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Application Fails: What NOT to Put in Your Resume and Cover Letter

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by Lisa Johnson

almost 4 years ago

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Do yourself a favour: leave the weird, the wacky and the not so wonderful out of your resume. Application fails. Every recruiter has one. The resume that contains content so weird, so wacky and so out there that you can only sit there in shock that someone bothered to send it in.  So today I am going to give you some advice on what NOT to put in your resume. Firstly, let’s start with interests.  

Do you put them in or not?  The answer, in principle, is yes.  But please think about what you are going to include.  We all like going to the movies, socialising with friends and reading.  Those interests are so generic that they are like white noise on your resume.  They add absolutely no value.  

But then even those are better than the bizarre and the weird – like the resume I saw once that included the following interest "playing with my hair." You know, if the person had been going for a job as a trainee hairdresser, that might have been just fine – but when the job you have applied for is an EA to a general manager, maybe not so much.  

And here is another fabulous example: "Interests: eating." I wonder if they were tempted to include "breathing" too? So please DO include interests in your resume IF you think they will add real value.  

Leave out the watching movies bit and include your passion for sky diving or snorkelling or playing touch football.  If you don't have anything particularly interesting to include, leave the interests out of your resume altogether.  

Better that than having a potential employer scratching their head in bemusement at your passion for playing with your hair. Now, moving on – let’s talk about your email address.  We all have them.  And once we set them up, we probably never think about them again.  But a stupid email address completely ruins the beautifully presented resume filled with lots of lovely positive things. I mean if your email address is pornstar69@... well that's going to raise a few eyebrows.  

So take a moment to think about that, if your email address sounded funny and a bit risqué when you set it up at high school, there is a good chance you don’t want to be using it for applying for new jobs.  So do yourself a favour, and set up a good professional looking email address that you specifically use during your job hunt.  Keep the washyourbits@ or the dropdeadsexy@ email addresses for home. Grammar.  

It turns out that "grammar" is not a reference to your grandmother.  I know! Go figure.   I am talking about the people who can’t be bothered with capital letters, full stops or spell check.  

You don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to put together a document with those basics. And, whilst this makes me laugh until I cry, please do NOT use words or phrases you seriously don’t understand.  Just recently we had someone use the phrase "failed to use enough pseudo-reality..." and OK, that was in an interview, not a resume, but you get my point, right?  If you DON’T know what the word pseudo means, leave it out of your vocabulary.  You are only going to confuse and amuse.

Application grammar

And don't use weird words that you have clearly found in some obscure reference book covered in dust and mould.  If the person reading your cover letter will have NO idea what it means, then they are going to ignore what you are saying.  Using big, convoluted words does not equal smart or appealing – unless they relate specifically to a technical role you are applying for. Lastly, we know that many applicants have negative experiences when they are applying for jobs: the times you never hear back, get rejected instantly and are fobbed off by employers and recruiters alike.  

And we know that this is frustrating and hurtful.  Believe me, we DO actually know it.  But if you use your application/cover letter as an opportunity to say how much you hate recruiters and how you have applied for 200 jobs but only heard back from 13 and how recruiters are all "indecent b**t**s," you are going to continue to get that "Thank you for applying…" reject email.  You might think you are going to make someone feel guilty enough to see you and give you a job, but that employer/recruiter is just going to have a voice in their head that says, "Clearly there is a reason you are still unemployed."  

So don’t do it.  You won't get anywhere if you do. Some of you are going to think I have been harsh here, but the fact is people who review resumes look for reasons to exclude your application as much as include it.  If you include the stupid, the bizarre, the offensive and the weird in your cover letter/resume, you have just handed them a reason to reject you and focus on someone else. And good luck out there!  Here’s hoping you get the perfect job with a well-worded resume (and sane email address).

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