Putting together a resume can be challenging. What should you put in and what should you leave out? What makes you stand out from the other applicants and what puts your resume to the bottom of the stack? These hiring managers let us in on the secrets. From terrible typos to interesting skills, here are some of the best and worst things you can put on your resume.
Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!
#1 14 Pages
It was 14 pages... He was applying for a finance position and had 5-10 years experience. There’s only so many different ways you can describe finance responsibilities and summarizing is a skill. The guy never pitched for the interview.
#2 Creative Resume
I work at an Escape Room. We once received a resume that consisted in a webpage address protected by a password and three well-crafted riddles that we had to solve to get the password. We spent an hour doing it with two colleagues and it included decrypting a code from a specific frame of Zodiac by David Fincher. It was simply amazing. Sadly, we weren't hiring at the time, and she had found another job when we started hiring again.
#3 Funny Typos
I had a funny typo on a resume I once reviewed. It read: "Liquidated the lead florist on site." Obviously, it was meant to say "assisted."
#4 Weird Application
I was working for a small digital agency and we were looking for designers and illustrators—general multi-skilled creative types. The boss wandered in with a sly grin and a big folder. It was from a guy who wanted a job. I came over and he started flicking through it. Page after page of inappropriate cartoons. So I was like, "Well it's quite good for what it is... but what else is there? Is there another section?" Nope. Nothing else. It was just a folder completely full of vector cartoon people and anthropomorphized animals.
#5 Don't Need That Info
A guy put his bench, squat, and deadlift numbers in his personal skills section for a bar job. It spawned a long tradition of asking bartenders what they could bench when they applied for a job.
#6 QR Code
I was hiring for a very competitive IT role last year and one guy, who didn't have the best real world experience, added a single QR code at the bottom of his CV. I scanned it and it took me to an online portfolio, including a secure lab with simulations he'd ran, allowing ME to test scripts he'd written and also play around in his lab environment. Honestly, I'd never seen anything like it. The guy got the job and has continued to be a great fit.
#7 Good Resume
I had a kid applying to work at a Sam Goody as a stockboy write that he was a petroleum transference engineer for Exxon at his last job. His job was pumping gas, I hired him on the spot.
#8 Raid Leader
Once I received a resume that had "Raid leader for WOW in top guild of a server" written on it. This was about nine years ago. The other hiring managers laughed and said the guy was a joke and they all dismissed him. I asked the guy to come in for an interview and he did pretty well. I hired him.
The reason I brought the guy in for interview was because I was an avid WOW player at that time and I know what raid leaders go through. Trying to get a large number of people together, coordinate resources and rewards, getting guides together, telling people to up their healing/dps, and not stand in fire. All done virtually. You need some great leadership skills and project management. Also at that time I was dealing with a lot of people offsite so I thought this guy would be a good fit.
Nine years later, the WOW guy I hired turned out to be great—especially when corporations decided that working from home and virtual meetings are the way to cut cost. His skill set as a raid leader translated very well with remote project management and he is now the manager of the hiring managers that laughed at his resume. This was at a Fortune 500 financial company.
#9 Didn't Read the Description
“I would like to work at your factory.” I don’t have a factory. Read the job description.
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#10 Signed, Cat
I received a resume from an applicant that included a letter of recommendation from his cat. The letter was hilarious and signed with a clipart paw print. I thought it was great and wanted to bring him in, but the manager for the position wasn't as crazy about it. I guess the point is, humor in an application can work for you but it really depends on the person.
#11 Average Grades
A guy submitted a resume claiming to be a ghostwriter for a local college. In lieu of a college degree, he listed the units he wrote assignments for and the average grades his clients got.
#12 Wrong Company Names
I have several CVs that will never make the cut. I keep them in a non-GDPR proof binder hidden out of view. I work as an IT recruiter:
- A CV with a picture of a man in only his boxers. No headshot, just his abs, boxers, and legs. We did not call the guy.
- Several CVs with people ranting against the government, religion, or anything else. Obvious proof of mental disabilities. People writing things such as, "I will do the time for the offence I may or may not have committed." I haven't called any of them.
- Cover letters with the wrong company name on it. So many cover letters with the wrong company on it. Recruiters will forget to change your name when sending you an email, applicants will forget to change the name when applying. We really need to get rid of mandatory cover letters. I'll still call them if their profile is decent.
- People being open about just putting their CV online so they can keep their unemployment benefits. At least they don't waste my time.
#13 Wind and Design
For years, I was applying for jobs with a high school qualification for art and design listed as "wind and design." I got two jobs in that time and countless rejections.
