Recruiters’ Top 20 Resume Pet Peeves

  1. Spelling Errors, Typos and Poor Grammar
    According to Bruce Noehren of J. Douglas Scott & Associates, this directly reflects your reputation. “You don’t gain anything by getting it right,” he says. “This is credibility you should already possess.” Of course, you want to use spell check, but that won’t catch every mistake. “Manger” is a correctly spelled word, but it means something very different from “manager.” Be sure to pay close attention to those buzzwords related to your field.
  2. Too Duty-Oriented
    “If you’re using your company’s job description, you’re missing the point of your resume,” says Paul Schmitz of Hufford Associates. Recruiters already know what the job is; your resume should highlight your accomplishments in that position. Schmitz advises you show what you’ve really done by outlining the process, outcomes and results that are specific to you.
  3. Inaccurate Dates or None at All
    Recruiters need to know when you worked where to get a better understanding of your working history and to use the dates for background checks. According to Kathi Bradley of Bradley Resources, “Missing dates, especially for long periods of time, could send up a red flag, and the resume may be discarded as a result.” Include specific ranges in months and years for every position. If you have gaps, explain them either in your cover letter or introduction, but not in your resume. “It always helps to continue your education and training and to list any volunteer work during a slow period,” says Bradley. “Listing these under education or volunteer work should explain some of the gaps.”
  4. Inaccurate or Missing Contact Information
    “You create a resume for one reason: To get a phone call,” says Kim Fowler of Fowler Placement Service Inc. How can someone contact you if the phone number is missing a digit or your email address is incorrect? Be sure every resume you send has your correct contact information, including name, phone number, email address and street address. Recruiters will not look you up; they’ll move on to the next candidate.
  5. Poor Formatting
    Different typefaces and boxes may look nice on paper, but if the resume needs to be scanned, they can cause confusion. Recruiters suggest keeping your resume in plain text.
  6. Functional Resumes
    Whenever possible, recruiters advise you go with a chronological resume and focus on the skills and accomplishments that pertain to the job you’re seeking. If you’re concerned about a layoff, be assured that “nowadays, unemployment is quite prevalent, and recruiters regard it differently,” says Jeanne Pace of Pace Search Services. “Most people do something to keep their work [skills] going.” Use that information to fill in the gaps.
  7. Long Resumes and
  8. Long Paragraphs
    “I simply don’t have the time to read them,” says Bob Moore of Computer Recruiters Inc. Focus on the skills and accomplishments that directly apply to the job you’re trying to get. Every word counts, so don’t dwell on the specifics of each job, but rather the highlights specific to you.
  9. Unqualified Candidates
    You may want a job, but if you don’t have the skills and experience needed, recruiters will feel you’re wasting their time. Look at the job description. Be sure to highlight the skills they are looking for with a bulleted list of your related qualifications at the top of the document.
  10. Personal Information Unrelated to the Job
    With the limited time recruiters spend on your resume, you don’t want to distract them with your age, height, weight and interests unless they’re directly related to the work you want to do. “You need to make the link between what a recruiter needs and what you bring to the table,” explains Fowler. “Anything personal that is not directly linked to the position takes away from the point of the resume.”
  11. Employer info not included and/or not telling what industry or product candidate worked in
    According to executive search recruiter Terry Cantrell of Panama City, Florida, “People often try to write a resume so generic that a reader has no idea what industry the candidate comes from. Did they manufacture fertilizer, package cow chips, cook and distribute potato chips or assemble computer chips? Often I have no idea what ‘Acme’ sells, services, imports or manufactures. I cannot take the time to filter through a thousand resumes to see what and where their real network is. I am usually looking for a reason to exclude resumes, not a reason to include them.”

    Kelly Persichetti of the Persichetti Group adds, “I always tell candidates to think about WHO the initial receiving audience is of your resume. With this in mind, many times one has to be more explicit with their resume. Believe it or not, many recipients wouldn’t even know if the resume they were looking at was even in their own industry!”

    It is suggested that your resume specifically state the type of industry, revenues, public or private in the body of the resume in or beneath the specific company. This will help the reader determine if it’s a direct industry OR an ancillary industry.

    Recruiter Tip: Another idea is to bullet-point in your summary the specific industry experience the recruiter or hiring manager is seeking.

  12. Lying, misleading (especially in terms of education, dates and inflated titles)
    We all know the temptation is there to beef up your background by stretching the truth here and there to land that job. BEWARE! It is becoming more commonplace for companies to do extensive background and reference checks on a candidate’s background prior to hiring.

    Recruiters stated the most common misleading information being put on resumes is:

    1. Inflated titles
    2. Inaccurate dates to cover up job hopping or gaps of employment
    3. 1/2 finished degrees, inflated education or “purchased” degrees that do not mean anything
    4. Inflated salaries
    5. Inflated accomplishments
    6. Out and out lies in regards to specific roles and duties
  13. Objectives or Meaningless Introductions
    According to recruiter Gayla Moore of Taylor Recruiting in Austin, TX, “A general objective is a good way to have your resume tossed out immediately. A candidate who states they want to be with a great company who values its employees… well, guess what? Everyone wants that!!” Instead of an Objective that can pigeonhole your focus too narrowly or an introduction that adds nothing to your background, use this top piece of real estate to really SELL yourself, by creating a HEADLINE. Don’t be shy. Tell them who you are and what you do immediately. Come up with one powerful sentence or phrase to “grab” your reader. Think of this like a headline to a major front-page news story … PATS UPSET RAMS IN SUPERBOWL. What is going to grab that reader to want to read further?

