Hiring Managers Reveal 12 Worst Resume Mistakes

By Debra Auerbach

In the movie "Legally Blonde," the main character Elle Woods does some pretty memorable things to secure an internship at a law firm. One such stand-out tactic she uses is writing her résumé on pink scented paper. While her maneuvers worked to land her the job in the movie, in the real world, unusual résumés can quickly go from being memorable to a misstep.

CareerBuilder recently surveyed hiring managers, asking them to share the most memorable and unusual applications they've received. They gave the following real-life examples:
  1. Résumé was written in Klingon language from Star Trek
  2. Résumé was submitted from a person the company just fired
  3. Résumé's "Skills" section was spelled "Skelze"
  4. Résumé listed the candidate's objective as "To work for someone who is not an alcoholic with three DUI's like my current employer"
  5. Résumé included language typically seen in text messages (e.g., no capitalization and use of shortcuts like "u")
  6. Résumé consisted of one sentence: "Hire me, I'm awesome"
  7. Résumé listed the candidate's online video gaming experience leading warrior "clans," suggesting this passed for leadership experience
  8. Résumé included pictures of the candidate from baby photos to adulthood
  9. Résumé was a music video
  10. Résumé didn't include the candidate's name
  11. On the job application, where it asks for your job title with a previous employer, the applicant wrote "Mr."
  12. Résumé included time spent in jail for assaulting a former boss

The length debate
Sometimes it's not what you write on your résumé, but it's how much you write that can turn an employer off. If you're a new college graduate, 66 percent of employers think your résumé should be one page long. For seasoned workers, the majority of employers (77 percent) say your résumé should be at least two pages.

Interestingly, employers and job seekers may have different ideas of appropriate résumé length and content. Thirty-nine percent of workers ages 45 and older reported that their résumé is only one page long.
The survey also showed that, although more than half of employers say they only want to see work experience that is relevant to the job at hand (53 percent) and primarily within the last 10 years (57 percent), 41 percent of workers ages 45 and older include their first job on their résumé.

Costly resume mistakes
When asked to identify the most common résumé mistakes that may lead them to automatically dismiss a candidate, employers pointed to the following:

  • Résumés that have typos - 58 percent
  • Résumés that are generic and don't seem personalized for the position - 36 percent
  • Résumés that don't include a list of skills - 35 percent
  • Résumés that copied a large amount of wording from the job posting - 32 percent
  • Résumés that have an inappropriate email address - 31 percent
  • Résumés that don't include exact dates of employment - 27 percent
  • Résumés printed on decorative paper - 22 percent
  • Résumés that include a photo - 13 percent

"Your résumé is the primary deciding factor for whether you will land a job interview," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "It's important to project a professional image. Keep it succinct, personalize it to feature only skills and experience relevant to the position you're applying for, and always include specific, quantifiable results that showcase the value you can bring to an organization."

Paper becoming passé
While Elle Woods may have found success with her pink résumé paper, some employers won't accept your paper résumé, no matter what color it is. More than one quarter (26 percent) of employers only accept digital résumés, leaving hard copies sent via the mail unopened.

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