For the past little while I’ve been sifting through a pile of resumes from UBC students, coming from all four years and four or five faculties. While I don’t have a database containing 20% of entire Sauder’s resumes like one of my dear friends *cough*, I did see enough to get a chuckle out of a few.
Feel free to skip the following in italics: These are mostly based on true stories meant for amusement and not to debase anyone’s resume that they submitted in good faith. I do not claim to be an authority on resumes and cover letters for college students and is not promising jobs and/or rejecting any of these applicants on a public forum. All quotes are rephrased by me and any similarities are entirely coincidental (god, I’m putting disclaimers on practically every blog entry, this is getting ridiculous.)
1. Using almost the exact same cover letters for completely different positions.
“In a recent conversation with a colleague, I learned that you are seeking applicants for the Vice-President/Director/Manager position”. So did you REALLY have a conversation with a colleague? How many colleagues DO you have? No, in fact I don’t believe you spoke to a colleague when you submit two of these to me in the same wording (yes someone might just be your interviewer for multiple positions). For goodness sake, at least change some your highlighted skills so that your cover letter isn’t exactly the same past the first sentence. All that “I am confident that I will be a beneficial contribution to your organization” is losing credibility, do you know what this organization is?! One of these days you might seriously regret putting down the wrong company name.
2. Having an objective statement that is totally unrelated.
Sauder discourages Objective Statements, but I know some resume workshops still use it, so I’ll give this a pass. If you’re applying to be say, master chef specializing in Italian dishes, and your Objective statement reads “To be an ESL teacher for high school students”, I have three conclusions. 1) You forgot to change it 2) You’re too lazy to change it, or 3) You see that as your long term goal but in the mean time you can’t get any positions in that field so you’ll apply for a random unrelated opening to buff up your resume and wallet. Either way(s), I think your chance just plummeted.
3. Wild exaggerations.
Okay, admit it, we ALL do it. It’s what years of literature class taught us – the art of BS, buffing up mundane accomplishments so they sound spectacular on paper to strangers. TO STRANGERS. That’s the key thing here. For inter/intra-faculty activities in particular, it’s very likely that the person looking at your resume is a peer, someone who may have done similar EC’s as you or even worked WITH you at some point. I once led a team of web design-savvy people to work on this three-months long project that involved collaboration with several other teams. In a recent resume that I came across, a guy who was the head of another team that I collaborated with wrote something like, “increased efficiency of web design team in addition to my own group of x number of people by….” DUDE, I was picking up YOUR slack for three entire months. Not cool.
4. Incompatible file types, or the dreaded .docx
Most .docx files can be automatically converted now (who came up with the brilliant idea at Microsoft in the first place?!) My Mac crashing while trying to download a XML converter was partially the reason why I decided to write this. Don’t make other people work to open your files. Stick to .doc or even better .pdf (personal preference for the pdf – it doesn’t mess up formatting which is a huge plus).
5. So… what exactly is your GPA? ie. Random, unsubstantiated numbers on your resume.
One resume I received originally had a GPA of ~3.7. Two weeks later, for another position, the same person sent one in with a 4.0. Wow, I’m so impressed by the almost miraculous improvements this person made over the span of ten days! Congratulations. A friend also remarked to me that it’s funny how so many people have “raised/helped manged/funded $10 000 for project x”. It’s always $10 000. Some rich guy most be writing a lot of 10 grand cheques out there.
6. Starting the address with “Dear Sir or Madam”
Do your bloody primary research. From Comm299, “Call HR and find out the hiring person’s name!” It shows that your care.
7. Using duty verbs instead of achievement verbs
Another piece of nugget I will always be grateful for learning from Philippe Desrochers in COMM 299. Duty words basically restate the job description while achievement verbs make clear how you exceeded expectations on the job. Observe: “Sold large number of products and marketed to large companies” versus “Improved store profitability by regularly exceeding sales quotas by up to 50%”. I won’t go too much into this considering we spent three weeks on this in class. More info can be found here or a visit to the Business Career Centre.
8. Having outdated, incorrect contact information
One individual had three different phone numbers – one on her application, one on her resume, and yet another one on her cover letter. The first one was not in service; the second, international long distance. It’s not as if I’m a random person who tried to get your phone number at a bar. We’re trying to give you a job here! Make it easy.
There are of course the obvious ones such as “no typos” and “parallel structure” in addition to the plethora of styles and preferences that career building websites love waving in our face. I skipped those. Have any more? Comment below.
Read 14 comments
Good points, particularly Point 7. A lot of times when people write resumes they like to list all their wonderful accomplishments. Unfortunately they tend to forget that the hiring decision is based on what they can do for the organization, and not what they accomplished in the past. It’s skills that matter, not a bunch of numbers.
You are hilarious, know that? lol
I felt mean laughing but that’s life HEHEE
Pingback: Avoidable Sins on Resumes and Cover Letters » UBC Years - Phoebe Yu « Resumes Cover Letters
Jolly good, Phoebe! From years of working in HR (i.e. volunteer coordinator, HR associate, hiring manager, etc.) I can attest to your list.
Moreover, people seem to have the sneaking suspicion that HR people are fairly unjudgemental people who give everyone a fair, fighting chance. That myth ought to be debunked – first impressions matter and image is everything! When will people learn? =)
Wonderful writing, Phoebe! Another point I want to add is appropriate length of the resume, keep it at 1-2 pages max. The HR person probably has to sift through hundreds of resumes for the same position and only wants to read relevant information. A 10-page “summary” of your life story probably won’t be read lol.
Also point 3 is quite valid. And if you put a claim down on your resume, be prepared to verify it. Something like graduated from college with degree when you’re 2 courses shy isn’t going to fly well!
You never cease to amaze me Phoebe.
That’s all well and good, but in 99% of all the (many) jobs I have applied for, the hire-r never really looked at my resume
In fact I sat on an AMS hiring committee where the councilors on the committee barely glanced at resumes.
HOWEVER, you should avoid using ridiculous e-mail addresses on a resume, like firstname.lastname@example.org or superCanadianSurfBoi@gmail.com. Really people.
@Rory – thanks for that tidbit of info! Oh my gosh, the emails. I have seen email@example.com, simply dreadful.
@Rory – Gee thanks…somehow I think my resume was one of the pieces of paper that you simply glazed over…=P
@Justin – LOL I was expecting a comment like that. Well next time you can just hand in your grandma’s apple pie recipe and know that it would hardly affect your chances. The AMS would appreciate quality apple pies as well.
@Phoebe – Indeed. Or I could photocopy some poetry for them. Mr. Rebane appreciates fine poetry for one and I would hope the rest of them do as well!
well, copying your cover letter and resume sure saved me a lot of time! (I hope I remembered to change the name)
@Rory – And that is why we are now hiring a full time HR Director for the AMS!