Would you put a poem on your resume? Would you list your dog as a reference? Those may be ridiculous questions, but they actually happened.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13.9 million Americans were unemployed as of last month. And according to the jobs website CareerBuilder, a lot of them are going to stay that way if they keep sending out terrible resumes.
This week, CareerBuilder announced the results of its annual survey of more than 2,600 employers nationwide. Nearly half (45 percent) of the human resource managers they polled said they spend, on average, less than one minute reviewing a resume.
That’s a pretty small window for you to impress a boss.
Sometimes it takes less than a minute to dispose of a resume. Here are some actual resume lines that those HR managers said doomed an applicant in mere seconds…
- “Candidate said the more you paid him, the harder he worked.”
- “Candidate was fired from different jobs, but included each one as a reference.”
- “Candidate said he just wanted an opportunity to show off his new tie.”
- “Candidate listed her dog as reference.”
- “Candidate listed the ability to do the moonwalk as a special skill.”
- “Candidates – a husband and wife looking to job share – submitted a co-written poem.”
- “Candidate included ‘versatile toes’ as a selling point.”
- “Candidate said that he would be a ‘good asset to the company,’ but failed to include the et in the word asset.”
- “Candidate’s email address on the resume had shakinmybootie in it.”
- “Candidate included that she survived a bite from a deadly aquatic animal.”
- “Candidate used first name only.”
- “Candidate asked, ‘Would you pass up an opportunity to hire someone like this? I think not.'”
- “Candidate insisted that the company pay him to interview with them because his time was valuable.”
- “Candidate shipped a lemon with resume, stating “I am not a lemon.'”
- “Candidate included that he was arrested for assaulting his previous boss.”
Talk about making an impression.
“Job seekers need to ask themselves if they’re standing out for the right reasons,” says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s vice president of human resources. “Creativity and personal touches may seem tempting to some job seekers, but many times, it’s a disqualifying distraction.”
So what can you do? Haefner offers these basic tips…
- Write a resume, not a biography. You’ve probably led an interesting life, but your next employer only wants to hear about the parts that matter to him. “Only list experience that’s relevant to the job description,” Haefner says, “or reword past experience so that it’s clear it will transfer to the new role.”
- Blank out every so often. “If you hold up your completed resume and can’t see any white space, you’ve got a problem,” Haefner says. That’s right, empty space on a resume can be a good thing. It makes a resume stand out, and it’s more readable.
- Summarize. Since you only get a minute of someone’s time, Haefner suggests replacing the cliched “objective” with a “professional summary recapping your relevant experience in one or two sentences.” As with everything else on the resume, she says, “Keep your descriptions to the point and trim out any unnecessary words.”
- Read it again and often. Needless to say, if an HR manager sees a spelling mistake in your resume, it’s all over for you. “A lot of hiring managers will toss any resume that contains spelling, grammar or formatting errors – regardless of your past experience,” Haefner says. “Even if you can’t find any typos, email it to friends and family to be sure. Odds are they’ll find something you missed.”
For more resume advice, check out 3 Tips to Build a Better Resume and 5 Resume Mistakes Recent Grads Can’t Seem to Avoid.