6 Blunders that Push Your Resume to the “Don’t Call” List


Many candidates unintentionally push their resume into the “don’t call” pile with several common errors. Many of these blunders are based on outdated thinking while others develop out of a desire to take advantage of that one moment when the hiring manager is screening your resume. Take a few moments and review your resume to make sure these blunders aren’t pushing your resume to the wrong pile!

1. Including Everything

Less is more with effective resumes. Don’t try to cram in all your work history or every keyword that comes to mind. Trying to include everything will only sabotage your resume by essentially hiding your good points under the weight of too much information. Most hiring managers only skim resumes, and if you have created an information overload the screening process is very likely to stop right there.

Change your thinking about your resume to create an effective hiring tool. Good resumes capture the reader’s attention while enticing them to learn more about you. Regurgitating your entire work history onto the page is not going to achieve that aim for you. Limit your work history to the last 10 to 15 years to be most effective.

2. Poor Organization

Including everything is indeed a form of poor organization. However, limiting the work history to the last 15 years may not be sufficient to reduce the amount of verbiage. Aim for a concise and succinct description of your jobs. Include no more than 5 lines in each description. Make the most of the prime real estate on your resume by including brief company descriptions as well. Doing so provides a context for your experience and accomplishments while saving space. Separate out accomplishments by highlighting a few well-chosen achievements in bullets.

3. Grouping All Jobs Together

You may have a great progression of positions with increasing responsibility at a particular company. In order to get the most out of these experiences, separate out each position with its own job description and achievements listed. You limit the effectiveness of your resume by putting all positions with the same company together. Not only is your clear progression blurred, but the reader may also be confused as to exactly what your contributions were. Unclear descriptions of past contributions do nothing in helping potential employers envision you as a successful member of their team.

4. Functional Format

Many job seekers choose a functional format that can also be confusing to the reader. A functional format does not present a clear progression of your career and requires the reader to invest more time in trying to determine what experiences match with each company. Although you want the reader to spend more time reading your resume, the functional format is not a productive way to achieve that goal. Using a reverse chronological format provides a quick snapshot of your history, and with careful presentation will entice the reader to keep reading and call you to learn more.

5. Cluttered Presentation

Many of these points address the issue of clutter in your resume. Additional factors to consider in presenting a clean appearance in your resume include how to manage the dates of employment. As long as you have a steady progression in your work history, including only the years of employment is the cleanest presentation. However, if you have had a number of short-term positions, including the month and year may help illustrate the actual length of employment.

Another common example of clutter on the resume is attempting to include every keyword you can associate with your profession. Be selective in your choice of keywords, using only those that clearly demonstrate your strengths.

Finally, including too much information about professional development experiences can work against you. Identify those training experiences that set you apart from the competition and include only those. Dates are typically not necessary for professional development activities, particularly for annual trainings.

6. Unprofessionalism

You must remember that you are being evaluated in every single contact you make with a potential employer. Personal email addresses such as sexygirl@ or lazyguy@ should never be used in your job search. Email accounts can be set up for free at many sites on the web. Setting up a new email account dedicated to your job search is a great idea to help you stay organized as well. An appropriate email address can be as simple as YourName@ and conveys a much more professional image.

Other unprofessional tactics include talking on the phone with prospective employers while at your current job or with dogs and kids in the background. Avoid these traps that could easily land your resume in the “don’t call” pile.

Making the most of your resume is the best tool for getting a call from the hiring manager. The resume is a carefully crafted calling card and with the right balance of information and presentation can spur the hiring manager to the action you desire. Make smart choices about what to include and how to present information in an effective way to gain the response you want. A strategic review and re-vamping of your resume may be just what you need to prompt that call. You have the power to make sure your resume is in the “Must Call” pile!


  1. Blanche Cordero says

    I have had a very hard time find a job in human resources. HR is my passion. I was employed by my last employer for 10 years. The employment ended when the employer filed for Chapter 7 Liquidation Bankruptcy.

    I have been told I don’t have to go further back than 10 years. Yet, I have also been told that I am “overqualified” for jobs by some recruiters. Many of the jobs I am looking at require 5-7 years of experience. Should I say that I only have 7 years of experience? I have had the same problem on the temp side. I have been told that employers will not hire me for clerical type positions, but I am more than willing to do those types of jobs to get my foot back in the door. The recruiters say that the companies are afraid that I will leave when a better job comes along. I want to say- I haven’t found a job in this period of time, what makes you think one will magically appear now. I do say that I am a committed and honorable worker. A commitment is a commitment. In any event, I have not been able to find a job in HR, even though I am willing to take the same salary as someone with less experience. What could I do better?

    Thank you.

  2. Pam says

    Continue your search and commitment to follow-through. Learn from employers who say, “you are over qualified,” or “no one will hire you . . .” based on what? I don’t understand. Most positions I’ve lost were based on my lack of relationship with the employer. Network.

