7 Ways to Ruin Your Resume

I subscribe to a list serve called BNET which sends me a daily digest of all the interesting things going on in the business world. Today there was an article titled “What Not to Do: 7 Ways to Ruin Your Resume” by Hillary Chura. http://moneywatch.bnet.com/career-advice/article/how-to-write-a-resume-examples-of-what-not-to-do/376048/

I wish I could take credit for putting these seven ideas together as I have mentioned all seven to a number of different applicants countless times. But, alas, I will give credit where credit is due.

Her seven ways to ruin a resume are:
1) Apply for a job you’re not remotely qualified for
2) Include a lofty mission statement
3) Use one generic resume for every job listing
4) Make recruiters or hiring managers guess how you can help their client
5) Don’t explain how past experience translates to a new position
6) Don’t include a cover letter
7) Be careless with details

If you want to read the full article (which I recommend) go ahead, but I wanted to touch on a few that I thought were the most important. As a recruiter, I see on average 200-300 resumes a week. I make it a point to give everyone who applies equal opportunity for consideration. However, there are certain things that will get you passed up quicker than others.

Applying for the job you’re not remotely qualified for. Wayne Gretzky once said “You miss a 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Some applicants have taken that literally and applied for every job possible, assuming their chances of getting an interview are higher that way. Unfortunately, this is very far from the truth. If I see someone with clerical experience applying for an Engineering manager’s position, I will pass them up right away. No matter how ambitious they are or how quickly they catch on, there is a realistic learning curve someone without the education or experience will not be able to master. Furthermore, applying for every job under the sun despite the qualifications makes you seem careless. When a job opens up that you’re really interested in, the recruiter may wonder if this is just another job to you.

Your cover letter, experience and attention to detail: ok, so I’m combining numbers five, six and seven but I really think these three go hand in hand. The old cover letter, that was a paragraph long asking the employer to accept your application and that your resume is attached, is outdated. The job market is increasingly more competitive. For one job I had open, I received over 100 applications. Out of those, more than 30 people met the initial qualifications based on their previous working experience and education. I had to narrow it down to 8 people to interview. The ones that got the interview were the ones who explained in their cover letter how their past experience was relatable to the job they were applying for. They addressed the qualifications we were looking for and gave examples of how their experience is transferrable. Bottom line, anyone can say “after reviewing the qualifications, I believe I am the best person for the job. I am hardworking and a quick learner” or something to that affect. You can say it but you have not proven it. If you give me an example of what you did in the past that is similar (not exactly the same as you’re most likely applying for a promotion or a different job than your last) but transferrable, that proves to me that you can do the work.

When it comes down to it, resumes are a very archaic way of recruiters and hiring authorities deciding who will be interviewed. A piece of paper will never be able to capture your ability and your potential. But, until someone else comes up with a better way of doing it, applications are the current practice and if you want to increase your chances of getting an interview, you need to do everything you can to demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the job.

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Good post. I’m with you- rather than try to send 100 applications out it is much better to send 30 carefully crafted applications and letters to positions you fit.

Michaela Holmberg

Thanks for the comments. I see a lot of potential talent passed by because it’s just not good enough. Hopefully the good ones will take this to heart. Happy holidays.


Agreed. While a lot of jobs get a lot of applicants…and a lot of qualified applicants…imho – I rarely see tons of really well put together packages overall.