“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Unknown

Recruiters have to get through hundreds of resumes in a short time. Research suggests that the average hiring manager takes less than one minute to peruse a resume. Other studies show that they can do this initial check in six seconds. Larger companies use applicant tracking software to make the initial selection and they do that in a split second! So, what are they looking for and what should you avoid mentioning? You have to try and get inside the typical recruiter’s mindset, which will reflect what is in the job description. If you can do that, you can enormously improve your resume. Here are 20 things that will guarantee your resume ends up in the trash:

1. They do not want to see your life history.

Many applicants want to present a comprehensive resume and include all sorts of irrelevant information. For example, you might include summer jobs which are of no real interest to the recruiting manager.

The solution is to include information about experience and skills which are closely related to the job you are seeking. If the company is looking for someone with marketing skills, the manager will be looking for lots of relevant examples and successes in your marketing. If these are not prominent, then your resume is headed for the bin.

2. They do not want to see a messy and untidy resume.

This is a real turn off for recruiters because they cannot find the information they want quickly. The best approach is to be as clear and concise as possible. Mention your name, present position and then relevant experience by mentioning the posts you have held. Make sure you put in start and finishing dates and use bullet points to mention responsibilities and main achievements.

3. They do not want to see your photo or other pictures.

Generally, the photo on the resume is superfluous. Also, the hiring manager does not want to be influenced by gender issues. Why should she waste one second of those precious six viewing your stunning beauty?

As we live in such a visual age, your photo is going to pop up sooner or later, for example on your LinkedIn page. The best thing to do is to make sure that your page does actually have your photograph!

4. They do not want to see vague objective statements.

Writing about your rather vague objective of gaining more skills and experience is a real turn off for the hiring manager. A classic one which cuts no ice at all is, “Seeking a challenging position that offers professional growth.”

Focus instead on this job. Concentrate on listing your experience and skills which will help you to land the job. Read the job description again and again to make sure you have matched up the requirements with what you have to offer.

5. They do not want to see irrelevant personal details.

Let us suppose that your church and sporting activities are not applicable to the job you are seeking. If that is the case, they are superfluous and should not be on your resume. The same goes for marital status and other personal details. Most of these are, in fact, illegal for a hiring manager to ask during an interview. So why include them in the first place?

If, on the other hand, you were managing public relations for a charity in your spare time and are applying for a job with a similar profile, then by all means, mention this.

6. They do not want to see your skills that everyone else has.

When job applicants mention that they are completely at ease with the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Excel, hiring managers will yawn. Everyone working in modern offices have these skills.

If you are working on software development and applying as a software developer, then it might be relevant. If it is just part of your normal skills set for routine jobs, then do not mention this at all.

7. They do not want to see unexplained gaps in your resume.

Courses, lay offs or even getting fired can result in a gap in your resume. Maybe you went freelance for a while? Employers and managers are familiar with this and there is no problem with a gap.

When you are not prepared to explain the gaps or put a positive spin on them, then there may be an issue. If the courses or freelance jobs improved your skills in certain areas, then by all means include them and relate them to the skills required for this new position.

8. They do not want to see fancy fonts or creative formats.

Did you know that many tracking systems strip out all the fancy stuff and the actual viewing format a manager sees is in plain text? This means that, in many cases, your creative talents will go unnoticed and are a waste of time. If the manager is actually reading the hard copy or attachment, then creative formats may be a distraction and a hindrance. The solution is to keep it simple, clear and concise.

9. They do not want to see empty and poorly managed social profiles.

Yes, your social media profiles are looked at in the job hiring process. In one survey, more than one third of the recruiters are looking at these to filter candidates. Some estimates say that 92% of companies are using social media in their hiring process. If your LinkedIn or Google+ pages are not showing useful and stimulating content, nor connecting sufficiently with people in your industry, then forget it.

Always make sure that you are up to date with developments in your industry and that you are actively engaged. Show that you are a resource and help your connections solve problems.

10. They do not want to see resumes written in the first person.

Yes, they know it is YOU who is applying so there is no need to overuse the word ‘I’. Most applicants start with ’Responsible for’ which is another way of saying ‘I was responsible for’. The best approach is to make it much more action oriented and start the sentence with ‘Managed…’ ‘Co-ordinated…’, ‘Designed….’, Cut costs….’ Resolved issues……’ and ‘Led a team of 10…..’.

11. They do not want to see your duties listed.

All the day to day stuff you do to keep afloat is not necessary and nobody wants to know, least of all the hiring manager. They just assume you know how to do these! Instead, focus on results you have achieved, how you increased revenues, cut costs or how you played a key role in improving productivity.

12. They do not want vague statements of success.

When you state that you have achieved something, you need to quantify it. It is not enough to say that you completed X project within the deadline. You need to go into more detail.

A good example would be: “Played a key role in the opening of a new branch. Since inception, client numbers have tripled. There are at present 600 individual client files, with about 33% of these active at any one time.”

13. They do not want to see just a list of bullet points.

It may seem easier on the eye at first but when hiring managers are presented with only bullet points, it is actually difficult to read. The ideal resume will contain a mix of sentences interspersed with bullet points which are best for lists of figures or facts.

14. They do not want to see lies or exaggerated claims.

The hiring manager wants the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Some applicants think that a lie here or there is not going to matter one way or the other. They can also embellish their successes with exaggerated claims. Stick to the truth!

15. They do not want to see your work email address.

Hiring managers do not want to contact you at your present workplace, for obvious reasons. It is also safer and more confidential for you. Always leave a personal email address which has your real name, rather than your ‘cute’ email address.

16. They do not want to see a line about references.

Did you know that 99% of applicants write a line stating, “References are available on request”? This is a waste of a line because space is precious when you have to keep your resume to a maximum of two pages.

A much better idea is to leave that out and have a list of reference names ready, should you be asked for them at the interview. Make sure that you have already contacted them so that they are ready to give you a reference, if requested.

17. They do not want to see a one-size-fits-all resume.

You apply for lots of jobs and you always send the same resume. This is a grave error because each job is different requiring particular skill sets, experience and so on.

Remember that each recruiter is looking for a resume that matches their company profile and the skill set for a particular position. A one size fits all resume can never do that.

18. They do not want to see cover letters.

There is a fair amount of debate about this but the consensus is that a cover letter is actually clogging up vital space and time. No one reads it. Sometimes, though, a cover letter is required. It will depend on the company where you are applying. So pay attention to whether one is asked for.

The best solution is to concentrate on hard hitting statements in your resume which match the skills sets and experience and qualifications required.

19. They do not want to see your cool Word Header feature.

Many applicants want to make a good impression by using the Word header feature with their name. It looks prominent and cool. They are unaware that some scanning software cannot read this header, so your resume ends up as being from an anonymous applicant! Basically, stick to more conventional methods for displaying your name at the top.

20. They do not want to see positions dating back more than 15 years.

Did you know that ageist attitudes are still rife in the job market? By listing all the positions you have held since graduation means that you are going too far back. There is no need to put the date on things like your degree. The general rule of thumb is to cap a limit of 15 years so that it does not become a historical or autobiographical document.

As we have seen, a resume is rather like an advertisement in which you show off your main features to entice the hiring manager to actually find out more. If you avoid the 20 mitakes above, you could land that dream job. Good luck!

Featured photo credit: College of DuPage Internship Expo 2014 1/COD Newsroom via flickr.com

Set a Goal For Yourself

Read full content