Is your resume failing to get the response you’re looking for from potential employers? Maybe they’re not even reading it.
There are some common resume blunders that can turn employers off even before they get to the sections describing your skills and experience.
These details can make or break your chances of landing an interview just as much as your credentials — because it doesn’t really matter what your credentials are if the employer already dislikes you before even reading them.
Here are five reasons employers might reject your resume without even reading it:
Your file name
I don’t mean the title at the top of your resume — although that does matter, and I’ll get to that — but the actual file name of your document. Many people simply call their resume resume.doc or resume.pdf. If an employer is receiving hundreds of applications for a position and saves the top candidates on their computer or in a shared folder — how are they supposed to keep track of all the resume.docs?
I’ve written about this before because it perfectly illustrates the problem with filenames. I once received an application for an editorial assistant with a resume called something like Paul_WriterJobsResume-2012_updated.doc. Think about that. Before I even open the document, I get the impression that Paul applies for various kinds of positions and this is his ‘writer jobs’ resume, and that he may or may not have updated it since 2012.
Do hiring managers a favour. Save your resume as your name and the name of the job you’re applying for. Paul for example should have saved his resume as PaulSmith_Editorial-Assistant.doc. Easy fix. Much better first impression.
Your resume title
This issue is equally easy to fix. Your job title at the top of your resume should be the same as the title of the job you are applying for. Make the change every time.
If the body of your resume can’t back up that job title, then you shouldn’t be applying for it. If it is a stretch that your past work experience can set you up as a candidate for the role, then do the math yourself. Write the description of skills and accomplishments to demonstrate how they are assets to the job you’re applying for. Employers won’t make that connection for you.
If your resume title doesn’t match the job title you’re applying for it can look like you’re applying for the wrong job — or you’re simply using one generic resume to apply to just any or every job. Don’t do that. Customize your resume for every job application. Start with the title.
Your email address
Sometimes you can tell a lot about a person by their email address. (And if that is the case, it is usually all bad.) For example, if your email address is TheHendersons@email.com or BobandSue@email.com, you look out of touch. Nobody should be using a shared or ‘family’ email address — especially not to be applying for jobs.
If your email address is at the domain of your current employer, then it appears as though you’re applying for jobs on your boss’s time. That’s not a good impression to make with your future boss.
We don’t even need to discuss what’s wrong with your StonerDude@email.com or CutiePie@email.com addresses. Email is free. Get an account that is just your name — or as close to your name as possible, and use if for applying to jobs.
If you have a common name and need to add a number to it to secure a distinct address, choose wisely. For example, using BillSmith1956@email.com could give the impression that you are 60 years old. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you don’t want potential employers judging you by your age before they’ve even had the chance to look at your qualifications.
Many employers have a bias for local candidates. If your residential address is in another city or province, they may be less inclined to consider you as a viable candidate. There could be added costs involved in bringing you in for an interview or relocation costs if you’re hired. There could be delays as to your availability if you have to move your family to a new city and set up residence before starting work. It just seems faster and cheaper to hire locally.
I once worked at a downtown office with a VP who wouldn’t even consider candidates from the suburbs. His reasoning was that sure they could commute, but would they want to stay late for a product launch? Would they pull an all-nighter with the rest of the team at crunch time? It wasn’t fair, but suburban candidates just didn’t suit his vision for the cool downtown team he wanted to build.
If you know you’re relocating to the new city for certain, consider getting a phone with the local area code in advance, so that you can use the local number on your resume. It’s not dishonest if it’s your actual phone number, and you won’t be asking the employer for travel/relocation costs.
Another strategy is to use the address and phone number of a local friend on your resume, and have them take messages for you when employers call. This is slightly less honest. However, the key to both of these solutions is making sure you’re available for interviews (or starting work) without added delay. You’re not necessarily trying to ‘trick’ the employer, you just don’t want to get ruled out for perceived inconveniences that won’t actually occur.
Some recruiters recommend remote candidates just list their email address as contact info. This can work, however some hiring managers say that they consider the lack of a physical address to be a red flag.
Since employers receive many more applications for most positions than they can possible consider in depth, let alone hire, their first reading of resumes is generally only between a five and ten second scan to determine which ones to reject outright and which to set aside for further review. (That’s why all the details at the top that I’ve just mentioned are so important.)
Finally, before even getting into the content of your resume, employers can be turned off on that initial scan by the formatting. If it isn’t easy to see at a glance where you have worked and when or what your recent job titles have been, employers may simply move on to the next, more reader-friendly, applicant in the pile.
Make sure your resume is all in the same font. Use short paragraphs and bullet points to make key accomplishments pop. List your work history in reverse chronological order starting with your most recent job. That’s among the very first things employers will be looking for.
Paying close attention to the file format, title, and contact details will go along way towards getting employers interested in reading the more important information about what you can actually do for them.
Peter Harris has served as chief editor @ Workopolis, Yahoo!, Sympatico, MSN & Monster.