7 Reasons Your Resume Stinks (And Why Recruiters Never Call)

Your Resume StinksI’ve probably read (err, perhaps I should say “perused”) 1,000+ resumes in my time. Some of those resume are good… most really stink.

I’m usually a positive guy, but in this case – based on all the trend mistakes I’ve seen as I built, acquired and grown several businesses and personally hired every employee – I’m going to point out the seven reasons your resume most likely doesn’t pass the smell test:

1. 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).”

When building your resume think like Google – and use specific keywords that are relevant to the employer you are communicating with right now.

2. 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. Strange-Looking Date Items in Your Experience

There are three time/date-related issues 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. Too Cute

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.

Please… No images. No color schemes. No graphs for me. 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. In particular, she has seen this type of awful introduction from recent graduates:

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

Yawn! No matter what your career center said, there is no place for this kind of empty, vague statement on the resume of a real professional.

6. A 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.

And for good reason: your next employer is trying to hire you… not your last company. Be specific about your contributions – and the impact you had on the 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… where your extensive experience (jobs, internships and relevant volunteer experience) warrants, feel free to use a second page.

In all cases, stick to simple bullets and short paragraphs.

Your resume doesn’t have to suck – and when I pick it up, I want to be impressed. Avoid these seven mistakes, and you’ll get to that point… and get the interview!


For this blog post, YouTern thanks our friends at Glassdoor.com!



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.



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