Resumes Gone Wrong: First-impression Faceplants

“Embellishment” is a much more palatable word than “lie.”

It almost sounds innocently mischievous, like something a rapscallion or scamp would do; whereas a lie sounds like it is a much more fiendish endeavor that falls in the unsavory territory of cons, cheats and downright scoundrels.

Unfortunately, a stunningly large number of job applicants would be better suited to fiction writing than whatever job they happen to be applying for, according to a 2018 CareerBuilder-commissioned survey.

The national survey conducted by Harris Poll included more than 1,100 hiring managers and human resource professionals from industries and companies of all sizes. In all, 75% reported to have caught a lie on a resume.

“The problem with lying on your resume is that the odds of getting caught are high,” Michael Erwin, senior career adviser for CareerBuilder, said in a news release. “It’s human nature to be tempted to exaggerate a little on your resume and suggest that you have more skills or greater experience than you really do. However, the short-term gains you might make in landing the job through deception can have long-term consequences that may do serious damage to your career.”

The same survey found that 39% of hiring professionals spend less than less than a minute to look at a resume, so the window to make a good first impression slams shut rather quickly. It’s no wonder inserting a few fabrications becomes so tempting when you’re trying to strut your stuff in a small amount of time. However, it’s not just a matter of stretching the truth. CareerBuilder reported that some people may be a little too truthful when applying for a job or a little too outside-the-box when making an effort to get noticed.

Among the series of unfortunate events respondents reported finding were the following:

  • A 22-year-old applicant claimed to hold three different degrees.
  • An applicant listed 40 different jobs in one year.
  • An applicant thought he or she attached a resume to an email, but instead sent a full credit application for an apartment.
  • An applicant referred to having “as many marriages as jobs.”
  • An applicant listed out his or her extensive arrest history.
  • An applicant’s resume had a different font type for every sentence.
  • An applicant stated at the bottom of the resume that he or she does not like babies or puppies.
  • An applicant’s resume was only one sentence.
  • An applicant had the same employment dates for every job listed.

While some of the above dream-big-and-reach-for-the-stars endeavors fell woefully short in the eyes of those doing the hiring (but likely made quick work circulating the rounds of the water-cooler gossip sessions), survey respondents identified the seven top mistakes they find on resumes that qualify as immediate deal breakers.

  • Typos or bad grammar: 77%
  • Unprofessional email address: 35%
  • Resume without quantifiable results: 34%
  • Resume with long paragraphs of text: 25%
  • Resume is generic, not customized to company: 18%
  • Resume is more than two pages: 17%
  • No cover letter with resume: 10%

Getting a job can be tough enough without shooting yourself in the foot. The biggest takeaways here should be clear to anyone applying for a job: Get someone else to look over your resume to provide feedback before submitting it and save the tall tales for your fishing stories.


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