What Recruiters Hate About Resumes and Cover Letters

Today, I’m going to share with you the awful truth about resumes and cover letters.

Here it is: Most of them stink.

That’s not just my opinion, although I’ve read nearly 15,000 resumes and cover letters over the years and found glaring mistakes in about 85-90% of them.

It’s also the opinion of most of the hiring professionals I’ve spoken to over the years.

Where do most resumes and cover letters go wrong? And how can you avoid the typical mistakes that most job seekers make?

To find answers, I spoke with two experienced recruiters. Their candid advice can help you avoid typical pitfalls, and get hired faster

Here it is …

1) Don’t Use The Same Resume For Every Job

Would you grab any old suit off the rack and rush off to church to get married? No. First, you get the suit tailored, so it fits. That way, you won’t look ridiculous.

Unfortunately, job seekers can look ridiculous when they rush to apply for jobs without tailoring their resumes. It’s a real pet peeve of most hiring professionals, including Larry Harris, a Minneapolis-based recruiter and President of American Consulting (americanconsultingcompany.com)

“Why don’t candidates customize every resume they send out, to fit the job they’re applying for? That makes my job a lot easier when I forward that resume to my client, the hiring manager.”

According to Tony Haley, Director of UK-based Fenton Chase International (fentonchase.com), most resumes come across as generic, with no consideration about a particular position or company.

“The most surprising group of candidates who do this is Sales Managers and Sales Directors. These people spend their days reviewing resumes from candidates and yet when it comes to their own, they cannot sell themselves,” says Haley.


Customize, customize, customize.

Every company, every position, every manager reading your resume — they’re all different. So tailor your resume for every position you apply for. Bring out the details of your experience that are most relevant to each opportunity and company.

2) Don’t Be Boring

One of the worst sins you can commit with a resume is to be boring. The rule of thumb is simple: If they snooze, you lose (because your resume will go in the trash).

Resumes get boring when you fill them full of jargon, or dry job descriptions, or a lack of specific results, according to Haley.

“Consider the reader. Remember, the people reading your resume might not be that proficient at it. If they cannot see what they are looking for almost immediately, they might reject it, and if it’s full of technical jargon, they might not understand it,” says Haley.


An easy way to eliminate dull wording from a resume is to read it aloud to 2-3 friends. If eyes glaze over or brows furrow, you’ve likely lost your audience. Revise the resume until it holds your friends’ attention all the way through.

Haley offers another way to create a compelling resume: “Use the ‘So, what?’ test. Any sentence on a resume that causes a reader to think ‘So, what?’ probably means it’s waffle. Reword it or take it off.”

3) Don’t Forget The Cover Letter

You wouldn’t want to alienate anyone who could help you get a job, would you?

Yet, that’s just what you do when you forget to send a cover letter with your resume. Because a missing cover letter creates extra work for busy hiring professionals, as they try to figure out what job you’re applying for and how you heard about it.


Write and include a cover letter with every resume, including those you send by email.

Even a one-line cover letter in an email is better than nothing, according to Larry Harris: “You could simply write, ‘I’m applying for your telemarketing software sales position. I spent five years doing that exact job. I’d be perfect for it!”

Here’s hoping these tirades and tips from hiring professionals will help you write a better resume and cover letter next time you apply for that dream job.

Now, go out and make your own luck!

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