    Create a plan of action and be honest about which aspect of HR you’re most interested in performing 40+ hours per week. The industry is becoming more specialized. Redo the resume based on your new desires. Sell honesty, happy, and flexibility. Do not shout, “I just need a job.” You want an employer to desire you on paper and not run from you. Employers can read your desperation, and especially want to see someone open to growth and transformation under their leadership.


  3. says

    I tell candidates not to worry about how long their resume is and instead focus on ensuring that a recruiter/ hiring manager can make a match to the specific role. The best way to do this is to essential mirror the position description. Reviewing the requirements and responsibilities and using them as a check list for skills to be included in a resume is a great way to ensure there is a fit. Taking note of any phrases or key words that are repeating and mirroring those to your resume can essentially make you the perfect fit. I also recommend candidates tailor their professional tagline to be in line with the position of interest. In Silicon Valley – a two page resume for someone with 10-15 years of experience is NORMAL. Executive resumes tend to be three to four pages. Better to focus on content – no fluffy stuff just facts VS worrying about length of resume at all…

  4. Dr. Ron Polland says

    As someone who has spent a lot of time perfecting my own resumes over the last 40 years, I can tell you that a lot of the advice people give you may be sound principles as written in an HR textbook, but may not work in the real world.

    For some reason, you could make a living categorizing the false canards in this field.

    Let’s start with the “Less is more” canard. Resumes that do not get read are ones that don’t contain the hot button skills, abilities, and experiences that the recruiter or employer is looking to find. And these will change depending on the job requirements, which is why it is essential to have multiple resumes, each of which highlight your background in high demand fields.

    Having several resumes (I use six) is the way to reduce the clutter (as the author put it) because you don’t give equal weight or attention to each job held. No. You put more stuff in the position(s) that best match the job(s) you seek.

    Next, your resume should look more like a job announcement with the job title, a short description of the job and the company, followed by the specific duties and tasks of the job. Also, certain things are universally appreciated by employers, like people who can multitask and are team players. Find a way to work these into your job description.

    One of my ways of reducing the size of the resume is NOT leaving out jobs but including a single sheet on the front that summarizes my education, the skill sets I possess, the number of years spent in particular fields, and major achievements.

    If you read job announcements and notice a demand for a particular specialized skill, such as experience with forecasting, by putting it they will be scanning my front page looking for “forecasting,” and when they find it, I get the phone call.

    It was during my last three phone interviews that I was asked to talk about my past work experience. This was the case when I had short resumes and long resumes. It is true that your resume will be skimmed and most of what you wrote will not be read before the decision to interview is made.

    But, you want to have it on there so that you can point it out to the recruiter or employer after you’ve given them a narrative of it.

    One last point to consider is the cover letter. Think of it as an executive summary. Employers do read cover letters and they like ones that are concise, clear, to the point, and explain why you want this position, why do you want to work for this company, and why you can do it better than anyone else.

    These are, essentially, the questions that an interviewer will ask you, so you might as well provide the answers up front.

    The job market today is different than it was four years ago, and the resume that worked for you five years ago may find its way into the trash heap today.

    The way I learned what to put in my resume is listening to the specific questions an interviewer will ask you. It is OK to minimize past jobs that have no relation to the desired position, but I feel that if you’ve had a break in employment longer than six months, you should briefly list what you did in that period.

    The exception is the current position. Don’t be afraid to say that you have been out of work for one to three years because of the economy. Employers know that many highly qualified workers have had a lot of trouble finding work somewhat close to what they did before they became unemployed.

    They will ask you, “What are you doing for income?” Be honest with this one. Even though you are not coming from a position of strength when you have been unemployed for an extended period of time, but you can counter this by saying that you want a full-time, permanent position that you can call your last job.

    If you are told that you are “overqualified” for a position, you can reply that, “I’ve never let my qualifications get in the way of doing the best job possible.”

  5. Jackie says

    Lost my job in 2010 after working for 10 years with the company. I have registered with various agencies, applied for numerous jobs online and also went on a few interviews. My frustration is that I am told that once you have been out this long it is impossible to get a job in your field (tax accounting). Most requirements are for a MS in Taxation or CPA license.

  6. Egg Nog says

    I hear so much of the same Yada Yada. The truth of the matter is the type of Industry your in should dictate more the type of resume your toting. If your a foodie it will vary vastly from a CPA. One way to get an idea of what the norm is for your industry, is to read resumes of people like you who do the same job. For instance if you go to http://www.indeed.com you can choose resumes. Type in the job title and it will give you a vast amount of people who posted their resumes for free online and also on craigslist. It is a starting point. Pick a city far, far away from your own and use one of those folks format. It’s free and starting point. Sometimes just a little push will get the fulcrum moving in the right direction. We also tend to procrastinate making the job more tedious.

  7. Kimberly Varney says

    Such great advice. My first change will be to create a new email address other then what I have been using. I actually thought about doing so, but was told by a recruiter that it did not matter. In hindsight, I should have lisrened to my insticts. I do have professional instincts, and appreciate the confirmation from this article.

