by Meridith Levinson

The 7 Dumbest Things Job Seekers Write on Their Resumes

Sep 22, 20114 mins
CareersIT Jobs

CareerBuilder and Jobfox founder Rob McGovern sounds off on the idiotic details he sees job seekers put on their resumes.

Attention all detail-oriented, results-driven visionary technology professionals who are also team players: Get those clichés off your résumés! 

That’s the advice of Rob McGovern, the founder of CareerBuilder and Jobfox and author of Bring Your ‘A’ Game: The 10 Career Secrets of High Achievers. As CEO of Jobfox, a job search networking site and résumé writing service, McGovern sees the most common—and dumbest—mistakes job seekers make on their résumés. Here, he shares his top seven. How many of them are you making? (I’m guilty of #4.) 

1. They use the term responsible for… “One of the worst phrases you can put on a résumé is ‘responsible for…’,” says McGovern. That phrase doesn’t tell employers what your accomplishments are, which is what they really need to know about you. So instead of saying, for example, that you’re responsible for network operations, telecom, data centers, servers and work stations, state something like, ‘Designed state-of-the-art wide area network that allowed X company to process orders five times faster. Reduced telecom costs by $X by renegotiating contracts with vendors. Consolidated four data centers down to one, saving $X million dollars per year.’ 

2. They write, “Managed a staff of X number.” While employers want to see the scope of an IT leader’s management responsibility in terms of the size of the IT leader’s staff and the ratio of in-house to contract to outsourced personnel, McGovern notes that those numbers fail to describe the effectiveness of the leader’s management skills. He says managers should cite the number of employees they’ve hired as well as retention rates in their departments. “Managers never talk about this on their résumé: hiring and selection,” he says. “Employers want managers who hire good people and retain them.” 

3. They use jargon specific to current or past employers. “I see this on IBM résumés, and it drives me crazy,” says McGovern. “They use vernacular that is unique to IBM: ‘Member of the JTAM team who implemented the VSC conversion.’  What the hell is that?” Exactly. 

4. They write, “References available upon request.” McGovern has one word for this: “Duh,” he says. There’s no need to state the obvious. After all, what is a job seeker going to do, not provide references when a prospective employer asks him to? 

5. They include activities they pursue outside of work. “They write, ‘Avid golfer. Church member’ on their résumés,” says McGovern. “That sort of stuff is dumb,” he says. It’s also a waste of precious space that job seekers could better devote to writing about the professional accomplishments that matter to the employers they’re trying to impress. 

6. They include a paragraph filled with keywords. “The thing that technical people do that’s dumb is include a big block of technical keywords,” says McGovern. Their rationale: They think a list of keywords will prevent résumé scanning software from filtering them out. In fact, adds McGovern, the parsing engines that power résumé scanning software applications have gotten smart. “They recognize it’s a block of keywords and they ignore it,” he says. 

7. They rely on clichés. Results-oriented. Detail-oriented. Team-player. Visionary leader. Those are some of the most common clichés McGovern finds on job seekers’ résumés. They are so common that they have become vacuous. Instead of telling employers you’re a visionary leader or a results-driven team player, McGovern says to highlight a specific accomplishment that demonstrates those qualities. An example for a visionary leader might be, according to McGovern, ‘I set a course to be ISO 9000 certified and led a team of 15 people on a four month mission to accomplish that.’ 

What dumb mistakes are you guilty of making on your résumé?