How to Write a Bad Resume

by David Hatch

Bad Resume

I am not a big fan of highlighting weakness in someone's career history. Unfortunately, I have seen more resumes than I can count do exactly that. While attempting to make themselves look good, many people unknowingly end up highlighting their weaknesses or worse - they end up giving the appearance of weakness where none may exist. When someone spends much time and energy trying to polish up their resume and reads something like this article, it can be discouraging. But don't be discouraged, I am here to help. Now, moving past the ego blow, here are some things that are guaranteed to keep you from getting an interview.

Cover Letters Do Not Belong in a Resume

If you want to waste someone's time and greatly reduce your chances of getting your resume read by a potential employer, then by all means include a lengthy summary at the beginning of you resume. This is one of the great sins of some other "professional resume writers." Somewhere along the line someone came up with some "official" template that most of them use that always includes this summary section, whether it is a recent college graduate's resume or the resume of a partner at a major law firm. When I see this I know that whoever wrote it for them has never worked a single day as professional recruiter. Let me be clear, it is a dumb thing to do. It is amateurish and it is a distraction from your actual resume, which IS the summary of your work history. A brief summary that highlights your career accomplishments and whets a potential employer's appetite to actually read your resume is called a cover letter, and it should always be a separate document.

Resumes Are Not Mad Libs

This one goes right back to my pet peeve about templates. Of course a resume should have some uniformity of structure - that does not mean each sentence in a job history should look like you had one of those old mad libs, fill in the blank games. It is obvious when someone has written a lazy resume with the appropriate keywords stuck into a pre-existing resume template. Don't do it. You do not want your resume to look like 1,000 others that employer has received. The surest way to avoid that is to avoid this error.

Avoid Goofy Adjectives

Having spent years reading resumes as sent to me as a placement specialist, the ones that I could not get even halfway through - which means my clients could not either - are the ones that were heavy on cheesy adjectives. When I see an obscure polysyllabic adjective used over and over again in a resume, I am not seeing an impressive linguist or professional. What I am seeing, at least 98% of the time, is someone who is trying to do one of two things: distract me from a weak work history or someone who does not know how to highlight their actual accomplishments in a professional manner. No one cares if you "worked vigorously to eliminate capricious and aberrant fiduciary practices within the company," at least not when written in such a needlessly "verbose" manner.

Personal Interests Are for Personals in the Local Paper, Not a Professional Resume

It's great that you enjoy long walks on the beach and ultimate Frisbee, but it says nothing about your professional experience. A resume is not about what you do in your free time - it is about what you have accomplished on company time. If, in an interview, you establish a rapport with a potential employer and he asks if you enjoy synchronized swimming - feel free to answer, as that is the appropriate time to do so. Otherwise, keep such personal information off your resume, unless you are applying for a job at ESPN.

There are many other things that end up on a resume that hurt instead of help. But the above-mentioned ones are a good sample of those that make a resume look particularly unprofessional. So avoid them at all costs - unless you don't really want the job.

David Hatch is a professional career consultant, resume writer and placement specialist with over a decade of experience.  He is the founder of and principal of Hatch Legal Consulting. He has extensive experience in placing attorneys and other professionals in corporations, law firms and other organizations and has written and edited thousands of resumes and cover letters.

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