How Not to Write a Resume: Seemingly ‘little errors’ that would get your resume thrashed!

Posted by | November 2, 2015 | General, Interview Tips


It was a hectic drive to work as usual. My freshly sprayed SUV escaped being scratched by the whiskers a couple of times and I managed to beat the last traffic light to make it to the office just before 8am. I hurried through the hallway nodding intermittently to acknowledge hellos and smiles from my colleagues then paused momentarily by the percolator to get my morning dose of coffee before zooming for my workstation. I knew it was going to be a long day and I had better hit the ground flying.

I am a professional recruiter. Oh, sorry…we are now called talent acquisition specialists. But whatever the nomenclature is, I am in the business of sourcing and assessing talents for employers across every sector of the economy and we are currently handling a Mass Graduate Trainee Recruitment brief for a Multinational FMCG company. An advert was placed to this effect in the National Dailies and we received 35,000 applications.

This pool was however reduced to 2,000 using the basic shortlist criteria provided by the company. Now I am faced with the daunting task of reviewing these 2,000 CVs with the target of producing a shortlist of 300 suitable candidates who would be passed through an aptitude test. Successful candidates would then be further passed through an Assessment Centre for the final selection of maybe 30 or 35 candidates who would then land this dream job.

I have between 8am and 5pm today to turn in the shortlist of 300 candidates as agreed on our Service Level Agreement with the client and failure wasn’t an option for me.

My sleeves are now rolled up, my coffee mug half empty and my mouse is clicking away at the folder warehousing the CVs on my desktop computer.

As I clicked open the first CV, a little frown crept on my face. It was in a JPEG format and of course had to come in 3 separate parts since JPEG could only capture a page at a time. I had to squint to read the first few lines then paused to take a deep breath. This was a bad CV. I didn’t want to start my day like this. I wondered how the CV scaled through the initial screening stage as I deftly cut it from the folder and sent it to my ‘KIV’ folder. Of course I may never open that CV again before this process is concluded.


Rule 1: Never Save Your CV in a Picture format! 

The exception to this rule is if there are specific instructions stating that your CV should be saved/uploaded or mailed in a picture format – the possibility of which I doubt. Saving your CV as a picture reduces the quality and readability and most annoyingly splits it into several separate documents unless it’s a one pager which, of course also isn’t an advisable option.

The preferred format is PDF and maybe MS Word unless otherwise stated. PDF ensures your alignment, margins and tables (if you must use one) stay intact and are not altered when being transferred or uploaded.

I clicked open my 2nd CV in anticipation of a better experience. I wasn’t disappointed, immediately that is. The document was well laid out, and the lines were double spaced which made for easy reading. Then the applicant’s e-mail address froze my eyes dead in their sockets, thugbaby4life@yahoo.comNow I thought I’d seen them all but these definitely takes the pie for terribly constructed e-mail addresses.


Rule 2Keep your funny e-mail addresses within your circle of friends – prospective employers/recruiters do not get thrilled by them!

Your resume is your official ‘spokesperson’, and you will be judged by every single letter that appears on it. Tell me, if you were a consultant – would you want to forward a CV with that sort of e-mail address to your client? A Multinational at that? I don’t think so.

Please make it a rule to keep your e-mail address simple.  A combination of your First and Last name would do just fine. Figures or a full stop could be introduced if another user already has an e-mail account in that name.

My day progressed and as I surfed through tons of CVs, hunger pangs began to strike and my colleagues’ intermittent chit chat began to draw my attention. I had been glued to my computer screen for 3 straight hours and my attention had begun to wane. The target however compelled me to keep up the work pace but there was no way I could survive the next CV that unfolded on my screen. The candidate had a picture of himself at the top right corner.  He had a wide grin on his face and was clad in a Manchester United Home Jersey. I did a double take. This had to be some joke. What was this fellow thinking?

What if I was a diehard ‘United hater?’ (and I know loads of them) What if I just totally think soccer is overrated and the game’s enthusiasts are nothing but jokers?

Ok, flipping it, what if I was a diehard United fan? Well we might have something there but of course the odds are stacked against that likelihood. So would you want to risk your chances of securing your dream job on such chances?


Rule 3: Nobody really wants to see your picture on your resume! Your CV is not a biography!

The only exception to this rule is if your would-be employer specifically requests for your picture…another possibility I totally doubt. If anyone requires seeing what you look like before meeting you, they most likely would ask you to upload your picture on their platform and of course, you had better be dressed formally in the picture.

What are the chances that your prospective employer/or the recruiter reviewing your CV would like what you look like in your picture?

True, recruiters are professionals and should not allow subjects like looks (when it is not a requirement for the job), football club affiliations etc. becloud their judgement…but you do not want to take such chances with your dream job do you?

As a matter of fact, the candidate suddenly appeared to look like a fresh graduate I interviewed  a couple of months back who mentioned ‘Current Affairs’ as one of his hobbies on his CV.

It was quite an unusual one and I was impressed. But I decided to dig a bit further: “Please what is the full name of the current President of the Senate?’ He raised an eyebrow and replied cockily “Namadi Sambo”. My reaction couldn’t have been worse if I was hit with a sledge hammer!


Rule 4: Never ever put any information/statement you cannot defend on your CV. Nothing can discredit you faster than this!

It is a “crime”. The integrity of your entire resume would instantly come under doubt.  By now I am totally famished and this last resume with the funny picture had sapped the last vestiges of strength within me. I had to take a break and pay a quick dash to the lunch room.


Please look out for the concluding part of this article in our subsequent posts.


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