Resume Mistakes That Drive Recruiters Insane

Did you know that most recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a Resume

A number of years ago a company called ResumeDoctor undertook a study by interviewing several hundred recruiters and headhunters to find out what they thought about candidates Resumes and the things that really tick them off when reviewing them.

For jobseekers, this information is absolute gold and provides some really useful insight into the minds of the people that may be considering you for your next role here in Australia. With this in mind, let’s look at what really ticks off recruiters when reading through job candidate resumes? If you see something that resonates – perhaps it’s time to update your own resume?  

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Burying or Not Including Important Information in the Resume

Candidates often leave off critical experience/information that is pertinent to the job they are seeking. Just as bad is to include this important info but bury it so deep into the resume the recruiter will not see it.

No recruiter has the time to play Sherlock Holmes to figure out a candidate’s background. Jobseekers must be aware that recruiters receive literally hundreds of resumes a day and spend only about 10 seconds “skimming” through each resume.

This is why it is imperative that if a job seeker possesses the requirements of the position, that they GRAB the recruiter’s attention IMMEDIATELY with these skills/experience.

The best scenario is to customize every resume that is sent out and tailor it to the “hot buttons” that will catch the employer/recruiters attention within 5-10 seconds.

Gaps in Employment

Employers are probably going to be a bit more understanding than in the past regarding gaps of employment because of all of the corporate layoffs, reductions, etc. However, holes or gaps in dates in a resume will solicit questions from employers and recruiters alike, so be prepared to answer. Even if you took a sabbatical for personal reasons, it is a good idea to state such.

Resumes Written in the 1st or 3rd Person

A resume should not be written in the first person. No recruiter or future employer wants to read a resume full of “I did this and I did that…” Furthermore, writing a resume in the first person often leads to it becoming too verbose.

Writing a resume in the third person was also slated as a major “pet peeve” among many recruiters. A resume is simply a quick marketing piece about the job seeker’s background and how it matches the requirements of the position. It is not a biography for a book jacket cover. For example: “Mr Smith is an excellent recruiter, who has placed many Architects…” Stick to the facts.

No Easy to Follow Summary

A resume has to GRAB the reader from the get-go. If a resume does not convey a match within 10 seconds, they move to the next candidate. An effective summary section will help the recruiter identify if the job seeker is a viable candidate for the position quicker. This summary section can be customised to the position you are applying for.

For candidates of a technical nature, a Technical Summary must be also compiled. Make sure that these technical skills are clearly laid out and current. When creating this tech summary, be careful not to create a long list of “alphabet soup” no one will ever read or understand.

Pictures, Graphics or URL Links

Unless you are a supermodel or are applying to a position such as an actor or TV personality that might require a “headshot,” there is absolutely no need to include your picture. A candidate should be judged based on their skills, education and work history, not race, sex, age, etc.

In addition, sending a picture only increases the file size and download time of your resume. Much the same goes for graphics and endless URL links.

Furthermore, in some scenarios, because of the fear of computer viruses, some recruiting departments are set up not to accept graphics, pictures, downloadable files, etc. Your resume in that case will just be deleted before it is even opened. In the case of URL links, they just clutter up your resume and no recruiter will ever spend time “clicking” on these links.

Resumes not sent as a WORD Attachment

Unless specifically requested otherwise, your resume should be sent as a Word Attachment. Do not send your resume as a PDF, Mac file, etc.  A recruiter simply does do not have time to download and convert special files. In addition, do not send your resume in a ZIP file. No resume should be 60 pages long period.

Unless you are a graphic designer or multimedia developer, no recruiter will spend time going to your “homepage” to download your resume. Even if you are a graphic designer, you still need a Word attachment resume. So if you are an accountant, engineer, etc. do not try to be fancy, because no recruiter has the time or desire to call up the homepage.

Another top reason for avoiding formats other than Word or a plain text file is that it becomes increasingly more difficult to download into many HR and recruiting systems. Often a recruiter will not have a job for you today. If they cannot enter your resume into their recruiting system, they will be unable to match your resume with any positions that do become available. This also goes for mailed and faxed resumes. Unless specifically requested otherwise, recruiters are looking for easy to open Word Attachments.

Pro TIP … many recruiters shared that it is always a good idea to name your Word Attachment “Smith, John Resume”. Recruiters have no time to “guess” the author of the attachment.

Poor Font Choice

Keep your font simple and easy to read on a computer screen. Do not use italics or extremely difficult to read fonts like Edwardian Script. Font size is just as important as style. 8-point fonts are too small to read, even for Superman.

Microsoft seems to have settled on 10 point Arial as their default font in most of their applications. People are accustomed to reading such on their computer screens. For headings, recruiters shared that 12-point bolded is the best choice.

Recruiters told us that that second-best choice is Times Roman as every newspaper and magazine is printing with such. Once again, people’s eyes are accustomed to reading text in this font.

However, 10-point Times Roman, (unlike Arial), is too small for a computer screen. It is recommended if you choose Times Roman, use 11 or 12 point.

Candidates Who Apply to Positions They are Unqualified

To gain experience in an area, you need to start somewhere, and recruiters understand this. Recruiters do not have time to sort through hundreds of resumes that are in no way a match for the requirements they are trying to fill.

When someone submits an obviously unqualified resume, the person receiving it resents them wasting their time. It also delays the consideration of other qualified applicants.

Pro Tip: The easiest remedy is to provide a simple introductory statement ‘while my qualifications do not match your requirements, please accept the attached for your files in anticipation of future, suitable opportunities’”.

