The definition of a bad resume is one that does not do you justice. We will explore many bad resume examples in this blog, and they all have one thing in common:
They will make a hiring manager think twice about your suitability.
When they should be thinking otherwise.
It is a crime to spoil what should be a compelling career sales pitch with a bad resume. The worst resumes are irrelevant to the job being applied for, carelessly written (poor grammar and typos), generic, and lacking attention to detail. They are often stuffed with distracting keywords and are focused on responsibilities rather than achievements. They are also dreadfully dull.
Put simply, a bad resume wastes the hiring manager’s time.
We are going to look at some shocking examples on this blog, but the scary thing is that some people out there will think “well, that isn’t so bad.” Trust me, I worked in recruitment for five years and have been writing about recruitment for the past decade. The bad resume examples in this blog are out there right now, preventing worthy candidates from the chance of an interview and making hiring managers hit the delete button.
The examples may seem extreme, so don’t even come close. To get to a good place, you have to learn to side-step the bad.
In this blog, we explore:
- What do bad resumes look like?
- The worst resume mistakes and examples
- List of other common bad resume traits
What do bad resumes look like?
You can tell a poor resume almost immediately by the way it looks. The look of your resume is the first thing that crosses a hiring manager’s mind. Our brains process images far faster than text.
If your resume is a wall of text, it is unlikely that your future boss will be able to discern any highlights. It may put them off reading entirely. You know that feeling when you see that a film is three hours long? You think carefully about whether it is worth watching.
On the other hand, a resume that is filled with white space can look threadbare. There is a balance to be found here. Try to include all your most important information on the first page, but remember that if a hiring manager is interested, they will continue to page two.
Too much color and distracting icons or style features can also detract from your career story. When someone only has a few seconds to scan your messages you don’t want their brain thinking about how pretty your skills icons are.
Lastly, in terms of bad resume visuals, don’t go overboard on oversized text. There is no reason for your name to be in a huge font and it is debatable whether there should be any variation in font sizes at all. Sure, liberal use of bold text for heading makes sense, but larger fonts may be considered a waste of space.
7 Of the worst resume mistakes and examples
Take a deep breath. The following bad resume examples crop up more often than you would think. Some slip in amidst the haste and excitement to send off the application. Others arise out of laziness. If you want the job, take care to avoid all of them.
1. Poor grammar and typos
While the job may not require Shakespearean writing skills, the presence of basic grammatical errors or typos hints at a lack of attention to detail and a careless attitude toward the application. If you can’t proofread the resume, do you even want the job?
“I think I am a perfectly person for the job You shuld hear about the time when I done three deals in a week. I am the best sales.”
2. The summary is packed with cliches
It is so easy to imagine everyone else writing resumes with impressive sounding claims, but general cliches will not impress a hiring manager who wants to understand whether you have what it takes to do the job. Be specific in your summary or resume objective.
“I am a results-oriented team player who smashes the boundaries of what is expected. My hardworking attitude leads to guaranteed results. No one can beat my track record. A focus on success lies at the heart of everything that I do.”
3. Mirroring the job description
If you want to seem like the perfect candidate, there is a temptation to shoe-horn aspects of the job description into a resume. If this is done with relevant and quantifiable accomplishments, that is great. If you copy/paste the list of duties, that is less impactful.
“I am an experienced IT Manager with a focus on CRM integrations and rolling out marketing applications to a sales-focused organization.”
4. Generic sales pitch
If there is one thing that a resume should do, it is to make your application stand out from the rest. You can be sure that your competition has similar amounts of experience, so generic comments will not serve you well. Does your resume portray you as a unique talent?
“I want to find a job where I can work in sales. I have worked in several industries and would be open to all opportunities. I excel in both B2C and B2B settings”
5. Career issues with no explanation
If you had some glaring issues with your work history – such as significant time off, multiple jobs over a short period, or certain unfortunate redundancies – you should address them in the resume itself. Don’t think that they won’t be noticed.
If you leave these issues hanging with no reasonable explanation, most hiring managers will invent reasons of their own. They may not be favorable. Take control of your story.
6. Difficult to read
One of the worst resume mistakes is to think that a hiring manager will feel comfortable reading tiny writing. Depending on the font that you select, the font size of your resume should be between 12 and 14. The standard, however, is 12.
Be selective in the stories you tell. If the hiring manager is interested, they will be only too happy to hear more during an interview. You only need to hint at your brilliance – they will be able to read through the lines.
7. Oh, and don’t be too creative
I am sure that you know what I mean here. We have all seen viral examples of whacky job applications that garner millions of views. What we don’t see are the countless brave souls that try to be “different” and simply end up scaring the hiring manager.
Don’t be too creative. Stick to the tried-and-tested structure. Impress them with your content.
List of other bad resume traits
All these bad resume examples are making me a little sad for the hapless job seekers that make them, but there are many more. We need to mention a few more to get them off our chest. This list is not exhaustive. I beg you, just use your common sense.
- Resume is longer than three pages – a two-page resume is enough.
- The page seems like a wall of text with no white space for the mind to pause.
- Obviously exaggerated achievements don’t fit with the nature of your position.
- Incorrect or inappropriate contact information – choose a professional email.
- Not including interests/hobbies. The resume should contain a little personality.
- Poor grades on your education – leave them out and keep it general.
- Unimaginative list of skills that make you blend in with the competition.
It isn’t ideal to put negative thoughts in a job seeker's mind when they sit down to write their resume, but all the above things should be actively avoided. These bad resume examples will possibly mean that your application is buried before it even started.
You should realize that everyone has their own definition of what a good resume looks like. Some hiring managers will see hundreds of them pass across their desks every year. They will have high standards. If you are not making an obvious effort to meet these standards, they will likely come to various conclusions about your suitability.
- Look at your resume with a fresh pair of eyes – are there any issues?
- Take your time to tailor a resume that is suitable for every position.
- Format it correctly and remember that visuals matter as much as words.
- Be as self-critical as possible. If you can make a small improvement, do it.