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Dumb mistakes job applicants make

With unemployment rates spiking and a cut-throat job market, how do you stand out among the masses and impress a hiring manager? For starters, you don’t list “to make dough” as an objective on your resume.

CareerBuilder asked nearly 2,300 hiring managers around the nation to share examples of resume dos and don’ts. Although these were employers in the private sector, those seeking a job in government could learn a lesson or two about avoiding common pitfalls. Hiring managers in both sectors will be impressed -- or provoked to gales of laughter -- by many of the same things. For example, some lessons in how not to do it:

  • Candidate called himself a genius and invited the hiring manager to interview him at his apartment.
  • Candidate applying for a management job listed “gator hunting” as a skill.
  • Candidate specified her resume was set up to be sung to the tune of “The Brady Bunch.”
  • Candidate listed “to make dough” as the objective on the resume.
  • Candidate applying for an accounting job said he was “deetail-oriented” (yes, spelled like that), and misspelled the company name.

On the other hand, here are some creative ideas that worked -- in the private sector. Is the government still too rules-bound to allow this kind of freedom?

  • Candidate made his resume in the form of a Rubik's Cube, where tiles had to be pushed around to align the resume. He was hired.
  • Candidate who had been a stay-at-home mom listed her skills as nursing, housekeeping, chef, teacher, bio-hazard cleanup, fight referee, taxi driver, secretary, tailor, personal shopping assistant and therapist. She was hired.
  • Candidate created a marketing brochure promoting herself as the best candidate and was hired.
  • Candidate listed accomplishments and lessons learned from each position, giving examples of good customer service he provided as well as situations he wished he would have handled differently. He was hired.
  • Candidate made his resume to look like Google search results for the "perfect candidate." Candidate ultimately wasn’t hired, but was considered.

When asked about dealbreakers that would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration, hiring managers included these top 5:

  • Resumes with typographical errors – 61 percent
  • Resumes that extensively copied wording from the job posting – 41 percent
  • Resumes with an inappropriate email address – 35 percent
  • Resumes without a list of skills – 30 percent
  • Resumes that are more than two pages long – 22 percent

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Jul 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM

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Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.


Reader comments

Wed, Aug 1, 2012

One applicant for an internal promotion at my agency included a cover letter with his application threatening an EEO lawsuit if he didn't get the job. The selection committee included a black woman who saw that and immediately said she was vetoing that person's application on the principle of the thing. Actually she had a few more choice things to say about this guy, but not anything I'd care to repeat in polite company.

Mon, Jul 30, 2012 Wally USPS

Worst one I ever saw was a resume where the applicant went into some serious bad mouthing of her previous employers. Not just her most recent employer, but everybody she had ever worked for. Only impression we got out of her rant was that this lady brings a whole sack of crazy to work with her.

Sun, Jul 29, 2012 Susan F.

Can we include some of the "DUMB" mistakes employers have made in this article? 1. We have modified the laws on equal employment opportunity to suit the needs of criminal investigation through uneccessary background screens for positions that are not in high-security areas.

2. Allowed illegal distribution of Social Security Numbers through resume collection for corporate databases.

3. Destroyed privacy laws through collection of biometric data for employment by non-federal agencies.

4. Destroyed Federal Security Clearance issuances through public data access.

5. Allowed employment agency marketing of closed or false positions on career / job boards.

6. Allowed online collection and distribution of personal identity information for credit checks (social security numbers, addresses, tax credit information, credit card pin numbers, etc.) which not is disseminated or secured properly by non- federal employers and their agent or affiliated corporations performing non-federal functions.

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