Are These the Most Outrageous Resume Blunders? You Be the Judge

© Paolese -
© Paolese -

Do old-fashioned resumes still work?

There’s an ongoing debate that never seems to end over that topic, but whether they do or whether they don’t, one thing is certain: a lot of people seem oblivious to the dumb, silly and outrageous things that they put on them.

That’s what makes CareerBuilder‘s annual Most Outrageous Resume Mistakes so much fun, because no matter how little time recruiters and hiring managers actually spend on individual resumes (40 percent don’t spend more than a minute), these faux pas‘ seemed to stick with them, as CareerBuilder notes, “for all the wrong reasons.”

When asked to share the most memorable and unusual applications that came across their desk, hiring managers gave the following examples:

  • Candidate’s cover letter talked about her family being in the mob.
  • Candidate applying for a management job listed “gator hunting” as a skill.
  • Candidate’s resume included phishing as a hobby.
  • Candidate specified that her resume was set up to be sung to the tune of “The Brady Bunch.”
  • Candidate claimed to be able to speak “Antartican” when applying for a job to work in Antarctica.
  • Candidate’s resume had a photo of the applicant reclining in a hammock under the headline “Hi, I’m _____ and I’m looking for a job.”
  • Candidate’s resume was decorated with pink rabbits.
  • Candidate listed “to make dough” as the objective on the resume.
  • Candidate applying for an accounting job said he was “deetail-oriented” and spelled the company’s name incorrectly.

CareerBuilder’s Most Outrageous Resume Mistakes survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of careerBuilder from May 14 to June 4 among 2,298 U.S. hiring managers and HR professionals (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) ages 18.

The pollsters also asked the hiring managers/HR pros what they saw that they thought worked on a resume — the creative things that made a positive impression that led to a job offer — and this may actually be more interesting (although slightly less fun) than the dumb stuff.

Examples of what worked

Some of these more positives resume tricks included:

  • Candidate sent his resume in the form of an oversized Rubik’s Cube, where you had to push the tiles around to align the resume. He was hired.
  • 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.
  • Candidate created a marketing brochure promoting herself as the best candidate and was hired.
  • 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.
  • Candidate applying for a food and beverage management position sent a resume in the form of a fine-dining menu and was hired.
  • Candidate crafted his resume to look like Google search results for the “perfect candidate.” Candidate ultimately wasn’t hired, but was considered.

“One-in-five HR managers reported that they spend less than 30 seconds reviewing applications and around 40 percent spend less than one minute,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, in a press release that accompanied the survey.

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She added: “It’s a highly competitive job market and you have to clearly demonstrate how your unique skills and experience are relevant and beneficial to that particular employer. We see more people using infographics, QR codes and visual resumes to package their information in new and interesting ways.”

“Drop dead” resume mistakes to avoid

The survey also asked hiring professionals what were “drop dead” resume problems that would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration if they saw them. These won’t be surprising to anyone who is involved in the hiring process, of course, but they are still good to keep in mind:

  • Resumes with typos – mentioned by 61 percent of hiring managers surveyed;
  • Resumes that copied large amounts of wording from the job posting – 41 percent;
  • Resumes with an inappropriate email address – 35 percent;
  • Resumes that don’t include a list of skills – 30 percent;
  • Resumes more than two pages long – 22 percent;
  • Resumes printed on decorative paper – 20 percent;
  • Resumes that detail more tasks than results for previous positions – 16 percent;
  • Resumes that include a photo – 13 percent;
  • Resumes that have large blocks of text with little white space – 13 percent.

I’m not sure what an “inappropriate email address” might be (unless it’s the job seekers current employer, which would be the ultimate faux pas) so maybe some of you can enlighten me on that one. I also think that some of the resume “problems” listed by less than 20 percent of the hiring managers get a little nit-picky and seem to reflect more of the personal preference of the hiring pro rather than some universally accepted resume blunder.

But, all this focus on resumes just goes to show you that, yes, they still matter here in the year 2012 for a whole lot of people. Keep that in mind the next time you hear someone start ranting about how they aren’t very useful or necessary anymore.

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.