Why Your Resume Got Tossed

The average recruiter sees 5,000 resumes a year. Any legitimate reason she finds to make one disappear makes her life that much easier and yours that much harder. Here top-level recruiters reveal how candidates blow their chance to get a foot in the door.

FORMALITY TAKES A VACATION


Don’t succumb to the informality of email. “If you send a cover letter by email that starts with ‘Hi,’ it and your resume will probably end up in the trash,” says Cynthia Shore, senior assistant dean of alumni and external relations at University at Buffalo School of Management. Treat an email as you would a proper letter: Instead of “Hi,” write “Dear Mr. Case.” Instead of “Thanks,” conclude with “Sincerely.”

 

KEYWORDS ARE OVERUSED


While some recruiters—less than 25 percent—use scanners to search resumes for sought-after keywords, resumes appear contrived when candidates consciously try to include them. Squeezing in more keywords by describing a business development position using the words needs assessment and contract analysis, for example, is a misguided strategy. Assume that a person—not a computer—will be reading your resume.

 

THINGS GET TOO PERSONAL


“If you mention your age, we have to trash your resume,” says one HR professional with a venture capital firm. Since it’s illegal for a company to solicit a candidate’s age, race, or marital status during the hiring process, firms have adopted a “don’t tell” policy to avoid potential bias suits. Many won’t risk even having it handed to them.

 

IT LOOKS TOO FANCY


“A recruiter who receives resumes in pretty plastic folders will likely toss them,” says Dave Opton, CEO and founder of ExecuNet, an online community for business executives. “I just don’t have time to take the damn things apart.” Another faux pas: Folding a resume so that it fits into a standard business envelope. “They’re easier to store and photocopy if they’re flat,” says Opton. And keep it simple: don’t try to differentiate your resume with boxes, bars, or ornate lettering. When recruiters see a resume that’s designed differently, they think the person’s trying to 
hide something.

 

YOU WILL BE GOOGLED


Unless you’ve adjusted your privacy settings, what you say and do on social networks is out there for all to see, including potential employers. In fact, 45 percent of recruiters use Facebook and Twitter to screen applicants, according to a 2009 CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers. Basically, you have two options when it comes to keeping your online identity spic and span: Remove all incriminating photos and censor your status updates and Tweets, or completely privatize your profiles. Keep in mind, though, that hiring managers could very well be in your network—or be friends with your friends—and thus able to see what you’re trying to keep private.

 

- previously published at wetfeet.com

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