Hiring Managers’ Most Memorable Applicant Mistakes

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The following is an actual method used by a job seeker in an attempt to land a job:

“Looook into my eyes. You’re getting sleeeepy. You want to hiiiire me.”

That’s right; according to one response from CareerBuilder’s annual survey of memorable résumé mistakes, a job seeker actually sent in his résumé with an accompanying video that attempted to hypnotize the human-resources manager into hiring him.

But the strange tactics don’t stop there. Imagine listing “God” as a reference on your application. According to the survey, one applicant did just that – although he or she did not leave a contact phone number for  God.

Hypnosis and divine references aside, other résumé gems included:

  • Candidate listed her hobby as  alligator-watching.
  • Candidate claimed to be a direct descendant of the Vikings.
  • Candidate’s e-mail address had “lovesbeer” in it.
  • Candidate listed “Master of Time and Universe” under his experience.
  • Candidate started off the application with, “Do you want a tiger?”
  • Candidate specifically pointed out that he was not a  Gypsy.
  • Candidate’s condition for accepting the position was being allowed to bring his pet monkey to the workplace.
  • Candidate pointed out, “I’ll have your job in five years.”
  • Candidate sent a 24-page résumé for a five-year career.
  • Candidate put a picture of her cat on top of her résumé.
  • Candidate declared himself the LeBron James of table games.

Despite these over-the-top attempts at attention, it’s understandable that job seekers want to distinguish themselves from other candidates these days:

  • According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics  recently, there are 4.8 unemployed people for every job opening.
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of the more than 2,500 human-resources managers surveyed by CareerBuilder reported they typically review 25 applications or fewer for open positions.
  • Thirty-eight percent said, on average, they spend less than a minute reviewing a résumé; 18 percent spend less than 30 seconds.

Yet there are still certain lines of professionalism that must be left uncrossed when attempting to get the attention of HR. “While it’s important to stand out from the crowd, job seekers need to make sure their résumés catch hiring managers’ eyes for the right reasons,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Job seekers need to communicate their relevant experience and utilize keywords from the job posting, while customizing their résumé for each and every position. Focus on what you can bring to the table right from the  get-go.”

Haefner offers the following tips to get you started on your road to résumé success:

Focus on achievements — Instead of simply listing the duties of your past jobs, list what you achieved in those positions. Focus on significant sales you’ve made or how you increased team productivity — and wherever possible, quantify these achievements. Doing so will show potential employers how you’ve positively affected bottom lines in the past — and how you can do the same for their organization.

Keep it professional — In other words, resist the temptation to highlight your love of alligator-watching on your résumé. Try to focus on items that are business-related, such as volunteer work or membership in professional organizations. Also, if your e-mail address has “lovesbeer” or anything comparable in it, do yourself a favor and head to a site like gmail.com or live.com to sign up for a free, more professional e-mail address.

Make it easy to read — Nix the Comic Sans. Not only are cutesy and ornate fonts hard to read, they can cause formatting issues when sent electronically. Also, use bullet points to break up large blocks of text. Doing so will make it easy for hiring managers to zero in on important points.

Customize it — According to the survey, 79 percent of HR managers said they pay more attention to resumes customized for their open position than they do to general ones. Tailoring your skills and experience to the position you’re applying for will give you a better chance of getting noticed.

Need help making your résumé pop? Check out CareerBuilder’s résumé writing services at www.CBrésumé.com. Job seekers can upload résumés and receive feedback from professional résumé writers.

8 Comments
  1. Good advice about not trying to hypnotize your hiring manager. In all seriousness, though, in today’s competitive environment, I agree that it is sometimes difficult to make your resume stand out without it being unprofessional or over-the-top.

  2. I have come to the conclusion all HR people are just like the ones I knew in my companies, lazy as Hell and impressed with superficial B.S.

    • Howard, sorry you feel that way, as a thirty year career HR professional I wish you all the best in your continued unemployment…attitude attitude attitude.

  3. We had an opening for a secretarial position several years ago and I received a resume from a former Marine and he talked about his love of guns and how he carries them with him everywhere! Needless to say, I didn’t call him in for an interview!

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