6 Dumb Things Employment Recruiters See People Do

Photo: Gangplank HQ

Back in the day I used to work as a "headhunter" for companies on a national basis. It certainly was an eye-opener to discover what people will or won’t say when it comes to the hunt for a good job. It always surprised me that so-called professional people seeking six-figure incomes kept making the same juvenile mistakes over and over when looking for a new job. Personally, I always felt if these people were writing "great written communication skills" on a resume where their names were misspelled, they were not fit to be called upon for vacancies.

Whether or not you are using a recruiter for your job search, there is a good chance you are also making the same mistakes I used to see time and time again. Even now when helping family and friends update their resumes I see many common errors that could cost you a shot at a good job.

Here are six dumb things you should consider before turning in a resume if you really want that job. (See also: 8 Job-Getting Tips From a Guy Who's Hired 500 People in the Last 5 Years)

1. Just Running Spell Check and Sending Off the Resume

I often wondered if people even read what they had turned into our recruiting office. While that may sound funny, I bet many people never actually went back and read through their entire resume before attaching it to their email. As a result, there were so many stupid mistakes, but these potential candidates claimed they paid great attention to detail. Right!

While technology gives us the convenience of spell check and a built-in thesaurus, you need to rely on your brain to make sure your resume actually makes sense. As months go by, make sure you are updating your resume each time a change occurs. Lots of candidates lost out on jobs when their emails were returned to me as non-working or phone numbers had changed.

2. Not Promoting Yourself Properly

I cannot count how many times I have received a resume from an executive-level candidate that was basically a fill-in-the-blank template. It is understandable you would want to have a resource to help you draft your resume, but if you are looking at an executive position, you should be able to do more than fill in some blanks about yourself.

Your resume is a summary of your career and achievements and should work for you, not against you. Complete several drafts of your information until you are able to provide a clear, concise, and accurate summary in a professional-looking format.

3. Not Defining What You Want

As part of a resume, you have the opportunity to express your interests and job preferences in the top section usually labeled as "Objective." Simply stating that you want a paying job is just not good enough. It’s already obvious you want a job — thus the resume submission. You should be more specific about what you are looking for within the specific position being offered. If you can’t tell the hiring agent what you want to do, don’t expect many opportunities to get hired.

4. Not Reading the Job Posting

It was very frustrating to read the many resumes and cover letters that came in that had absolutely no relevance to the actual position to be filled. Whenever you submit a resume for an advertised position, be sure to craft your cover letter and gear your resume toward the actual requirements of the job. Not all jobs are the same, but if you are sending the same information over and over, don’t be surprised when you don’t get a call for an interview. Let the employer know why you would be a good fit for the position that is available. If you don’t stand out in some way, you will surely sit at the bottom of the pile.

5. Not Properly Utilizing the Cover Letter

Granted, many people do not learn the art of resume writing in high school or maybe even in college, but there are enough free resources available to give you a clear idea of what is expected when you are applying for a job using a resume. A cover letter should be attached to your resume with every submission. This cover letter can make or break your chances for getting further in the hiring process. You have a chance to capture the employer’s attention in this letter to make them want to keep reading. Cover letters should be professional looking, well written, and relevant to the job vacancy. Go online or to the library and brush up on the fundamentals of a resume cover letter.

6. Thinking Resumes Don't Matter

Jobs are already tough to come by, and every level of job is highly competitive. Don’t slack on creating a good resume for yourself even if you have to pay for assistance. If you do hire someone, play an active part in creating your resume and don’t expect your writer to just make up information that looks good on paper. Your input is vital to a truthful resume.

Don’t forget to get a list of references together prior to submitting one to a potential employer and double check with every person on that list that you have their permission to be used as a contact. There have been many occasions in my run as a recruiter where references were clueless when contacted which makes a candidate look irresponsible.

Your resume and cover letter is your first impression on a recruiter or potential employer. If you want to stay in the competition, you need to ensure you are providing the best representation of yourself to the employer so you can be successful at securing a job of your choice.

