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Employers offer candid opinions of the top resume blunders candidates make

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Hiring managers can be so hard to figure out. The gatekeepers to the amazing jobs you want. All anyone wants to know is how to wow them.

So, you spend hours crafting and re-crafting the resume. What to include? What to leave out? Eighty-five revisions later, you stare at it and realize you have no idea whether you’ve done a good job of selling yourself or not.

We thought it might help to find out whether there are things that hiring managers and recruiters see in your resume that you don’t. Does the font you pick say something about your personality? Do your word choices make implications beyond the obvious?

So, we asked them, and they told us.

Career coach Jacqueline Twillie, says she can tell when you’re lazy. “Using the same wording under each job position on your resume says that you don’t show attention to detail, and if the fonts are inconsistent on your resume, it shows that your work may also be inconsistent.” It’s amazing that anyone would submit a resume using different fonts throughout. But it happens often enough that it came up more than once.

Donna Brooks, a placement specialist at Reliance Staffing concurs. She says, “A red flag for me that indicates that someone is overstating their skills is when they don’t use consistent formatting throughout their resume, and list among their attributes ‘attention to detail’ and ‘willingness to learn new skills.’ The fact that your resume is in three different fonts with random capitalization seems to have escaped your attention to detail, and maybe you should use your willingness to learn new skills to Google how to fix that.”

Hiring managers can also tell that you have terrible judgment – by your email address. One might think that nobody uses addresses like One would be wrong.

“ or doesn’t show that you are serious about your personal brand. As a result, your judgment could be questioned,” says Twillie.

Then there’s the oversell. Think you’re adding value and colour to your accomplishments with fancy adverbs? The team at Resume Genius doesn’t agree. “‘Quickly learned how to… Happily engaged with customers… Politely informed customers of new promotions…’ Somehow, one gets the impression that these people are overselling themselves. It’s just a bit too much.”

Recruiters can also tell when you’re hiding something, like your age, or when you might be hiding something, which will result in the same outcome (why take a chance?).

Marilyn Santiesteban, Assistant Director of Graduate and Alumni Career Services at Bentley University, says, “Resumes with an AOL email address make it seem the person is older.” So does Times New Roman font, she says. Who knew! The same can probably be said for family email addresses, like These days, it’s a good idea to have your own.

Recruiter Sandy Charet, adds, “Some people don’t want the reader to get a certain impression so they leave things off. For example, date of graduation will give your age, so they leave it off. The minute I see no date of graduation I know that this person thinks they are too young or too old.”

Charet also points out that it can be hard to hide a downward career trajectory by omission. “Leaving off a title clearly indicates it was a lower title than the one they had before,” she says. And, of course, “Leaving out MA or BA means they didn’t get a degree,” though this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re hiding the fact. You’re not going to put “I didn’t get a degree,” on your resume, so it makes sense not to bring it up at all.

Charet also doesn’t like functional resumes – those that list your skills rather than your work history in chronological order. She says, “When I see a functional resume, I know the person is either working with a professional resume writer or an outplacement firm, or they have something to hide.” Like you’re not qualified for the job, or you spent the last five years in prison.

Of course, you still have to take all this with a grain of salt. Not all recruiters are going to see the same things. While you can easily pay not enough attention to detail, you can also, apparently, pay too much.

For example, Billy Joe Cain, a recruiter in the video game industry, says “Untailored resumes and fill-in templates are huge indicators. If someone isn’t going to take the time to customize for the job I’m offering, they’re either apathetic or on a desperate job blitz. During the interview, if they don’t come off as desperate, then I’ve already prejudged them as apathetic, simply based on their resume.”

But consider the following comment from Sandy Charet: “When I see a resume that uses a very unusual font and special design, unless the person is in a creative field, I assume that they are actively looking for a job and putting a lot of attention to it. As a recruiter, I usually seek out people who are doing well in their current jobs, who are ‘passively’ looking. These people don’t have the time to make their resumes so attractive.”

We all know that managers prefer to hire people who are already employed. You need to look busy.

Pay attention to detail. Use consistent fonts. Don’t have a dumb email address. Pay attention to presentation but not too much. Include graduation dates and degree information if you’ve got them. Be as forthcoming as possible and don’t try to hide behind decorative words or omissions.

At the end of the day, the recruiter isn’t as easily duped as you might imagine. They’ve seen it all before. Show them the respect of not assuming they can’t read between the lines.

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Category: Job Search Strategies, Latest News & Advice, Resumes and Cover Letters
  • jordan684

    interesting article – lots of relevant info, except that in many cases these days, robots are looking at your resume first and it pays to know what they’re looking for and what will get your carefully crafted resume bounced. An infographic is here:

  • Tony Chung

    A consultant’s chronological resume would read like a James Patterson novel, because the characters and situations change so often that the resume would break the 2-page barrier. You’d think a functional resume would be better received in those cases.

  • Bink

    “We all know that managers prefer to hire people who are already employed. You need to look busy.”

    Maybe employers should simply hire people who are qualified. Just because someone is currently unemployed doesn’t mean they aren’t the right person for the position. Being employed isn’t necessarily a sign of being more qualified for a position than someone who is unemployed. You’re describing illogical prejudice.

    • Sharon McGuigan-Baki

      I totally agree! Good people often lose jobs because of bad judgements made by employers and expecting a mint resume is pompous. Also older workers may fear not getting hired if the employer can ‘guess ‘ their age

      • Benoit

        That is where you need to make sure you are always actively networking. If you end up with no jobs most people find jobs because they knew someone who knew someone…

    • MMM

      I totally agree with Bink!

    • Matt

      If it makes you feel any better, most people prefer to date people who are taken too…

    • Segr

      Very well said! But then prejudice has been legalized in Canada, ‘ cause “its who you know and not what you know” that gets you a job here………

  • Richard Derek

    This article contradicts itself. One paragraph tells people to change their resumes for every application, while the next tells you that if you do too much to change it that it is a bad thing.

  • Trend Cartoons

    Quote from article: “Resumes with an AOL email address make it seem the person is older.” So does Times New Roman font, she says. Who knew!”
    Yeah…. who knew it was illegal to consider age when hiring people in Ontario? Apparently not the recruiter or the author of this article. (Pesky Human Rights Code).

  • Grace

    Functional resume does not mean someone was in jail for the last 5 years…It may simply be the right format for a 50 year old changing career. I did have my graduation date on my resume, but when showing up for an interview, it was obvious that I was “mature”. I was very lucky that the owner of the company was my age, he wanted someone that was educated, he didn’t mind training me “his way” and 6 years later I’m still there. Is it possible, that young recruiters think they know it all??

  • Celebrity Assistant

    Very good article. Bottom line: candidates have to be good at marketing and know how they are being perceived to employers.

  • Shane

    “Managers like to hire people who are already employed.”

    So everyone who is employed, or whoever will be, was employed when they were hired? Is this a comedy sketch?

  • Jan

    Age discrimination …So then it is true Companies do Discriminate –