Professional Development Resumes & Cover Letters

Why Your Resume Was Thrown in the Trash

Written by Peter Jones

We’ve all been there. Proactively firing resumes into the void, uploading and submitting them to job after job, hiring manager after hiring manager, and getting no response.

If you’re wasting a whole lot of time and bait and not getting any nibbles, double check that you’re not making any of the following rookie resume mistakes.

1. Aiming too high

Ambition and confidence are both great qualities, and necessary to succeed. But part of the job search process is knowing which category of job you’re qualified for. You’re allowed to stretch for the top branches, but you want to make sure you’re not in the forest trying to stretch up all the way to Mars.

Send resumes to jobs within your current qualification and experience bracket, then a few tiers above. Recruiters will take your resume more seriously.

2. Inattention to formatting

This doesn’t even mean your indents are inconsistent. This means they specifically asked for .pdf or .rtf and you submitted a .docx. It seems like such a small detail, but sometimes different formats are incompatible with certain systems. You’ll be asking the recruiter to do an annoying bit of extra work before they even open your resume and, probably, they won’t.

3. It’s pretty, but it doesn’t say much

You’ve designed your resume to the hilt. It’s a work of modernist art. Up on all the latest trends. Complete with snazzy infographics. But if your recruiter can’t get the basic information needed to assess your skills and experience, you’re sunk. Make it clear, concise, and accessible. Stylishness within those parameters is gravy.

4. Language and grammar mistakes

You didn’t spell check, you didn’t proofread. You didn’t even make sure you used the same font. You misspelled “cadndidate.” The recruiter is hitting delete so fast, you won’t even know which particular error was the culprit. Pay attention to these details. It will be glaringly obvious if you don’t.

5. Too many multi-syllabics

They’re assuming you passed your SAT. You don’t need to throw every fancy word from your old standardized test study guides at them. Stick to clear language that correctly conveys what you need them to know.

6. Dishonesty

Don’t lie. Period. You will get caught eventually. Even if you make it past the resume screening process to the interview. Even if you get hired. Be honest about where you’ve worked and what you know, and don’t try to sweeten anything up beyond the realm of truth.

7. You’re too persistent

Play a little hard to get. Calling every three hours to ask whether your resume has been received will only annoy the hiring manager. Rather than nudge them to get to your resume faster, this will likely backfire and send it straight to the trash.

8. You’re too much

Did you send flowers or chocolate? A singing telegram? Include a headshot for a job that doesn’t need one? Write an honest, but slightly desperate note about why you want an interview so badly? Send one too many weirdo signals and you’ll end up in the weirdo pile. Stay professional.

9. You overshared

There are a ton of resume creation aides online. Bottom line: you need to include your name, your contact information, and a chronological list of your work and education history, plus any relevant skills or certifications. You do not want to include your birthday, favorite color, personal information, race, sexual orientation, or your membership in political groups. You’ll only look like you don’t know what you’re doing. And you might even offend someone. Stick to the basics.

About the author

Peter Jones