Did you know that your resume can give employers the impression that you might be a pain in the butt to work with?

Hiring managers generally form their first impressions of what a person may be like based on reading their resume, and they usually choose who to interview based on this sentiment.

So if your resume gives potential employers a reason not to like you – you’re probably not going to get that call. Here are some of the ways that your resume can keep you from being interviewed:   

You’re giving the impression that you might be a pain

As I mentioned, your resume is likely the first impression you’re making on an employer – so don’t blow it with unnecessary personal red flags.

One recruiter recently told me: “I was recently reading a resume for an editorial position that included this line in the objective statement: “Must be for a company that highly values diversity and sustainability.” I actually do value both of those things. However a candidate making such demands in the first line of their resume will stop me from bothering to read the rest of it. Show me why I would want to hire you in the first place before you start making demands about my values.”

Another candidate closed his resume with the line, “Given my obvious qualifications, if I am not selected for this position, I expect to be informed of why.”

Really? You expect that, do you? I wouldn’t wait by the phone. Even if everything else about your resume was absolutely brilliant, that sentence at the end would kill your chances right there. (Because you sound like a demanding jerk.)

You’ve made a mistake

Spelling mistakes, typos and misused words can sink your chances. Think about it, when employers are looking through numerous resumes trying to pick the best few to interview, why would they select someone who hasn’t taken care enough to submit an error-free application? It speaks to a candidate’s motivation, attention to detail, or capabilities. You look like you either can’t produce work without mistakes – or you’re simply not motivated enough to bother producing it.  

I was recently reading a fairly strong resume from another candidate for the editorial role, and – while she had all of the experience, skills and publications that I was looking for – there was a fairly obviously misused word in her cover letter. Especially for an editorial role, you simply can’t make language mistakes.

That same cover letter was also in two different fonts, randomly. I can only assume she had cut and pasted several documents together and then somehow not noticed that it looked weird changing fonts halfway through and then changing back at the end. She didn’t get interviewed.

You aren’t qualified for the role

Or you haven’t communicated how you are qualified for the role. If you don’t have the skills and experience that an employer is looking for, they won’t be calling you in for an interview. (And some employers are so annoyed by having their time wasted, they’ll black list you from future opportunities that you might actually be qualified for.)

Similarly, if you’re convinced that what you have accomplished in one role or industry can apply to a job in another field, you have to make that explicitly clear in your resume. Employers won’t do the math for you about how your skills may be transferable. Show what you can do for them specifically.

Otherwise it may just look like you’re desperate for a job and randomly applying for everything out there – whether or not you’re a good fit for it. Those people don’t get called.

Sometimes no one reads your resume in the first place

Some jobs are highly competitive, especially in a tight job market, and the employer may simply receive too many applications to read them all. Also with many companies using applicant tracking systems to filter applications by keywords, if you haven’t included the exact terms that they’re screening for, your resume won’t be seen by human eyes. Read more about using resume keywords.

Once employers have a short list of resumes to choose from, they still don’t want to have to interview too many people. At that point they’re reading resumes specifically to find a reason not to meet with you. Make sure you’re not making a poor first impression – before you’ve even had the chance to meet.  

Peter Harris

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