Top Seven Reasons Your Resume Sucks

I’ve started, acquired, inherited, sold and bankrupted businesses; and I’ve probably read – err, perhaps I should say “perused” –  1,000+ resumes in my time.

Many are good…some really suck.

I’m usually a positive guy, but in this case I’m going to point out the top seven reasons a resume sucks:

1. There Are No Specifics (“Think Like Google”)

You have to be specific about your background and skills.

If you’re a programmer, you should say “Python” and “Ruby” instead of just “open-source tools.”

If you’re in finance, you should mention “Quickbooks” and “Great Plains Software” instead of “accounting software.”

If you’ve got e-commerce in your background, mention whether it was “Business to Business (B2B)” or “Business to Consumer (B2C).”

You should think like Google when using keywords (Google loves specific keywords on Web pages because they can send the relevant searcher (who may be your next employer!) to that page)).

That said, don’t throw the kitchen-sink of buzzword skills in there unless you’re truly at them.

2. There Are No Measurable Results (Numbers!)

I’m amazed how few resumes mention measurable results such as:

  • “Increased sales 25% in first year”
  • “Led 6-month launch of internal Web site.”
  • “Recruited 5 people for sales and marketing.”

If I don’t see numbers in a resume – unless I’m hiring a pure artist – I quickly close that resume.

3. There Are Strange-Looking Date/Time Items In Your Experience

There are three time/date-related things that give me pause when reading a resume:

  • Missing chunks of time – If there is an unexplained gap in time on your resume, I assume you’re hiding something. And I want to hire someone…not play hide-and-go-seek!
  • No months when there should be – I’ve seen resumes that say that the candidate worked at Microsoft from 2008 to 2009. The problem with that is I am left wondering whether they worked at Microsoft for 24 months (e.g. Jan. 2008 to Dec. 2009) versus just one month (e.g. Dec. 2008 to Jan. 2009). Bad move.
  • Too little time at each job – If I see that you averaged less than a year at your last few jobs, my “hinkle-meter” starts ringing. There’s not a lot you can do about this if it’s the truth (I don’t want you to lie), but be mindful that this is the case.

4. Don’t Be Too Cutesy

Applying for a job is not the time to try to be cute.

For example, Jason Webster of Social Recruiting Report says that he’s turned off by resumes that have a logo or picture of the candidate.

“Some of the images don’t even show up…which looks weird,” he says.

Just the facts, Jack!

5. “Painful Introductions Or Objectives”

My human resource friend Lisa Youngdahl says that many of the introductions or objectives that people list at the beginning of a resume can be painful.

She has seen this type of awful introduction from college kids:

“My objective is to obtain a challenging position with a high growth company where I can grow my skills and career.”

…and then this poor intro from experienced professionals:

“Talented, self-motivated leader with a track record of success.”


6. You Focus On Your Former Company And Not Yourself

Recruiter Jason Webster says it “drives me crazy” when applicants brag about their former company’s results and not about what the applicant has accomplished as an individual.

Your next employer is trying to hire you…not your last company.

7. Crappy Formatting

Your next employer is likely reading through dozens of resumes – and that’s on top of their already busy job.

So make it easy on them by providing a well-formatted, easy to read resume.

Mistakes I’ve seen people make:

  • An engineer sent me a .txt resume (I double-clicked on it and my text-editor opened up with some faint text and hard to read bullets – uggggly!)
  • A finance professional sent me their resume and it had responsibilities for each job in one verrrry laawwwwnnnng paragraph separated only by semi-colons.
  • Some candidates try to squeeze everything on to one page…feel free to use a second page.

Stick to simple bullets and short paragraphs.


For this blog post, YouTern thanks our friends at!

About the Author: Rob Kelly is a globally recognized CEO and Business Advisor. He was most recently CEO of Hot Topic Media, the leading company in advice-based information products; Hot Topic, with 75 people and no physical offices, is one of the largest purely virtual businesses in the world. Rob previously founded and sold Mojam, a pioneering Internet music service. Before that, Rob was a journalist for Information Week Magazine where he interviewed Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and other business leaders. Read Rob’s full bio here.

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