that are way too long; overused résumé jargon; and appearing too formal and rigid."

She explains that it's better to list achievements in a concise manner with a quick tag line: "After a while, the summaries can read like a lengthy chapter in a book."

She also recommends that job seekers avoid both overly formal language and clichéd jargon like "out-of-the-box," "team player," and "exceptional communicator."

"A person who truly is a 'unique problem solver who works well in teams' will convey this succinctly and creatively on their résumé through a combination of few words and imagery," she says.

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21 of the most creative résumés we've ever seen
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21 of the most creative résumés we've ever seen

Jessica Wen's sweet résumé started off as a class project and ended up landing her an internship.

Wen, now a designer and strategist, designed the chocolate résumé packaging concept in 2012 when she was a graphic design major at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. 

Wen repackaged chocolate bars with her brief résumé printed on the inner side of packaging with the words "THANKS" or "EAT ME" cut out by hand as a leave-behind item for one of her college's career fairs.

"I was able to get a call-back and ended up landing a four-month internship position at a large architecture firm in DC," Wen tells Business Insider.

(Photo courtesy Jessica Wen)

Charlotte Olsen's "Golden Ticket" offers an extra incentive to hire her.

As a part of a self promotion task from her time as a graphic design major at Southampton Solent University in England in 2012, Olsen created a chocolate packaging résumé that included a "Golden Ticket" offering 10% off her design services.

"I thought I would try to stick out as a job seeker and make something fun and eye catching to show my personality and my own original style as a designer," Olsen says.

Her "100% RAW TALENT" design plays on traditional chocolate packaging with things like an ingredients section that lists her skills, a "best before" section that says "Before someone else snaps me up", and phrases along the packaging like "No artificial skills" and "Not factory made."

"So far that chocolate CV has been quite the success for my career," she tells Business Insider.

(Photo courtesy Charlotte Olsen)

Erik Sena used SnapChat's 'on demand' geofilters to get noticed by employers.

After seeing how geofilters were being used by fashion moguls to advertise locally, Sena tells Business Insider he was inspired to create geofilters in May with his personal brand on them to help him stand out in the oversaturated advertising job market.

"I had been interviewing and sending my résumés to companies for months since the beginning of the semester with no luck, so this was a last ditch effort to get my name out there," he says.

Sena says he used his experience as a copywriter and a designer to quickly whip up his design, and he paid $108 to SnapChat to have them run on-demand geofilters targeted at the ad-companies he wanted to work for.

SnapChat let's you assign an area where you want your geofilter to appear, and whenever someone uses snapchat in that area, your design shows over messages in the app. Sena targeted BASIC and Red Door Interactive in Downtown San Diego and TBWA\Chiat\Day, Ignition, Deutsch and R/GA in Playa Vista, Los Angeles, with his geofilter. 

"Thankfully, two of the companies that I tried to reach out to actually took notice," Sena says. "Red Door tweeted a screenshot of my geofilter and actually invited me to the office for lunch." Sena says one of the associate creative directors at BASIC also liked a couple of his tweets and followed him on Twitter.

"Even though I didn't get a job offer or even an interview from any of the companies I targeted, the least I could have hoped for was to be noticed by them, and I was," Sena says.

Since then, he says he's included the move on his résumé and talks about it during interviews, "which definitely helped generate some conversations."

"In fact, one of the biggest talking points during my most recent interview was this situation, and I was lucky enough to land the job, so I'd say it helped tremendously," Sena says.

(Photo courtesy Erik Sena)

Lukas Yla impersonated a Postmates delivery guy so he could deliver his doughnut box 'résumé' to executives at tech companies.

 

Yla infiltrated some of the biggest Bay Area tech and advertising companies dressed as a Postmates delivery guy to deliver boxes of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse doughnuts with a request: give him a job.

Inside each doughnut box he included the message, "Most résumés end up in trash – mine in your belly," as well as a short pitch and a Bit.ly URL that takes you to his LinkedIn profile. Each delivery was addressed to a marketing VP, CMO, or CEO of a company he wanted to work for. 

"As a marketing professional with more than five years of experience, I knew that to stand out from the crowd and grab attention I had to make a bold move," Yla tells Business Insider.

So far, Yla says he's delivered more than 40 boxes of doughnuts and has landed more than 10 interviews with tech companies and ad agencies in San Francisco.

(Photo courtesy Lukas Yla)

Omondi Abudho designed a résumé that folds into a box.

Abudho is a Kenyan art director and photographer who is well-known for his photography, but he's also picked up quite a bit of attention for his résumé.

"Believe it or not, I got the idea while buying a pack of coffee," he tells Business Insider. "Java Coffee, one of Kenya's best, to be exact."

