Resumes & Cover Letters

3 Incredibly Bad Resumes That Will Make You Facepalm

Written by Kate Lopaze

If you’re a frequent reader here at TheJobNetwork (and you totally are, right?), you know that we give you lots of information about what to do: how to structure your resume, free resume templates, what to say in an interview, how to break into your field of choice. All excellent info! But right now let’s flip the script a little: what do some of the fails look like? Specifically, what should your resume not look like? Let’s take a look at three poor souls whose bad resumes are destined for the “ugh, moving on” pile.

Rocky is just out of school, and just applied for a senior management position. We’ll call him The Mess.

Rocky B.
45 Maple Sreet
Philadelphia, PA 43434

Objective: To get a high-paying job. What I lack in experience, I bring in confidence.


PetSmart (sales associate), September 2015 – present

Badger & Sons, summer intern

McDonald’s (server), July 2014 – September 2014

Carmichael College, September 2012 – June 2016






Social media (RockyLovesLadeez on Twitter, Rocky B on MeFace)


Working on deadline


Carmichael College
Communications, 2016





Oh, Rocky…where to start? There are lots of areas for improvement here.

The Look

Let’s talk about how this resume looks to a random reader. The font is very difficult to read, for starters. You want your resume to look clean and straightforward, not like a flyer you’d see taped up at the supermarket, advertising guitar lessons. The centering also adds to this flier-esque feel. For the most part, left-justify.

The Header

Rocky also flubs his very first introduction to the reader: the header. Not only does he not include his last name, he leaves obvious typos in the address. Always, always, always proofread your resume. And when you think you’ve proofread it enough? Get someone else to read it too, just to be safe.

The Objective

Rocky doesn’t do much better with his objective statement, which is already in danger of being unnecessary. Rocky is seeking a high-paying job—who isn’t?! The objective or summary statement that you use in your resume should be put to work showing what you can offer the company. This objective tells the reader nothing about who Rocky is, what he does, or what qualifications he holds. Plus, it shows that he knows he’s unqualified for the job. A reader would see that and disregard him right away.

The Level of Effort

Overall, you can tell he didn’t put much time into this. There’s nothing but bare-bones information here. Under “Experience,” there’s nothing that tells you what he did at any of those places, no context for how that experience applies to the job he wants. Rocky’s skills don’t fare much better. They’re a confusing jumble of professional skills (again, not fleshed out with any useful information), and personal ones (which is extra unnecessary because he later lists his hobbies. Listing hobbies at the end of your resume isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it can help differentiate you in a pile of resumes. But you should be careful to list only PG ones that you wouldn’t mind your grandma reading about. (Rocky actually succeeds on this one!).

The Skills

Rocky commits an additional faux pas while listing his social media skills: it’s not a great idea to list your personal social media profiles unless you know they’re clean and professional-looking. (“RockyLovesLadeez” doesn’t inspire much confidence that this is the case.) From start to finish, this resume is one big red flag.


Let’s look at Hilary, a.k.a. The Jokester.

Hilary Peterson
88 McPherson Ave
Brooklyn, NY 55555
(999) 000-1111


Hard worker known for keeping it real (haha) seeking a full-time position as a writer.


  • Sense of humor
  • Organized
  • Outgoing personality
  • Dealing with hecklers (the worst, amiright?)
  • Writing on deadline


Sully’s Irish Bar
Waitress, 2006 – 2007

  • Waited tables
  • Provided excellent customer service
  • Handled cash and credit card transactions

Sales Associate, 2007-2007

  • Stocked shelves and participated in inventory management
  • Completed customer transactions using the store’s POS system.
  • Assisted customers
  • Set up floor displays

Peking Restaurant
Waitress, 2007-2010

  • Waited tables
  • Provided excellent customer service
  • Handled cash and credit card transactions

Braggiano’s Italian Bistro
Waitress, 2007-2010

  • Waited tables
  • Provided excellent customer service
  • Handled cash and credit card transactions

Hewitt Brothers Finance
File clerk, 2010 – 2016

  • Served as an account manager in the hedge fund division of a large multinational company
  • Processed TPS reports (only mildly soul-sucking!)
  • Maintained archive of client reports and contracts
  • Put up with ridiculous people (kidding—everyone was cool)


  • Wish You Were Here (web series), 5 episodes
  • “Living the Dream” (article, Buffington University Alumni Magazine), 2004
  • The Clarion (university newspaper), editor and staff writer, 2001 – 2004


Buffington University
B.A. in English (sigh)

Hilary’s resume is off to a good start, in that it looks like a resume. However, she starts running into problems early on.

