Recipe for Disaster: Resume Gaffes to Help You Lose the Job of Your Dreams

In my years of hiring, promoting, and firing people, I saw a lot of resumes come across my desk. Most of them, frankly, were boring. Some of them were interesting and intriguing, and in many cases, the owners of those resumes won jobs and career advancement.

However, even those wonderfully formatted, intelligently worded resumes of stellar candidates have become hazy. I remember those people from the careers they built, not their resumes. The plain truth is that the only resumes I really remember are those with glaring errors or whopping blunders.

There are a lot of rules about how to write a resume and common resume mistakes, many of them posted online at various job search Web sites. That doesn’t keep people on the straight and narrow, however.

My Top Five Resume Blunder Peeves

  1. Lying. Resumes can sometimes be a bit more, shall we say, poetic than is common in normal document writing. However, outright lies on your resume will simply get you into trouble. Lies can include outright falsehoods: degrees you don’t have, job titles you never had, employers that never existed. Lies can also include embellishments such as stretching employment dates and particular achievements that may have happened in your office but not by you, as well as omissions such as former employers you might not want to list. We’ve all seen the consequences – sometimes right on the front page of the local newspaper – of lying on a resume. Don’t do it.
  2. Bashing your former employer. It is tempting to get a good dig in at your former employer, especially when things didn’t work out between the two of you. Your old boss may have been overly critical, bad at his job, or just plain mean, but none of that belongs on your CV. First of all, it’s bad taste. Any employer who hears you condemning your previous boss is going to wonder how you’ll behave if you’re hired by their company and things go south. It’s bad enough to say these things – and you should never do so – but putting them on your resume makes them permanent. Very dangerous. Lastly, most industries are small, and many managers know each other. Once, a very good friend who worked for another company received a resume from a new candidate – one of my then-employees who I had recently put on probation. The employee had written a long, and utterly false, diatribe about me being interested in him romantically, which made him uncomfortable. Not only did my friend call him on this lie, but she also sent me a copy of his resume. His career with my company ended that day, with nary a prospective position in sight.
  3. Bashing a prospective employer. Being in-the-know is cool. And sometimes, especially if you’ve been in an industry for a while, you are privy to a little dirt. I have seen resumes that made reference to the failures of competing companies or even particular employees of competing companies. Any manager, however, will see through this attempt to position make yourself look better at the expense of others – and will put your resume aside. Always remember – discretion is tantamount for most companies today, and you’re not an insider yet. Don’t gossip, especially on your resume.
  4. Stupid typos. Face it – with the advent of the Internet, we are all public faces now. While everyone makes the odd typo now and again, your resume should not include them. This should be one of the most thought-out documents you ever produce, which means that you should proofread it many, many times. Even if you have an amazing career history and an amazing body of work, seeing a typo on a resume has about the same effect on the psyche as a supermodel sporting a booger. It just ruins the overall impact of your effort.
  5. Getting too personal. Repeat to yourself: it’s just business. If you ultimately get the job and make friends, more power to you. In the beginning, however, you need to remember that an employer is simply trying to fill a hole on his team. Your recent nasty divorce, your thieving ex-girlfriend, your heart-warming hobbies, your political proclivities, and your love for Family Guy are very likely not relevant to your employment. Moreover, these personal asides could turn off a prospective employer. I once had a candidate send me a resume with an entire section devoted to her plans, should she be hired, to spend “every working hour” converting me and my staff to her religion, which she said was her main reason for living. Do I respect her commitment in real life? Sure. Do I want an employee who says outright that her workday is going to be devoted to something other than my business, and possibly making my staff uncomfortable? Absolutely not.

Services like will go a long way to help you stand out with a better resume that you can enhance and share in ways an old resume will never do, but you still need to watch out for the pitfalls of a bad resume. Remember that a resume is marketing collateral for you and you’ll go far.

How about you? Have you made any job-finding blunders or have you seen some? Share your comments below.


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