He designed a résumé that potential employers could cut out and fold into a box, complete with creative "nutrition" facts. The result was immediate. He got three good job offers from top agencies in Kenya. He's currently a creative partner at Scanad in Nairobi.

(Photo courtesy of Omondi Abudhi)

Simone Fortunini modeled his impressive résumé after Google Analytics. 

An Amazon online marketing manager, Fortunini created a résumé that actually looks like a Google Analytics page. 

It makes sense, he tells Business Insider: his work involves online marketing and advertising campaigns, and Google Analytics is the basic tool of the industry.

Bar graphs represent skills and languages; a Google Analytics-style map shows his educational background, and his "Experience" section allows potential employers to click on the various positions to get more information about each of his roles.

But while his original intent was to show off his technological expertise and online marketing savvy, he says the project brought another, less expected benefit. "Trying to analyze my professional path like a 'web site performance' has been hard but helpful to get an objective point of view about current achievements and future goals." 

(Photo courtesy Simone Fortunini)

Kelly Weihs created a résumé made to look like a Wild West wanted poster.

Weihs's résumé stands out in a sea of identical white papers thanks to its Western, vintage look.

"I wanted to have fun creating a résumé that was different from everyone else," she says. "I love historically inspired design. For me, it's just a lot of fun to look to the past for ideas."

She applied to her current place of employment using this résumé, and immediately saw results. Her employer "quite liked the résumé," she says.

(Photo courtesy Kelly Weihs)

After helping his friend design this résumé, Rick Mundon now sells résumé formats online.

Mundon created this résumé for his friend, but received so much feedback from his design that he decided to launch a creative design company that does design work and creates creative résumés, business, and web sites for job hunters.

But he cautions that haphazard creativity won't do the trick — even the most stand-out résumés still need to be job-specific. "You're not out there to get any job," he says. Practicality is important, too, he says: employers need to be able to find your past work experiences immediately.

(Photo courtesy Rick Mundon)

Mundon also created this résumé for Jeffrey James to show that he's in the music industry.

It worked.

"This particular résumé did get him the job [he wanted]," Mundon says. "[A résumé's] design is much more important than how 'pretty' it is; the overall goal is to get these people a job," he stresses again. "If the most beautiful résumé doesn't get our client an interview, then it's worthless."

This résumé was designed with James' specific ambitions in mind. "With Jefferey's résumé, I wanted the viewer to know he's in the music business, know that he works hard, showcase his image in a creative way, and most importantly, display his experience," says Mundon.

(Photo courtesy The Whole Orange)

Craig Stapley wanted to showcase his personality.

"I really wanted to create a résumé that was different," says Stapley when asked about his inspiration. "Something that was memorable when it came across a desk, which was perhaps littered with résumés that all looked the same. A résumé can be so much more than a biographical 'humdrum' of skill-sets, education, and accomplishments."

Stapley's résumé landed him a job as creative director at iFit Fitness Technology, one of the world's largest fitness companies. "I love where I am, who I work with, and what I do," he says.

(Photo courtesy Stapley Design)

Aaron Sachs' résumé was inspired by Google+.

 

Sachs merged social media with an infographic and arrived at this résumé.

"I created this right around the time that Google+ came out," he says. "I wanted to marry the idea of an infographic with the way that I was seeing my social information displayed in Google+. I took my job history, Klout score, LinkedIn recommendations, and education and wanted them to appear in a form that was familiar to people."

But while the résumé was good for his career, it also earned him a lot of attention outside of his profession.

"This was something that was more as a side-project. As I'm now in IT, the type of infographic résumé I created, especially in the South, doesn't do a whole lot of good for IT hiring managers. However, I did have quite a bit of comments outside of the job market about it."

(Photo courtesy Aaron M. Sachs via Flickr)

Elliot Hasse created this résumé before infographics became popular.

Hasse didn't know whether his creative résumé would be well-received by potential employers, or rejected completely .

"I designed it back in college [a few] years ago to try and stand out from everyone else applying for graphic design jobs," he says. "It was kind of a risk because it was before the infographics got popular."  

But Hasse's worries were premature. "I got a lot of immediate attention [from my résumé] and it continued to spread across the Internet. Overall I got a lot of job offers and interest from employers, and I would say it's even a great success."

We would say so, too. Hass now works as a senior art director in Denver, Colorado.

(Photo courtesy Elliot Hasse)

Lara Wineman applied for a job in the scrapbooking business, and wanted to present a résumé that matched.

Wineman tells us she created this résumé when she applied for a position at a company in the scrapbooking industry, and it was "tailored with that look and feel." The pink stationery both contrasted and complimented the vintage typewriter print.

Lara wasn't offered the job, but she wasn't too disappointed. The résumé has earned her a lot of attention on Flickr.

"I wasn't actively looking for employment at the time," she says. "I just came across the job announcement one day for the company and thought I'd try applying to see what would happen."