Objectives or Meaningless Introductions

Instead of an Objective that can pigeonhole your focus too narrowly or an introduction that adds nothing to your background, use this top piece of real estate to really SELL yourself, by creating a HEADLINE.

Tell them who you are and what you do immediately. Come up with one powerful sentence or phrase to “grab” your reader. Think of this as a headline to a major front-page news story. What is going to grab that reader to want to read further?

Senior-Level Health and Safety Manager with Extensive Experience Working with FDA Regulations in the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Arena.

Pro Tip: This headline can be customized to match the job description and “hot-buttons” of the employer or recruiter.

Lying or Misleading Information

We all know the temptation is there to beef up your background by stretching the truth here and there to land that job. BEWARE! It is becoming more commonplace for companies to do extensive background and reference checks on a candidate’s background before hiring. Also, companies are demanding that their vendor recruiters do more extensive background checks.

Recruiters stated the most common misleading information being put on Resume is:

  • Inflated titles
  • Inaccurate dates to cover up job hopping or gaps of employment
  • 1/2 finished degrees, inflated education or “purchased” degrees that do not mean anything
  • Inflated salaries
  • Inflated accomplishments
  • Out and out lies in regards to specific roles and duties

Employer or Industry Information Not Included

It is suggested that your resume specifically state the type of industry, revenues, public or private in the body or beneath the specific company. This will help the reader determine if it’s a direct industry OR an ancillary industry.

Pro Tip: Another idea is to bullet-point in your summary the specific industry experience the recruiter is seeking.

Personal Info Not Relevant to the Job

Not only is including personal info that is unrelated to the job a waste of space, but it can actually hurt you. Recruiters do not need to know your age, height, weight, marital status, sexual orientation, religious or political affiliations, or even about your hobbies. They are trying to fill an open job requisition, not match you for a blind date.

Long Paragraphs

Recruiters want a résumé’s details to be short, concise and to the point. No recruiter has the time to read long paragraphs, which look like a narrative out of War and Peace.

Make sure you quickly get to the “meat” of what you are trying to communicate about yourself. Your resume should be easy for the reader to “scan” your text for your skills and accomplishments. Consider using the following formatting techniques:

  • Use blunt, paraphrased bullet-points
  • Use appropriate amounts of “white space” to help guide your reader
long resume
Can your resume be too long? According to recruiters – Yes it can!

Long Resumes

A resume should ideally; never be more than 2 pages. Situations that usually contribute to long resumes are; too many jobs; a career that is not focused, an inability to be concise, written communication problems, or something similar. All of which makes for an ‘UNPLACEABLE’ candidate.

No matter how tempting it is to go into detail about the first job you had 25 years ago, don’t! Instead, let your resume showcase your most recent accomplishments. Recruiters are only reviewing the last 5-8 years of your career, 10 tops.

If you are a recent graduate with limited professional work experience, your resume should be only one page. If you are from academia but are seeking a position in the industry, do not include every publication or journal paper you have ever presented.

Pro Tip: For employment beyond 10 years ago, create a “Previous Employment” section. You can quickly list your older assignments by simply including title, company and dates.

Functional Resumes

A very good way to NOT get your resume read is by sending them a “functional Resume”.

Pro Tip: At the top of your resume, always include an easy to follow general/functional summary. Use bullet points that can be easily customised to match what the employer is seeking.

Hand your reader what they are looking for on a silver platter. Find out what are the “hot buttons” of the employer and make everyone hit a home run. Immediately following your summary, provide your reader with an easy to follow the chronological history of where you worked and when. It is here you need to detail your accomplishments.

Poor Formatting

It is paramount that your resume is clean, clear and not full of major formatting errors. Most candidates are unaware that many formatting features will not view well on a computer screen, and more importantly, will not download properly into many HRIS recruiting systems or job boards.

Dates Not Included or Inaccurate Dates

A resume that does not include dates sends up “red flags” about a candidate’s background and is immediately tossed out. The obvious assumption is that the candidate is trying to hide something. Furthermore, be honest about your dates of employment.

Pro Tip: When providing dates, work history should be in reverse chronological order. The consensus among recruiters is to place the employer info, title and location on the left-hand side of the screen. Your employment dates should be aligned to the right so that your reader can easily “skim” down the page. And if you have a proven track record of staying with a job for a while, absolutely make sure that your employment dates JUMP out at your reader. This is a real selling point about you as a candidate.

Too Duty Oriented

The second most common complaint among recruiters was reading a resume that is “too duty oriented.” Resumes need to describe more than just job duties. A good resume must also detail your accomplishments. Mention the business benefits and results attributable to your direct effort, involvement or leadership.

Also, do not just rely on long lists of buzzwords to describe work or accomplishments. Not only are you risking “burying” the important details from your reader, but also doing so often makes a resume appear too generic.

Pro Tip: “Do not separate your skills and accomplishments from each position. Someone should be able to look at it and know what you did at each job, and how long you were there. Make sure to provide specific examples of how the company benefited from your performance. Accomplishments should be quantified in pounds or percentages, for example, (Increased productivity of department). From what to what…1%, 10%, 90%?

Spelling Errors, Typos, and Poor Grammar

In the world of technology and ‘Spell Check’, you would be amazed at how many resumes come through with errors! Candidates need to remember that their resume represents them! If there are careless errors, it directly reflects on the candidate.

The consensus among recruiters is that your resume will more often than not be your one opportunity to make a first impression. You need to make it a positive one!

Do you have your own tips?

Let’s learn together – If you have experience recruiting candidates for roles – Share your own resume tips below.,