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5 Real-Life Resume Blunders You Can Be Glad You Didn’t Make

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Your resume can be the key that unlocks the door to a new job. Or, it can be the blast of cold wind that slams the door shut before you ever get close to an interview.

We asked some employers to tell us about the biggest resume blunders they’ve experienced—and they had plenty to share.

So, while you’re busy unifying your fonts and running spell check, don’t lose site of the big picture. Here are five resume mega-blunders to avoid at all costs:

1. Dude is a Lady?

The CEO of Lexion Capital Management gets plenty of “dear sir …” cover letters from job seekers. Problem is, Elle Kaplan is decidedly a woman, and Lexion is one of the only 100 percent women-owned and operated investment firms in the U.S.

Applicants, she said, have “been assuming that I am a male! Huge mistake.”

Moral of the story: Don’t make assumptions! Do some research and figure out to whom you are sending your resume. Failing that, be gender neutral. And, no, we’re not talking about “dear sir or madame”—unless, of course, you’re applying for a job in 1974.

2. Template Troubles

A resume template can be great…as long as you don’t forget to fill the thing out. Elaine Simon of DeBebians.com received a resume from an applicant who obviously used a template.

“Seeing the telltale ‘ABC School – Sometown, NY’ on a resume definitely sends that candidate directly into the trash,” Simon said.

Moral of the story: Pay attention to the details. Proofread your resume, then have your mom, local grocer or stranger on a bus give it a look before you fire it off into cyberspace.

3. Artificial Accolade

Consultant Barry Maher received a resume that boasted that the applicant had won something called the “Executive Merit Award.” The problem was, no one at the guy’s former company had heard of the award.

“He simply replied that it was probably because after he’d won it three years in a row, the company retired the reward in his honor,” Maher said.

Moral of the story: Real accomplishments are impressive; fake ones, not so much. So don’t lie on your resume. It seldom turns out well. Oh, and an embellishment is just a lie by another name.

4. Unfortunate Upload

Vanessa Hojda, a York psychology student in Canada, thought she was sending her resume to a prospective employer via email. What she really sent was a photo of a wild-eyed Nic Cage, causing her job search to go viral.

Moral of the story: Again, pay attention to the details so you only send what you intend to send. When you save your resume, give it a name that’s easy to identify.

5. You Know Too Much

There was a time when we would have said you could never do too much research for a prospective job. That was before we talked to Steve Jones, VP of programing for Newcap Radio.

“[A job candidate] knew my wife’s maiden name, and the names of my kids,” Jones said. “He referenced not only things that I had accomplished in my career, but family events that he should have no knowledge of. Using social media, he had gone deep and done his research.”

Moral of the story: Research is good, but stalking is not. Focus more on the industry, the company and its competition than on the actual hiring manager’s personal life. (That means no rummaging through his trash cans.)

Have you made any resume blunders that you can (finally) laugh about?

Luke Roney is the content guy at CareerBliss, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness at every stage of their careers.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id= Anonymous

    Thank you for this article! If Dear Sir or Madame is archaic, what can job seekers use?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=119455501406110 ZipRecruiter

      It’s best to do a little digging online (or even on the phone) to find out who the hiring manager is. Check out the company’s website to see if they have a team page, find them on LinkedIn, etc. You can then address the correct person while showing that you’ve put in extra effort.

      When you can’t find the hiring manager, then consider something a little more personable. For example, “Dear XYC Team.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000088222240 John Dubock

      If you have Gmail download http://www.rapportive.com then incoming emails give you a total picture of the person emailing you. Having an About.me bio page doesn’t hurt either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=271703022904314 Careerleaf

    Great article, Luke! Resume mistakes can be downright frightening. Many of these mistakes are simple errors that could have easily been edited upon further reviews. Job seekers should keep in mind that a “once over” of their resume just doesn’t cut it. The most interesting point you’ve made is in regards to knowing too much about a hiring manager. While it’s important to be knowledgeable about the company you’re applying to, there’s certainly no need to use the personal details of the hiring manager to your advantage.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=119455501406110 ZipRecruiter

    I, for one, love Nic Cage, so Vanessa would have been a shoo-in for an interview ;).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1087248447 Morana Medved

    Regarding resume attachments, I hate receiving 20 files titled “resume” that I then have to rename and sort – put your name in the resume title as well as the word resume. And omit words like “final draft” or “v5″ I don’t need to know how many previous versions of the resume you have.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682863479 Emily Sheridan

    Thanks for clarifying the “stalking” thing :-) Seriously, very good article – thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002541150265 Mina Grace Drake

    Good article with concise points to remember. I agree it is very important to know who you are sending your resume to. Ultimately business is one person interacting with another.

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