(Photo courtesy Lara Wineman)

Michael Anderson designed this résumé to convey as much information as possible.

Anderson's résumé was born out of an epiphany. "It occurred to me one day that a résumé is just tagged temporal data, and that if I treated it as such, I could convey loads more information," he says.

He took that idea and ran with it — and it worked.

"I have had a few job offers, but I only really took one, as a graphic design chair at a small school in Pennsylvania, and shot portfolio photos for students from a few programs," Anderson says.

(Photo courtesy Michael Anderson)

Riccardo Sabatini wanted to breathe life into the traditional CV.

Sabatini is an Italian graphic designer born and raised in Italy. He is currently based in Florence and focuses on digital art and typography.

Sabatini created his résumé in response to a question. "Why [does] the curriculum [vitae] have to be displayed in an ugly and boring version?" he asked. "Especially if your work is to make things nice and [viewers] curious."

He designed several versions of this résumé in multiple colors while maintaining the same brand, and it gained him a lot of attention on the internet.

"More than I expected," he says. "And not just from the ones I've sent [to employers], but also from people [who have] seen it on my portfolio and found it interesting."

(Photo courtesy Riccardo Sabatini)

Liagi Ann Jezreel Ramilo wanted to show that she loves to doodle. 

Ramilo is currently a senior graphic designer and tells us that she wanted to show in herrésumé that she's always loved to doodle, as long as she has a ballpen and paper, "whether it's a ticket, a tissue paper, or any kind of paper as long as [she] can write on it."

"I posted it my deviantart account to showcase my design, and I was surprised when I received lots of messages in my personal email and even in my Facebook account from people around the world telling me that they saw my creative résumé and how they liked it," she says. 

(Photo courtesy Liagi Ann Jezreel Ramilo)

Animator and programmer Robby Leonardi built a spectacular interactive game.

Leonardi, who has worked at AOL, Industry Next, and Fox News, built a side scrolling interactive résumé reminiscent of games like Mario.

A series of levels run through his skills, qualifications, and experience. 

(Photo courtesy Robby Leonardi)

Philippe Dubost built a full-blown Amazon page for himself.

Dubost's page, which you can view here, went viral and racked up 1.5 million views over the course of his job search, and eventually got him 150 job offers and finally a job as a tech product manager at rapidly growing New York beauty subscription startup Birchbox.

The instantly recognizable format and the depth of detail (there's everything from product dimensions to reviews from past employers) helped make it a hit and get him exactly the kind of job he'd hoped for. 

(Photo courtesy Phildub.com)

A Google-themed résumé got Eric Gandhi an interview with the search giant.

Gandhi was a young Georgia Tech graduate and fan of Google when he modeled his résumé after the Google's iconic style and search results. It worked pretty well, getting him an interview with the famously selective company.

The specific position ended up being for a marketing rather than a design job, which wasn't a great fit, but the creative résumé still helped land him interviews elsewhere. These days he's a product designer at BuzzFeed.

(Photo courtesy Eric Gandhi)

Nina Muflah modeled her résumé on an Airbnb host profile — and caught the attention of tech companies around the world.

Mufleh had been trying to grab the attention of Airbnb for months, but while she'd managed to get a meeting with the company, she hadn't managed to snagged a job offer. 

Instead of giving up, she rethought her strategy. "I actually thought, I haven’t done everything I can," Mufleh tells Business Insider. "I’ve done the same thing multiple times, but I haven’t tried new approaches.”

And so she turned her résumé into a mock Airbnb host profile. Instead of focusing on her past experience — though it includes that, too — it showcases her knowledge of the travel industry, what she'd contribute to the company, and where she thinks they should turn their focus next.

It caught the eye of Airbnb's CEO and CMO almost immediately. Ultimately, she didn't get the gig, but the résumé did get the attention of companies around the world. 

Mufleh interviewed with LinkedIn, Uber, and Dropbox (among others), before deciding to pursue an opportunity at Upwork.

(Photo courtesy Nina4airbnb.com)

Jeff Scardino's 'relevant résumé' focuses on his failures, bad references, missed honors, and non-skills.

While helping out with his company's hiring process, Scardino lost patience with traditional résumés, full of bland triumphs and approving references. Instead, he wanted to see failures. He wanted to talk to people who didn't like the candidates, he tells Business Insider.

"That's more interesting to me," he says, "and it's even more interesting if the candidate is willing to give you that information. For someone to be that transparent and that much of an open book says a lot about them and their confidence."

And so he took his own advice, creating the "relevant résumé," which features highlights like "Have yet to finish a book I started writing years ago," and "Should have been more aggressive."

The résumé worked, he says — in his own informal experiment, he found the relevant résumé netted him significantly more interviews than the traditional version. 

(Photo courtesy Jeff Scardino)

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