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Employers offer candid opinions of the top resume blunders candidates make

Written by Workopolis
Posted on February 12, 2014

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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