Resume Tip Tuesday: Why Your Resume Ended Up in the Trash

Posted November 18, 2014

Welcome to Resume Tip Tuesday! Come to CareerBliss every Tuesday for a brand new resume tip to help you in your job search! Check out the archive for resume tips galore!


When to apply

As a professional writer and editor, I've looked at hundreds of resumes over the course of my career, made over dozens, and talked to many top recruiters and hiring managers to find out exactly what they're looking for when they read a resume.

One thing I've learned is that if your resume contains any of these major gaffes, there's a large chance that it will end up in the trashcan.

Here are some of the big ones.

1. You Don't Know What Job You Want

We get it. You're a Jack-Of-All-Trades. You can wear lots of different hats and can Learn New Duties As Required. You want to dazzle the hiring manager with your diverse skill set so they'll consider you for any and all vacancies they have available.

So you include every random job you ever had on your resume, along with a zany 'Getting To Know Me' personal statement giving a rundown of your life history. You add a lengthy list of your eclectic hobbies at the bottom.

For extra good luck, you attach a picture of your cat.

I'm exaggerating, of course, but you'd be surprised at how many resumes just like this hiring managers keep neatly filed at the bottom of their trashcans.

INSIDER TIP: Have you ever yelled at a wandering driver ahead of you to "Pick a lane?" A zig-zagging resume produces the same hair-pulling reaction in a hiring manager. Pick one job vacancy that the company has listed, and tailor your resume to that exact job.

2. You Expect the Hiring Manager to Know Which Position You're Applying For

Unless you're applying to work at a startup in it's first year of operation, you can bet your bottom dollar that the company you're applying to has more than one job opening. Larger companies may have hundreds of vacancies in multiple locations.

Don't make the hiring manager guess which job you're applying for. Make that evident from the outset, as the first line in your cover letter.

INSIDER TIP: Include the job title you're applying for in the file name of your resume, along with your name and the date: E.G.: 'Bob Smith-SEO Specialist-18Nov2014'. You have no idea how many files the hiring manager has sitting on his or her computer desktop with the generic file name 'resume.'

3. You Make a Typo

Yes, I said 'a' typo. One. "What difference does just one typo make?" I hear you cry. "I'm applying for a major position at a big company with a huge salary! One typo won't matter to them!"

Unfortunately, the reverse is true. The higher your potential salary and the more prestigious your job title, the higher expectations the company will have of you, and the bigger potential ramifications of a single mistake.

"Just one typo" can make the difference between you transferring $100,000 to a client's account, or transferring $1,000,000, in the hiring manager's mind. After having this horrific vision, guess what he or she does with your resume?

INSIDER TIP: Have at least one well-read friend read your resume through before you send it. Don't rely on spell check alone to catch literary blunders.

4. You Fail to Make Your Resume Skim-Friendly

It's common knowledge that recruiters get so many applications per job these days that they spend just six seconds reading each resume to make their two big piles labeled 'Consider' and 'Reject.'

Six seconds. That's all you get. That's not reading, that's skimming. In order to make the most of those seconds, you need to structure your resume in a way that will encourage the hiring manager's eye to land on your key points.

This means using larger fonts and bold text to highlight information you need to get across in order to make the first round of cuts, such as your desired and actual job titles, any major company names you've worked for, and any big corporate wins you've made in your career.

INSIDER TIP: Put the best fruit on top. Studies have shown that most people's eyes will almost always hit the first few lines of your resume. If you grab the hiring manager's attention from the outset, they'll be more likely to spend longer on your resume the second time they read it.

5. You Show Your Age

We all know it's against the law to discriminate against job applicants based on age. Sadly, this still happens for a multitude of reasons, although of course no company will admit to it.

There's no law requiring you to reveal your age in a job application, so many advise against it.

Most seasoned hiring managers can guess your age with a simple glance at your resume; giveaway details range from the blatant (adding your year of graduation), to the subtle (using outdated terms, such as referring to IT as 'Information Technology,' or listing your competencies in older software programs such as Windows 3.1 or Photoshop 4.0).

INSIDER TIP: Unless your career progression is spectacularly impressive or you've worked for a ton of big-name companies, remove all jobs older than 15-20 years. If you're applying to work at a tech company, cut jobs off at 10 years.


Natasha Rhodes is a careers expert and writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, and salary information.

photo of Natasha Rhodes

Natasha Rhodes

Natasha Rhodes is a careers expert and writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listingscompany reviews, and salary information.

Other Articles Written by Natasha Rhodes

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