Unless you’re applying for a job at a pizzeria, your résumé objective shouldn’t say, “to make dough.” Nor should it be decorated with pink rabbits or include texting slang like “LOL.”
Candidates have actually made all of these mistakes, among many others—and while they probably caught the attention of their potential employer, chances are they didn’t land the job. These blunders did, however, earn them a spot on a new compilation of hiring managers’ most memorable résumé missteps.
“Every hiring manager has seen a résumé that was a bit ‘out there,’” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at the jobs website CareerBuilder.com. “These job seekers are probably trying to be clever and stand out, but it often backfires and that résumé usually goes straight to the ‘no’ pile.”
Harris Interactive conducted a survey on behalf of CareerBuilder among 2,298 hiring managers to unearth 12 of the most eccentric things employers have ever seen on résumés this year. For instance, one applicant wrote about her family being in the mob, while another candidate applying for an accounting job said he was “deetail-oriented” and spelled the company’s name incorrectly.
The study also reveals one-in-five HR managers reported that they spend less than 30 seconds reviewing applications and around 40% spend less than one minute–so it’s possible that some applicants include outlandish or inappropriate content to stand out from the crowd of candidates. But there are more professional ways to get noticed. (See “Seven Ways To Perfect Your Resume”)
“With technology, it is so easy to just click and send a résumé out, but if you take the time to tailor it, it will get more time for review,” says Haefner.” A customized résumé resonates well with hiring managers and that will help you stand out for the right reasons.”
Haefner suggests modifying your résumé for each position to showcase your achievements and professionalism, and to demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the job. But be sure to do so with clean, clear content and easy-to-read formatting. “You want to go easy on the eye,” she says. “And you should only include relevant and appropriate information.” Including a silly detail or decorating your résumé may be eye-catching, but it will bring only a gasp or a chuckle–not a job offer.
“It’s not always bad to be creative,” she adds. “But you want to be creative in a smart way.” The best way to do that is by tailoring your résumé to show who you are and what you can bring to the table. “Very few people take time to do this, so you will stand out,” she says.
Since creativity isn’t completely out of the question, CareerBuilder asked hiring managers for real examples of creative approaches that made positive impressions. Here’s what they reported:
• One 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.
• Another 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.
• An applicant created a marketing brochure promoting herself as the best candidate and was hired.
• A candidate listed accomplishments and lessons learned from each position. He gave examples of good customer service he provided as well as situations he wished he would have handled differently. He was hired.
• A job seeker applying for a food and beverage management position sent a résumé in the form of a fine-dining menu and was hired.
• Another job applicant crafted his résumé to look like Google search results for the “perfect candidate.” This candidate ultimately wasn’t hired, but was considered.
Whether you decide to be creative with your job application or take a more traditional route, your résumé must be flawless. Haefner recommends asking three or four people to edit it, as sometimes you need an objective eye to notice that some content may be sloppy, inappropriate or irrelevant.
“Think about how you want to present yourself,” she says. “Hiring managers have a big pile of résumés to review, and they are always looking for a reason to put you in the ‘no’ pile.”
When asked what would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration, employers pointed to résumés with typos, résumés that copied large amounts of wording from the job posting, résumés with an inappropriate email address, résumés that don’t include a list of skills, résumés that are more than two pages long, and résumés that are printed on decorative paper, among other things.
The bottom line is that your résumé is often where you make your first impression on a hiring manager. To avoid having it also be the last, carefully consider what you want the employer to see at a glance, and strive to stand out for having a professional, tailored document. Claiming that you’re able to speak “Antartican” or referring to yourself as a genius and inviting the hiring manager to your apartment for the interview just won’t cut it.