Hiring managers share most memorable résumé mistakes

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Any human-resources professional or career expert will tell you that résumé customization is key to standing out in a job search. They’ll also stress the importance of including information about your background and skills that might spark the hiring manager’s curiosity and make her want to take a second look. However, they’re unlikely to recommend divulging such personal information as your ties to the mob, your genius status or your glory days as homecoming prom prince.

While you might think that’s stating the obvious, you’d be surprised to find what lengths job seekers will go to in order to catch an employer’s attention.

CareerBuilder asked hiring managers to share the most memorable and unusual job applications that have crossed their desk. Answers included:

  • Candidate called himself a genius and invited the hiring manager to interview him at his apartment.
  • Candidate’s cover letter talked about her family being in the mob.
  • Candidate applying for a management job listed “gator hunting” as a skill.
  • Candidate specified that her résumé was set up to be sung to the tune of “The Brady Bunch.”
  • Candidate highlighted the fact that he was “homecoming prom prince” in 1984.
  • Candidate claimed to be able to speak “Antartican” when applying for a job to work in Antarctica.
  • Candidate’s résumé was decorated with pink rabbits.
  • Candidate listed “to make dough” as the résumé’s objective.
  • Candidate applying for an accounting job said he was “deetail-oriented” and spelled the company’s name incorrectly.

When creativity works
While some job seekers may take their creativity too far, you can still find ways to infuse originality into your job search. Just make sure that any creativity you integrate into your résumé is applicable to the type of job you’re applying for and aligns with the prospective company’s culture.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, says that given today’s highly competitive job market, job seekers need to clearly demonstrate how their skills and experience are relevant to the employer. “We see more people using infographics, QR codes and visual résumés to package their information in new and interesting ways,” Haefner says.

Here are some examples of candidates that tried the creative approach, made a positive impression and were ultimately hired:

  • Candidate sent his résumé in the form of an oversized Rubik’s Cube, where you had to push the tiles around to align the résumé. He was hired. 
  • Candidate who had been a stay-at-home mom listed her skills as nursing, housekeeping, chef, teacher, bio-hazard cleanup, fight referee, taxi driver, secretary, tailor, personal shopping assistant and therapist. She was hired.
  • Candidate created a marketing brochure promoting herself as the best candidate and was hired.
  • Candidate listed accomplishments and lessons learned from each position. He gave examples of good customer service as well as situations he wished he would have handled differently. He was hired.
  • Candidate applying for a food and beverage management position sent a résumé in the form of a fine-dining menu and was hired. 

Mistakes to avoid
According to the survey, there are certain guaranteed deal breakers when it comes to the style, format and content of a résumé. When asked what would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration, employers’ top responses included résumés with typos (61 percent), résumés that copied large amounts of wording from the job posting (41 percent) and résumés with an inappropriate email address (35 percent).

Other responses included:

  • Résumés that don’t include a list of skills — 30 percent
  • Résumés that are more than two pages long — 22 percent
  • Résumés printed on decorative paper — 20 percent
  • Résumés that detail more tasks than results for previous positions — 16 percent
  • Résumés that include a photo — 13 percent
  • Résumés that have large blocks of text with little white space — 13 percent

Check out the following articles and videos for more résumé-writing advice:

Brave enough to share one of your own résumé mistakes? Or were you hired after using creativity in your job search? Tell us about it in the comments section.

7 Comments
  1. Having spent many years working for the 2 largest public and private outplacement firms in the world, I can say that I agreed with some of the things in this article. But, I also take exception to some of the things because the author is lumping resume tips for all levels of employees into one in this article. What is acceptable for a blue-collar resume won’t work for a management resume. And what is acceptable for a management resume won’t work for an executive resume. The reader would have been better served if the author had either qualified the info for various levels of employees, or had written more than one article.

  2. I agree with you, ccs. Resume structures vary by career or industry. What format works for one area does not work for another. While this article does have its merits, I don’t 100% agree with the Creativity aspect. That alone is a random bullet. Resumes are truly common sense:  created and targeted per specialty. A Creative resume would be appropriate for an artistic or media opportunity but not business management.

  3. @CareerBuilder Really? Because on mine it says that I’ve got my mind on my money, and money on my mind. Haha people are nuts!

  4. @CareerBuilder I knew a woman doing an interview and the candidate asked her out on a date during the interview. He didn’t get the job.

  5. Great points in  the article and even better clarification from cssceo.  Yes, interests might be totally appropriate for a teen or 1st-year college student resume, but not necessarily for management, unless, of course, it is relevant.  Some things mentioned are totally inappropriate and somethings, maybe not-so-much.  Some of it is pretty funny stuff no matter the level.

  6. Different points in article.  Mostly fresher make mistakes in resume and fresher have less things to write in resume. Recruiter can easily find mistakes in resume.  Experienced people have experience section in resume  and mistakes get ignored by recruiter.  One more thing there is need to change resume according to requirement.  It is very bad habit of forwarding same resume for all company.

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