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Guest's picture

In regards to your first point, this is probably the most critical thing you touch on. Too many people are too lazy to even go back and read over their resume, assuming that everything is in place, but a spell and grammar check can often mess things up causing you to state something a different way than you'd want it stated. The best thing to do it craft your resume, spell check it, re-read it, then leave it a lone for a few hours or an entire day then go back to it with fresh eyes. Having another person look over it is also a good way to ensure that you have everything sounding proper.

Guest's picture

Perhaps, as a high-demand application developer, I have the luxury to tell off recruiters, but it astounds me how many head-hunters fail the same requirements you list here. My resume clearly states my geographic restrictions and my skills/experience. Yet countless times, I receive emails with poor spelling/grammar regarding positions across the country, involving skills that I either lack or intentionally omit from my resume (I never want to touch COBOL or Visual Foxpro again). On top of that, the job-descriptions they send to me usually consist of nothing more than some industry buzz-words, often conflicting or nonsensical. As with lawyers, 95% give the other 5% a bad name.

Guest's picture

To spell check my resume, I first read it backwards. This stops me from glancing at words because I know what I wrote and allows me to focus on each word individually. I then read it out loud. Many times what sounds good on paper isn't really good English.

I always hated crafting my resume and cover letter for each job I was applying to but did it for the most part. When I did, I would hear back from the company - not always but a good amount. On the ones where I just blindly submitted, I never heard back.

Guest's picture

I think the Objective section in a resume is wasted space usually. If you've applied for a job, it should be assumed that your objective is to obtain that position. If a hiring manager wants further insight into your long term aspirations and career goals, that's what a phone interview is for.

Guest's picture

I look forward to adding your resume to the 'no' pile

Guest's picture

Nice input! Being an Executive search consultant I feel very rueful to reject job seekers because of the silly mistakes that they have done. Cover letter is much needed with every resume and it is a nice way to present yourself and get your resume to shortlisted.In the objective section of resume, most of the people just copied the popular lines which is really very funny indeed!

Guest's picture

I wonder if writing this makes me a bad person, but:
isn't it ironic that someone who writes "I often wondered if people even read what they had turned into our recruiting office" also writes in this article "Here are FIVE dumb things you should consider before turning in a resume if you really want that job"?

Amy Lu's picture
Amy Lu

Oops! Thanks for catching the error, Guest! I've corrected that line accordingly. =)

Guest's picture

Okay, first of all, HR people need to get THEIR act together as far as what they expect from a candidate. Having been forced to be in the job market for the past two years, I'll give you some insight on my frustrations from the candidacy level.

1). Cover letters are supposedly on their way out, and so if you require one, it stands to reason that they may not be the works of art you are expecting. In fact, half of all the applications i have submitted either did not require a cover level or specifically did NOT want one. So, make up your minds, HR folks!

2). There are far too many electronic HR application programs and it seems everyone thinks theirs is the greatest thing ever developed. These things take way too long to fill out, and in most cases, if you've done your resume properly, are redundancy in the system. If a person has done their resume properly, why should they have to fill out a lengthy application? And, if the application is supposed to be the catch-all, end-all, then why place any emphasis at all on the resume? You're sending mixed signals, here HR people!

3). While I realize that there are so many people looking for jobs, you have difficulty sifting through all of the applications, don't assume that somebody with overlapping qualifications is automatically not fit for the position. I have been told so many times that if I had only had this, or only had that; when, come to find out, I did have those things and they would have surfaced had I been called in for an interview.

In the immortal words of Forrest gump, "Stupid is, as stupid does". Job candidates are not the only ones who produce "dumb" mistakes. A great many of you HR folks need to reflect on the garbage you are producing as fodder for your applicants. Also, remember that a lot of your applicants may also be from a time when computers were not as prevalent as they are today and the people were not as computer saavy.

We used to have a saying way back in 1980, "GIGO: garbage in, garbage out". If you produce a bad product for hiring people, then you're not apt to get the best people for the job.

Guest's picture
Jill Scott

A good recruiter will give you honest feedback whether it is good or bad. If it is bad, they might never call you again because you are not marketable but they will deliver the news to you regardless so that you can continue in your job seeking efforts. It's all about doing your best in an interview because, it's either you will be hired or not.