Here's How Far Job Seekers Will Go to Get Their Resumes Noticed


Recruiters and hiring managers know this to be true: You can see some pretty odd things in resumes and candidate cover letters.

Anyone who has spent much time dealing with job seekers knows that it can be difficult to sort through the mass of applicants looking for a job, and sometimes, people push the envelope a little too far in an attempt to get their resume to stand out from the pack.

It's a worthy goal, but people often go too far, making you wonder: What were they thinking?

When applicants go too far

No one knows this better than CareerBuilder, the job board giant, because they see more applications and resumes than just about anyone else. Because of this, they see a lot of resume weirdness as well.

As CareerBuilder rightly points out, the pressure to have their resumes jump out from the stack in front of employers is high, and that can often result in getting a little too creative or perhaps outright fabricating.

According to a new CareerBuilder survey, more than 3 in 4 HR managers (77 percent) report having caught a lie on a resume, and, in addition to embellishments, CareerBuilder’s survey reveals other outlandish and costly mistakes candidates have made.

Candidate stress isn’t coming out of nowhere. Among HR managers -- those on the front lines and gatekeepers for which applicants get in front of the actual hiring managers -- more than 2 in 5 (43 percent) said they spend less than a minute looking at a resume. Nearly 1 in 4 (24 percent) spend less than 30 seconds.

With so little time spent by the gatekeepers screening resumes, it behooves candidates to do whatever they can to make their resume stand out, right?

Well, maybe, but sometimes in their zeal to get attention, an applicant can go a little too far.

Cringe-worthy resumes

According to the national CareerBuilder survey conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder by Harris Poll between May 11 and June 7, 2016, more than 2,100 full-time, U.S. hiring and human resources managers in the private sector across industries and company sizes found these notable and cringe-worthy real-life resume examples gaffes:

  • An applicant stated they had great attention to detail, but “attention” was misspelled.
  • An applicant claimed they worked at a federal prison. A background check determined he was actually incarcerated at the prison during that time.
  • An applicant stated they had been a prince in another life.
  • An applicant listed a skill as “taking long walks.”
  • An applicant used direct quotes from Star Wars in their resume.
  • An applicant claimed he would work harder if paid more.
  • An applicant wrote the following at the end of their resume: “I didn’t really fill this out, someone did it for me.”
  • An applicant listed smoking under hobbies.
  • An applicant’s name was auto-corrected from “Flin” to “Flintstone.” His name was Freddie.

5 things that help resumes get noticed

My take: As goofy as these sound, they all point to one thing you can't lose sight of -- recruiting and hiring managers can get hundreds if not thousands of applicants for a given position, making it hard for any one candidate to stand out. The odds of getting noticed are long, but they're even longer if you include goofy stuff like this on your resume.

CareerBuilder's press release on this survey also included "five things that HR managers say make them more likely to pay attention to an application," and it's a good list because it might help candidates get noticed for the right reasons. Here are the top five that hiring managers listed:

  1. Resume has been customized to their open position -- 63 percent;
  2. Skill sets are listed first on the resume -- 41 percent;
  3. A cover letter is included with the resume -- 40 percent;
  4. Application that is addressed to the specific hiring manager --  22 percent;
  5. Resume includes a link to a candidate’s blog, portfolio or website --16 percent.

These are good suggestions, but many candidates won't seem them as game-changers to help them get noticed when they apply for jobs. That may be the case but it just points to the folly of applying to a job board ad or some other posting that is guaranteed to get a lot of applications.

For a candidate to really get noticed, they need to do something else -- like connect with someone inside the company who might be able to help separate them from the pack. Without something like that to help, most candidates will just get lost in the shuffle -- or resort to goofy resume gaffes that only get them attention like this.

Editor's Note: Talent Insider is fueled by Checkster, and Checkster has several products — like the Reference Checkup and Interview Checkup — that can help to make sure you make smarter hires.