When your resume makes you seem like a jerk (and other reasons you might not be interviewed)
Peter Harris| Jun 13, 2013 1:53 PM
Did you know that your resume can give employers the impression that you might be a pain in the butt to work with?
Hiring managers generally form their first impressions of what a person may be like based on reading their resume, and they usually choose who to interview based on this sentiment.
So if your resume gives potential employers a reason not to like you – you’re probably not going to get that call. Here are some of the ways that your resume can keep you from being interviewed:
You’re giving the impression that you might be a pain
As I mentioned, your resume is likely the first impression you’re making on an employer – so don’t blow it with unnecessary personal red flags.
One recruiter recently told me: “I was recently reading a resume for an editorial position that included this line in the objective statement: “Must be for a company that highly values diversity and sustainability.” I actually do value both of those things. However a candidate making such demands in the first line of their resume will stop me from bothering to read the rest of it. Show me why I would want to hire you in the first place before you start making demands about my values.”
Another candidate closed his resume with the line, “Given my obvious qualifications, if I am not selected for this position, I expect to be informed of why.”
Really? You expect that, do you? I wouldn’t wait by the phone. Even if everything else about your resume was absolutely brilliant, that sentence at the end would kill your chances right there. (Because you sound like a demanding jerk.)
You’ve made a mistake
Spelling mistakes, typos and misused words can sink your chances. Think about it, when employers are looking through numerous resumes trying to pick the best few to interview, why would they select someone who hasn’t taken care enough to submit an error-free application? It speaks to a candidate’s motivation, attention to detail, or capabilities. You look like you either can’t produce work without mistakes – or you’re simply not motivated enough to bother producing it.
I was recently reading a fairly strong resume from another candidate for the editorial role, and – while she had all of the experience, skills and publications that I was looking for – there was a fairly obviously misused word in her cover letter. Especially for an editorial role, you simply can’t make language mistakes.
That same cover letter was also in two different fonts, randomly. I can only assume she had cut and pasted several documents together and then somehow not noticed that is looked weird changing fonts halfway through and then changing back at the end. She didn’t get interviewed.
You aren’t qualified for the role
Or you haven’t communicated how you are qualified for the role. If you don’t have the skills and experience that an employer is looking for, they won’t be calling you in for an interview. (And some employers are so annoyed by having their time wasted, they’ll black list you from future opportunities that you might actually be qualified for.)
Similarly, if you’re convinced that what you have accomplished in one role or industry can apply to a job in another field, you have to make that explicitly clear in your resume. Employers won’t do the math for you about how your skills may be transferable. Show what you can do for them specifically.
Otherwise it may just look like you’re desperate for a job and randomly applying for everything out there – whether or not you’re a good fit for it. Those people don’t get called.
Sometimes no one reads your resume in the first place
Some jobs are highly competitive, especially in a tight job market, and the employer may simply receive too many applications to read them all. Also with many companies using applicant tracking systems to filter applications by keywords, if you haven’t included the exact terms that they’re screening for, your resume won’t be seen by human eyes. Read more about using resume keywords.
Once employers have a short list of resumes to choose from, they still don’t want to have to interview too many people. At that point they’re reading resumes specifically to find a reason not to meet with you. Make sure you’re not making a poor first impression – before you’ve even had the chance to meet.
What most employers think you’re lying about (and what you should actually lie about)
Be honest. Is everything on your resume accurate?
Most employers don’t think so. They are becoming increasingly skeptical of what candidates claim about their skills and work history. In fact, a recent survey by the recruitment firm Employment Office found that over 80% of employers believe that candidates are lying on their LinkedIn profiles.
67% of the 300 hiring managers and business owners surveyed said that candidates are most likely to lie about their past job titles and responsibilities. The other major areas where they feel people are most likely to fudge the truth are about the exact dates of previous employment, their education and their exact qualifications.
Said, Tudor Marsden-Huggins, the managing director of Employment Office, “It is the same with LinkedIn as it is with life, untruths are usually uncovered at some stage. It’s best to portray yourself with truthful information to avoid damage to your reputation if and when colleagues find out you’ve lied and exaggerated.”
So we asked Workopolis recruiters and members of the HR community where they find the most common half-truths, exaggerations and outright lies on resumes. Here’s what they told us were the most widespread falsehoods:
- Education – HR managers surveyed said that many people who have even just started an educational program will claim to have graduated and obtained the degree even if they only took a few courses.
- Employment dates – People often fudge the dates of their previous employment in order to exaggerate their tenure in a role or to mask periods of unemployment in between jobs.
- Second language proficiency – Candidates with a conversational knowledge of a second language often claim to have native fluency. This is particularly true of people with Canada’s high school French skills applying for jobs requiring written bilingualism. It doesn’t work out.
- Job titles – People most often tweak their job titles either to match the role they’re aspiring to land or in order to more accurately reflect the work they were doing at a previous job when they think their actual title undersells their contributions.
- Technical skills – This is the most insidious lie of all because it is the least likely to be caught in the screening process. There isn’t likely a central phone number that an employer can call to determine if you actually do know HTM5. However if you get hired for a role that requires that skill, you’re going to land in hot water when you’re expected to actually use it on the job.
How do people get caught lying on their resumes?
While more and more companies are instituting policies of only giving minimal information to reference callers about past employees, they will confirm some basic details. Most HR departments will at least corroborate your job title, how long you worked there, and what your salary was. (Inflating their past salaries is the other big lie that recruiters say many candidates try to get away with. But as this is not often done on the resume itself, it didn’t fit with my list above.)
So, despite the temptation to make yourself look better and give yourself an edge over the competition, lying about your skills and experience on a resume or LinkedIn profile just isn’t worth it. Even a quick phone call to tight-lipped past employer can blow your cover on most of the biggest lies. And an exaggerated technical skill or language proficiency that you just don’t have will quickly come to light on the job.
You don’t want to lie about your ability to do a job in order to get hired. You might however, want to lie about the things that have nothing to do with your abilities that could still prevent you from getting hired.
Here are a couple of career lies that you actually should tell:
I never worked there. Okay, don’t literally say that. But if you worked at a job that ended badly for you in a way that can hurt your future chances (fired for cause, extremely short tenure, etc.), simply leave it off your resume altogether. Only list the relevant jobs where you’ve learned skills or made contributions that can help future employers. Your resume is a document marketing your credentials – it doesn’t have to be a comprehensive list of everything you’re ever done.
My old boss was the greatest, and the whole team rocked. Nobody likes everyone, and there are some truly terrible bosses out there. However, even if you’re right and the team really were a bunch of jerks where you worked before, saying so will sink your chances of getting hired. It is essential that employers see you as friendly, positive and as a great team player. Slamming your old boss will only make you look like a complainer and have them wondering what you’ll be saying about them next.
I’ll confess. As a student, I was once let go from a book store for fighting with the manager on duty over the music. She said that head office dictated the playlist for the store so we couldn’t change it. I tried to make the case that forcing anyone to listen to ABBA Gold Greatest Hits on constant rotation for four nine-hour shifts in a row was simply inhumane. It didn’t end well for me. I’ve left that job off my resume ever since.
Have you ever lied on your resume? Did you get caught? Please share your stories with us!