    Recruiter Tip: This headline can be customized to match the job description and “hot-buttons” of the employer or recruiter.

  14. Font Choice – poor font choice or style
    When creating your Word Attachment resume, keep your font simple and easy to read on a computer screen. Be kind to your reader. Do not use italics or extremely difficult to read fonts like Edwardian Script. Font size is just as important as style. 8-point fonts are too small to read, even for Superman.

    Microsoft seems to have settled on 10 point Arial as their default font in most of their applications. People are accustomed to reading such on their computer screen. For headings, recruiters shared that 12-point bolded is the best choice.

    Recruiters told us that that second best choice is Times Roman as every newspaper and magazine is printing with such. Once again, people’s eyes are accustomed to reading text in this font. However, 10-point Times Roman, (unlike Arial), is too small for a computer screen. It is recommended if you choose Times Roman, use 11 or 12 point. If a resume is difficult to read, a recruiter will simply move onto the next one.

  15. Resumes sent in .pdf, .zip files, faxed, web page resumes, mailed resumes and not sent as WORD Attachment
    Unless specifically requested otherwise, your resume should be sent as a Word Attachment. Word is the standard in business correspondence. Do not send your resume as a PDF, Mac file, etc. Unless you are a graphic designer or multi-media developer, no recruiter will spend time going to your “homepage” to download your resume. Even if you are a graphic designer, you still need a Word attachment resume. So if you are an accountant, engineer, etc. do not try to be fancy, because no recruiter has the time or desire to call up homepage. Another top reason for avoiding formats other than Word or a plain text file is that it becomes increasingly more difficult to download into many HR and recruiting systems. Often a recruiter will not have a job for you today. If they cannot enter your resume into their recruiting system, they will be unable to match your resume with any positions that do become available. This also goes for mailed and faxed resumes. Unless specifically requested otherwise, recruiters are looking for easy to open Word Attachments.

    Recruiter Tip: …many recruiters shared with us that it is always a good idea to name your Word Attachment “Smith, John Resume”. Recruiters have no time to “guess” the author of the attachment. Many recruiters are still organizing resumes sent to them in one folder, so already providing the recruiter with your resume with an easy to follow document name will make your resume easier to find.

  16. Pictures, Graphics or URL links no recruiter will call up
    Unless you are a super model or are applying to a position such as an actor or television personality that might require a “headshot,” there is absolutely no need to include your picture. A candidate should be judged based on their skills, education and work history, not race, sex, age, etc. Providing a picture only opens up problems. Secondly, pictures are next to impossible to download into recruiter and HRIS systems. In addition, sending a picture only increases the file size and download time of your resume. Remember, a candidate only has about 10 seconds to grab the recruiter, don’t waste these precious seconds for a picture to download. Much the same goes for graphics and endless URL links. Including graphics only causes download time to increase and often makes a resume more difficult to read on a computer screen. In the case of URL links, they just clutter up your resume and no recruiter will ever spend time “clicking” on these links. Give the recruiter the facts. 
  17. No easy to follow summary
    Candidates have to realize that recruiters receive literally hundreds and hundreds of resumes per week. A resume has to GRAB the reader from the get go. Recruiters told us that if a resume does not convey a match within 10 seconds, they move to the next candidate. An effective summary section will help the recruiter identify if the job seeker is a viable candidate for the position quicker. This summary section can be customized to the position you are applying.

    For candidates of a technical nature, it is imperative that a Technical Summary is also compiled. Make sure that these technical skills are clearly laid out and current. When creating this tech summary, be careful not to create a long list of “alphabet soup” no one will ever read or understand.

  18. 1st or 3rd Person – Resumes in either 1st or 3rd Person
    A resume should not be written in the first person. A resume is a marketing piece and business correspondence. No recruiter or future employer wants to read a resume full of “I did this and I did that…” Furthermore, writing a resume in the first person often leads to it becoming too verbose. Writing a resume in the third person was also slated a major “pet peeve” among many recruiters. There is no absolutely no reason for such. Once again, a resume is simply a quick marketing piece about the job seeker’s background and how it matches the requirements of the position. It is not a biography for a book jacket cover.
  19. Gaps in employment
    Employers are probably going to be a bit more understanding than in the past regarding gaps of employment because of all of the corporate layoffs, reductions, etc. However, holes or gaps in dates in a resume will solicit questions from employers and recruiters alike, so be prepared to answer. Even if you took a sabbatical for personal reasons, it is a good idea to state such.
  20. Burying important info in the resume
    Many recruiters shared that candidates often leave off very important and critical experience/information that is pertinent to the job they are seeking. Just as bad is to include this important info, (i.e. holding a Security Clearance or being bi-lingual in Spanish, when it is a requirement of the position), but burying it so deep into the resume the recruiter will not see it. No recruiter has the time to play Sherlock Holmes or guessing games to figure out a candidate’s background. Jobseekers must be aware that recruiters receive literally hundreds of resumes a day and spend only about 10 seconds “skimming” through each resume. This is why it is imperative that if a job seeker possesses the requirements of the position, that they GRAB the recruiter’s attention IMMEDIATELY with these skills/experience. If not, it reduces the chances that a recruiter will call considerably. The best scenario is to customize each and every resume that is sent out and tailor it to the “hot buttons” that will catch the employer/recruiters attention within 5-10 seconds.

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