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Articles

Résumés that stand out for the wrong reasons

Globe and Mail - Sep. 02, 2011

By: Wallace Immen

When there’s a lot of competition for jobs in a slow-moving economy, every applicant wants to stand out from the crowd.

But a new survey finds that, too often, people put information in their résumés that has them standing out for all the wrong reasons.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of 2,660 human resource managers interviewed by job website CareerBuilder.com said they make decisions on whether to trash an application in less than one minute.

And the HR managers recalled some memorable gaffes that immediately disqualified applicants. Among them:

  • A candidate who said the more he was paid, the harder he would work.
  • An applicant who was fired from several jobs but included each one as a reference.
  • A job seeker who listed her dog as a reference.
  • A hopeful candidate who listed the ability to do the moonwalk as a “special skill.”
  • Co-applicants – a husband and wife looking to job share – who submitted a co-written poem.
  • An applicant who listed “versatile toes” as a job skill.
  • A candidate who applied using only his first name.
  • A job history which included the fact that the applicant was arrested for assaulting his previous boss.
  • A proofreading-impaired applicant who submitted this declaration: “I would be a good ass to the company.”

“In a crowded job market, a stand-out résumé can be the difference between getting the interview and being lost in the pile. But job seekers need to ask themselves if they’re standing out for the right reasons,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice-president of human resources at CareerBuilder.

She offers these tips for making your résumé outstanding for the right reasons:

Stay relevant

Remember that you’re only applying for one position at a time. Describing every job you’ve ever had will not help hiring managers understand why you’re the best person for the position they’re filling. List only your experience that is relevant to the job description, or reword your past experience so that it’s clear it will transfer to the new role.

Go easy on the eyes

If you hold your completed résumé up to a light and can’t see much white space, you have a problem. Use formatting – bullets, line breaks, headings, readable fonts, wide margins – that guides the reader’s eye to the bottom of the page. Keep your descriptions to the point and trim out any unnecessary words.

Include a professional summary

Rather than writing an objective at the top of your résumé that states what job you want, craft a professional summary recapping your relevant experience in one or two sentences. Done well, this may persuade hiring managers to spend longer than a minute with your application.

Proofread repeatedly

A lot of hiring managers will toss any résumé that contains spelling, grammatical or formatting errors – regardless of your past experience. Even if you can’t find any typographical errors, e-mail your CV to friends and family to be sure. Odds are they’ll find something you missed. Fix it, and then send it.