The Header

Hilary’s email address isn’t especially appropriate. You don’t need to give up your “fun” email address (or that old AOL handle that you just can’t let go), but at the very least before you start your job hunt, create a new email address that’s a variation of your name. You can still be HotPantz or BeerPongDude to your friends and family, but potential employers should see a more professional you.

The Summary Statement

You know I love a good parenthetical joke, but there’s really no place for jokes, snarky asides, or emoji-like expressions in a resume. You want to be taken seriously, so make sure you set that professional tone.

The Skills

Again, Hilary is trying to be funny, which doesn’t work here. She also leads with “sense of humor,” which is a good quality to have, but is it her number one skill? The skills section is a chance to emphasize what qualifies you for the job at hand. Hilary says she wants to get a full-time writing job, so shouldn’t she emphasize her writing skills?

The Experience

There are two issues here. First, Hilary goes chronologically, rather than the backwards chronological order most common in resumes. That latter format is common for a reason: the employer wants to know who you are now, and doesn’t want to have to dig for that information. Second, Hilary includes jobs that don’t necessarily apply to the job for which she’s applying. Long-ago food service and retail jobs don’t seem to have much bearing on the job she’s seeking here—which is also undermined by the fact that she uses the same bullets for all of her restaurant jobs. Repetitive bullets make the reader glaze right over. Hilary should be more selective about which of her jobs she chooses to spotlight in her resume—and should come up with unique bullets for each that emphasize how that experience applies to the job she wants.

Hilary also buries the lede here: she puts her writing experience waaaaaay down at the end, when she should be putting it front and center to help show that she does, in fact, have writing experience that would apply to her future writing job.

And last but not least, let’s check in with Mary, the Jargonator.

Mary Hernandez
349 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 22222
(333) 555-6666
LinkedUp profile:

Go-getter who thinks outside the box looking to synergize experience and maximized skill set


  • Synergizing backward overflow
  • Thought leadership
  • Results-driven
  • Dynamic self-motivating
  • Best of breed


Grande Corp
Department Assistant
January 2013 – present

  • Maximize and coordinate workflow
  • Synergize department schedules
  • Coordinate B2C communications (email blasts, client outreach via telecommunications)
  • Analyze office inventory
  • Offer elevator pitches for social media campaigns
  • Hit the ground running every day


  • Adobe
  • Microsoft Office (PP, O, Ex)


Marshall Brown University
B.A., WLP 2013

Mary sounds very with-it and accomplished…it’s just a shame you can’t actually tell what she does.

The Language

When writing your resume, it’s important to strike a balance between clean, straightforward English. It can be tempting to use fancy-sounding jargon words instead of plain old boring ones, but you don’t want to do that at the expense of the reader’s ability to understand what you’re trying to say.

Structurally, the resume is fine. Mary’s problem is the content. Terms like “go-getter” and “synergized” are played out at this point, not least because they convey very little. You’re much better off using a handful of strong, specific words that describe what you do/did. If Mary had written, “Highly motivated administrative professional with strong office skills” as her objective, she’d be better off than she is using buzz words that mean very little to the reader without context.

The Abbreviations

Mary uses terms like “B2C” and “WLP” throughout, without explaining what they mean. If you’re using an acronym that may not be readily apparent to the reader, always spell it out on the first use. For example: Business-to-consumer (B2C). If you’re using a term that’s basic knowledge in your industry, then it’s probably fine to use those sparingly—but if you’re unsure, or you think the reader might not have deep technical knowledge of what you’re talking about, it never hurts to describe it a little. If the reader doesn’t understand fully what you’re saying, then it’s likely they’ll give up early and you’ll lose out on a potential opportunity.

When you’re writing your own resume, don’t be The Mess, The Jokester, or The Jargonator. Make sure everything is clean, professional, and clear, and you’ll be fine. If you have any horror-show resume moments that you’ve come across, be sure to reach out and share!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.