#14 This is Odd
I had a resume from a potential interview candidate that listed his reason for leaving his last job as: "I found a body." No further explanation. You bet your sweet patootie I called him in for an interview. The condensed story is that he found a body while walking the grounds at his job checking to make sure all gated areas were secure and clear of debris. When he found it, he called the authorities. He was fired because he broke internal reporting protocol. He was supposed to notify his immediate supervisor and not outside authorities. It was the supervisor's responsibility to call the authorities.
#15 Awful Email
Bad emails. When interviewing for a professional position and your contact email is 69SMOKAHGURL420BLAZING it a terrible way to start the resume.
#16 Good Advice
I was reviewing resumes to be forwarded on. It was more about what wasn't there. These were primarily people who were trying to transition from IT to IT security. I saw plenty of resumes stuffed with IT certs and whatnot, but barely any of them took any time to go get qualifications for the field they wanted to work in.
You've got to realize you have to get someone to pick you out of all the candidates. You need to show them that you actually have a drive and a passion for it. When I got my first security job, the hiring manager told me that what interested him was that I had a bunch of security certs, that told him this wasn't just any sysadmin applying at whatever. Now, of course, my passion came out in the interview and secured me the job, but to get there I had to get noticed. My advice, if you're trying to transition, I don't care so much about what you used to do as much as what you can do in the future, and your resume needs to speak to that.
#17 Fair Warning
I had one application dropped off by the applicant’s mother. She told me, “If you hire him, you probably shouldn’t trust him with money.”
#18 Dream Job
Hired for a junior UX role. An applicant's CV header was, "Your bubbly UX designer" which was good enough to warrant an interview. In the interview, when we asked what her dream job was and she answered, "Juventus F.C. manager". We knew she was a keeper.
#19 Video Interview
My uncle works in marketing and told me about an applicant who sent them a video file as a resume where he presented himself like one would present a product in a commercial. He immediately wanted to hire him for his creativity alone.
#20 Overdid It
Sometimes I review applications and resumes for design positions. As they’re typically made by competent designers, they usually look a bit nicer than the average resume. I reviewed one resume for a woman fresh out of college. The top quarter of the resume was a big, artsy signature in blue with her name on top of it. Her portfolio was an Instagram account (which I don’t really recommend unless your job is making art intended to be on Instagram).
The next quarter was her experience. This woman’s “volunteer experience” was picking up trash in a forest once seven years prior (likely when she was in high school). The next half of the resume was a list of skills that made no sense because of how they were written and because there wasn’t anything to back them up. Things like “working independently and in a group,” “problem solver,” “marketing skills,” “detail-oriented." I’m all for soft skills, don’t get me wrong. But if you have half a page of skills and can’t get a job, maybe it’s an indicator that you don’t actually have those skills.
I had a candidate who worked in counselling in the past, mostly with kids who had been through trauma. They had a line on their resume that said: "Expert in child kidnapping." I had to at least give them an interview because I understood the intent but the wording was just hilariously unfortunate.
#22 Too Much Computer Time
In response to our posting for a software developer:
SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS
- 22 years experience as a full-stack web developer
- BA in Organizational Management
- Spent too much time on the computer during childhood.
He was hired within the week.
His second language was Klingon. Too bad the guy was a total idiot during his interview
#24 I Will Not Complain
Someone had on their resume, “I do not complain. I’ll do what you ask and I won’t complain. I’m willing to work hard and go the extra mile... without complaining. I do not like complainers and whiners and I will never be one.” I called him immediately. He’s been here six years now and is easily the most reliable employee we have. He complained one time though. Another employee accidentally set him on fire and he said he didn’t want to work with that guy anymore.
#25 USB Skills
I once wrote things like, "Able to plug in USB on the first try" and "Can do up to 10 push-ups before going into sleep mode," in the additional skills section. They later told me I was invited for an interview because they wanted to see if I really can do the first one.
#26 Resumes Mean Nothing
I’m a General Manager for a smaller retail/food sales company. I stand by something I heard a while ago, that I’ve confirmed in practice. A resume doesn’t mean much when you’re lower level. I can train you to do the job. I can’t train the attitude I want to have in my store and have my customers see. With the exception of highly technical jobs, I’d be willing to bet this holds true in more places than people want to admit. Think of how many people you’ve seen get trained to be better at a job than the person who knew how to do it previously. Personality, willingness to learn and work, and customer service skills.
#27 Not Appropriate
I was looking for a casual sales person. This 18-year-old put a selfie of her which was taken in a car showing alot of cleavage. Not what I was looking for. I guess she was hoping I was a middle-aged single man.
