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Top 5 resume turn-offs

Posted on August 24, 2016 in

I recently had the task of reviewing 50+ resumes to produce a shortlist of applicants for interview for an administrative role. With so many resumes to look at, I had limited time to spend on each one. And with so many applicants, it didn’t take much for me to put them on the ‘no’ list. So how did I go about sorting the good from the bad?

Here are my top five resume turnoffs, with tips for both job applicants and employers looking to create a shortlist.

1. Spelling or grammatical errors.

Most guides to resume writing will list the number one resume ‘no-no’ as having spelling or grammatical mistakes. Despite this warning, the message is not getting through. Finding a resume without mistakes is like the proverbial needle in a haystack.

For job applicants: Use spellcheck but also ask a friend or family member with a reasonable command of English to read your resume and highlight any mistakes.

For employers: If you’re looking for someone with strong written communication skills and/or an eye for detail, spelling mistakes are a good indicator that the applicant is unsuitable.

2. No cover letter.

Applicants who fail to prepare a cover letter not only lose a valuable opportunity to sell themselves; they also demonstrate a half-hearted attitude towards getting the job.

For job applicants: If applying online, attach a cover letter in MS Word format. Do not type or paste text into online fields unless there is no other option – the resulting text files are very difficult to read.

For employers: If the applicant isn’t prepared to spend the time writing a tailored cover letter, they probably aren’t going to go the extra mile when working for you.

3. It’s all about me.

Applicants who justify their interest in the organisation or role on the basis of how good it will be for their development or career forget that recruitment is a two way process.

For job applicants: Don’t forget to say how your skills and experience will benefit the employer, not just how great it will be for you.

For employers: Look for applicants who recognise your needs as an employer and who are able to demonstrate that their skills and experience will be of benefit to you.

4. Information that detracts from your application.

Avoid including information that indicates an average ability or that can create a negative impression. For example, listing a typing speed of 30 words per minute for an administrative role requiring a lot of typing is certainly not a positive!

For job applicants: If you can’t make a claim to be good at something, best to leave it out of your resume all together.

For employers: Watch out for applicants who are happy to advertise their mediocrity.

5. No relevant experience.

Many people apply for administrative roles thinking that it will be an easy entry into a new sector or organisation. Having no actual administrative experience doesn’t deter them. Resumes can list a variety of prior work experience including anything from retail sales, hospitality and childcare to working on a cattle property.

For job applicants: Adverts for administrative roles typically result in a large number of applicants, so if you have no relevant experience for the role, consider whether it is worth your time applying.

For employers: Look for applicants with at least some relevant experience in a similar role or industry.