Signs of a Bad Resume

By Caileen Kehayas

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Legend has it that a recruiter may only spend six seconds looking at a resume before she finds a reason to cast it aside. It is widely believed that a candidate should know how to write a resume in order to catch a recruiter’s eye. Therefore, if it does not pass the six second test, it is deemed unworthy.

While this practice is not exactly advisable (and may cause recruiters and hiring managers to miss out on potentially great candidates), there are ways to recognize a resume that is just plain bad.  

Huge or Frequent Gaps in Employment

This can be a pretty big warning sign if a candidate is not upfront with an explanation. While a large time gap can signify a career or life change, frequent gaps in employment are more of a red flag.  

Changing jobs frequently or having gaps in between many jobs often leads to a candidate who is unreliable or, to put it frankly, unemployable. A reliable employee will spend at least a year at any place of employment. If a resume is showing several three, four or five month stints at different places, this may be a resume (and a candidate) to cast off to the side.

No Concentrated Experience

Imagine that you are hiring for an experienced administrative assistant. You may find an applicant who graduated from a great school and has lots of experience. There is only one problem; the experience is all over the place.

A great candidate, however, will be able to connect all relevant experience to the job at hand.  If a candidate uses her resume to relate her experiences and duties at other positions in a creative (and relevant!) manner, consider taking the next steps with this applicant.

Resume is Too Long / Resume is Too Short

There are many opinions on what is “the perfect” length of a resume. Some argue that a resume should never ever be longer than one page, period. Others argue that a resume should include all relevant information within the last 10-15 years. There is yet another subsect that will argue (yes, argue!) that all experience should be included.

Let’s face it, though. No recruiter wants to dig through a five page resume. Conversely, a resume in 24 point Helvetica taking up half a page is simply not going to cut it. If a candidate cannot fill a page with experience, she simply may not be cut out for the job.

A worthwhile applicant will be able to balance relevant work and life experience in a resume that ideally will not exceed two pages. Moreover, the information will be balanced, relevant and include experience that occurred within this century (Yes, 1999 was almost 20 years ago, guys!)

Spelingg Errors

How annoying is that header? Up until now, this article had been pretty informative and useful, but now you have that eyesore that ruins the whole thing!

Spelling errors are just plain lazy. A resume is going to the first thing a prospective employer sees; any applicant should read it once, twice and three times out loud. An applicant who sends a resume out with a spelling error clearly lacks attention to detail. That might be reason enough to throw that resume straight in the trsah.

Distracting Graphics

There was certainly a movement for zazzy resumes with fonts, colors, graphics and charts. While there are certainly still graphic design and other creative positions that will welcome a carefully crafted and designed resume, most recruiters don’t care anymore.

What do recruiters care about? Readability. Being busy people, 88% of recruiters view resumes on their mobile devices. To that end, it is crucial that a resume be produced in high contrast with good formatting and an easy-to-read font. Save the calligraphy for your wedding invitations!

In Conclusion

A resume is a very important document in the hunt for a job. While it is not crazy to expect a resume to arrive in perfect form, there can be exceptions. A recruiter can probably always find a reason to deny a candidate, but is it a good enough reason to ignore an otherwise adequate applicant?

What would be your resume dealbreakers? Please share in the comments!


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