I helped a buddy revise his resume. I formatted it and organized it, but I left some spots bolded and told him he had to fill them out. Under one of his jobs, it said: "Add some bull with fancy adjectives here." He didn't revise the resume and applied to a ton of jobs with that line left in there. I have never laughed so hard.
I got my first IT job because I put in additional skills modifying Fallout 3 using GECK. I just loaded custom packs and got them to work and they gave me the job miraculously even though I was underqualified.
#30 A Nice Card
One time, I interviewed a guy and went with another candidate. Maybe a week after the interview, I received a card via USPS with a note that said thank you for the opportunity to interview for the position. I was taken aback by it as in all my years, I’d never received anything like that... it made him stick in my mind. I reached out to him the next time a position opened and he got the job. To this day, he’s the only person who’s ever sent me a thank you card after being rejected for a position.
#31 Bad References
Every reference has a sentence or two about how we shouldn't call them because they 'parted on bad terms' or it had been a while. Some applicants listed references who, when called, barely remembered working with the person.
#32 Bad Experience
I once had someone indicate that they had eight years of experience with a specific, very unique product. That product had only been around for two years and initial development had only begun four years ago. When asked about it, they claimed that they were on the development team and were the person that came up with the product. I had been on the six-person team since its inception and knew everyone involved.
Also, I had someone list a previous position from two years ago on their resume at the company I work for. It was the exact position I currently held, at the same organization. It appeared to be almost copy-pasted from my job description. I had been in that position for almost five years.
#33 Didn't Proofread
I had someone hand me a resume with the HTML code of a URL for a dirty movie mixed in mid-way through. I guess he was watching an inappropriate video while updating his resume and somehow dragged in a link. I guess he didn't proofread it.
#34 Not Enough Experience
When I was a hiring manager (IT/software development), I saw plenty of resumes from contractors where it was just a long list of companies that they worked at for less than a year.
I had a resume come in from a guy we fired about two years previously. He had a gap in his employment during the time that he had been with us.
#36 Fire Breathing
This is actually something I keep on mine. In additional skills, I include fire breathing. It's true as I spent time after college performing in my own fire breathing comedy show, but I have had it called out multiple times in interviews as something that popped my resume to the top of the stack against similarly qualified people because it's interesting. They wanted to ask me if I was lying or not.
#37 World's Youngest Person
I once saw under achievements on a CV: Former world's youngest person. It made me laugh so much I gave them an interview. In the end, they didn't sell themself well enough to get the role, but it brightened my morning of filtering.
#38 Nine-Page Resume
I've told this story before, but it's one of my favorites. I work in an analytical field where programming and mathematical skills are pretty important. I had a candidate for a lead analyst position submit a nine-page resume (which was already a deal breaker). The last page was entirely dedicated to skills and attributes. The highlights were "extremely beautiful" and "highly skilled in math (obviously)."
The candidate was an adjunct professor at a local tech school. They had a Master's degree in statistics from a mid-level state university. So yes, they were qualified—but definitely not as remarkably qualified as they thought they were. The candidate did get an interview, believe it or not. But they weren't hired.
#39 Indoor Horticulture
One resume read, "Expert in 'indoor horticulture'..." Indoor horticulture was in quotes.
#40 Do You Work for In-N-Out?
I was a hiring manager at a major hipster clothing retailer and now I work in manufacturing. I mostly oversee production and logistical matters, but I do handle the hiring and HR for my team which ranges from three to five people. In both fields, I've found that anyone who worked for In-N-Out for more than a year is a solid hire. The way they train people and the sense of urgency and pride in work that they instill in their employees is fantastic. I almost feel like one of those parasitic insects that makes another species do the hard work of child-rearing when I score a former in n out employee.
#41 Papyrus Font
Someone sent over their CV written entirely in the papyrus font from Microsoft Word. May as well have gone all out and used windings.
#42 Dirty Handprint
Not so much the content of the application, but what was on the application. A handprint. It was for a food handling position and he was grungy enough to leave a print from where he held down the paper to write on it. Instant no. Looking back, yeah, there was a chance he'd have been fine, we could have taught proper handwashing and all that, but at the time we declined to grant an interview.
#43 Attention to Dealtail
“I have incredible attention to dealtail.”
#44 Plagiarized Resume
I was on a hiring committee for a college instructor. The candidate was asked to provide a statement of commitment to the college and its mission. An entire paragraph was plagiarized. It was copied and pasted from a website. I noticed that the writer's voice drastically changed, so I pasted a sentence into Google and immediately found the source. He did not get an interview.