    In addition, I will focus on creating several resumes highlighting varios strengths as called out bgly specific job descriptions. Also, invaluable advice. I tend to include too much detail .

    Professional Regards,

  8. PeterFoodie says

    Great advice , everyone. Please check your spelling, even if this is relatively anonymous. I am 59, have been unemployed for most of the time from 1999 to present (early 2013). I have a MBA, had a CPA, IT experience, and a lousy resume because of various medical problems. ( you can drive a truck through some of the holes.) Not to be a downer because there is great advice here – tailor the resume to the job! And don’t be discouraged if there is a lousy economy in your field or geographic area – there’s always a need in your chosen field somewhere. You never know where, so eventually we find out. Keep at it!
    Regards, an epileptic.

  9. Danielle says

    I have to point out that obvious spelling errors are a turn-off. I’ve noticed many in this chain of posts. Your, you’re, there, they’re, their – use them properly. If you’re not sure, ask for help or change the sentence so that you’re absolutely positive that you’re using the word properly.

  10. NanitaSyrai says

    I agree with Danielle 1000% about spelling and grammatical errors. Normally when using MS Word, there is a green squiggly line beneath a word or fragment that will indicate that a different choice of words or word should be used.

    What I find disturbing in a job search is that many people that review resumes and/or interviewing and making hiring decisions are intimidated by those they are interviewing. They fear that someone will outshine them instead of looking at the candidate as an asset and what they can contribute to the team.

    Sometimes those responsible for making hiring decisions do not always make the best call for what may be in the best interest of the company and/or team.

    In essence, someone needs to post how to get around those “haters” preventing qualified candidates that is seeking that employer to give them “a chance” to shine…

  11. Qua says

    @Blanche Cordero, when an employer tells me that I am over quailified I reply with I am qualified to perform this higher level position as well as every position under it. An example: You are an HR rep. however based on your qualifications you are also qualified to perform clarical duties, administrative.

  12. Matt says

    @Nanita …. My advice is that if the hiring manager is intimidated or worried that you will outshine them, you dont want to work there anyway. It will be a miserable experience. When interviewing also watch out for narcissists at peer level who think you should report to them. They will work consistently to undermine you with lies.
    Voice of experience ……..

  13. Jania says

    I have 6 different resumes. 2 of them I have paid over $300 dollars to get done and I have not hit the 500 range of jobs I have applied for between civilian and federal since I am a veteran. Recruiters will not work with me since I am overqualified for the jobs they offer. I have gone on several interviews and since the economy has tanked they are offering so low pay they all say I would leave as soon as I found something else. I also went on three interviews in a role and I literally was only asked about what my fiance does and where he works all illegal questions. I was also asked if I was sexually harassed while I was in the Marines. I am beyond frustrated since they call me for an interview but ask nothing about my skills. They feel I don’t need a high paying job with a second income. Little do they know my fiance is a temp. I am also floored that I am only being offered between $10-15 dollars with over 10 years experience being an Executive Assistant. When they review my pay history they go back 10 years and clearly see I have never been paid this type of pay and move on.

    I am also floored that if you don’t have a BA degree just an AA you are worth nothing even being a veteran. Jobs want a BA but want to pay only $15 an hr. I could not even pay school loans back on that let alone rent since I live in San Diego. You cannot live out here on that type of pay. At this point I am out of answers since I have never been out of work for this long.

  14. Darren says

    Jania, I read a lot of truth in your statement. I have had similar experiences. I completed a BAAS degree a year ago, but have not received any offers. In fact I have only had 2 phone interviews! I have a lot of experience in my current field( electrical maintenance leader) but I have hit a wall as far as moving up into management. Ironically I was salaried and in control of two maintenance departments in the UK, but its not very bright in my current situation. I should graduate in the Fall with an MBA but I need some experience. The comments on this website have clarified some things that I had considered and I will be redefining my resumes. Regards, Darren

  15. SRH says

    I am a registered nurse with over 30 years of experience and have a Doctrate degree in Law. In my former employment,I applied for five (5)positions, had interviews, worked for the same compay for 10 years and was turned down for all five (5) positions. I was a deciated, hard working employee. I knew that I had the know-how to do the jobs, but was never given the opportunity. I seen people in positions who have no ideal what they were to do,that was so flustrating!

  16. says

    Thanks for sharing all the insights from various aspects of life. My company was sold, let everyone go just one thing everyone was over 55 years of age. I have been laid-off for four months, I have sent out Resumes mornings, noon, and nights. I have yet to get a call back from any recruiters, I worked in my field over 23 years in property Management, Yes! their plenty property management position, I’ve applied to over 80. Search in other fields, still NO responses.
    I have three different Resumes 1. Management, 2, customer service, 3. General. Very must qualified in my field. I have several certifications, technical skills training. “What’s the problem? By any chance could their be an age discrimination out there? Many application request your date of birth and you have to provide in order to submit your application. I’m over 55, well able to work. Very very frustrated. Any hints!

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