Case Study: What’s Wrong With This Resume?

Let's face it: writing a resume is a hassle regardless of your work experience or qualifications. No one writes resumes or CVs as a hobby. And if you are reading this kind of articles, then you are either out of work or looking for a better job. Considering the fact that up to 70% of candidates are eliminated from the job search by applicant tracking software, resume writing today brings even more headache to job seekers than ever. But there is good news: learning to write a powerful resume isn't as difficult as most people think. Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of the German Empire, once said that the wise man learns from the mistakes of others while only a fool learns from his own mistakes. Taking this statement as a guideline, we decided to analyze one sample resume and outline its weaknesses so that others could learn how to avoid common resume mistakes based on this case study.

Resume Evaluation

Resume Critique

 Note: The number of each mistake below corresponds with the numbers on the resume sample above.

[1] Resume Formatting & Design. Now it may seem that there is nothing wrong with the design of this resume. It looks light, clean, and attractive to the eye. But unless you are trying to land a designer position, you are better off using traditional resume format (some may call it OAP style format). In fact, Roy Maclaughlin, a career expert at Prime-Resume, explains that the majority of hiring managers prefer traditional resumes to fancy ones. Even designers should be very careful in using graphic elements (in most cases I would discourage even designers from using color, icons or infographics), he says. But the hiring managers' wants and likes isn't the only reason. With more and more companies using ATS (Applicant Tracking System), applicants should take into consideration the algorithm of how this software screens out candidates. The point is that most of these systems can't read fancy stuff meaning your resume may not even come in front of human eyes. Therefore, sticking to traditional formatting which might appear boring sometimes will likely land you more interviews.

[2] Profile. Considering the fact that hiring managers are not reading but rather skimming through resumes implies that their attention spans are quite short. This means that you literally have a few seconds to impress. That's where the top section should do the job. In the sample above, the profile section does nothing but talk about soft skills which is not how prospective employers are impressed. A good summary (profile) section should catch the reader's attention instantly, ensure a clear understanding of top selling points immediately as well as emphasize one's key strengths in an easy-to-scan format. When writing this section, think of 1) something that makes you good at what you do and 2) things you would bring to the next job that would make you a perfect candidate. Organizing these things in a couple of powerful bullet statements can make a huge difference!

[3] Results. When your wife asks you to go to the store and buy some bread, she probably expects you to actually bring some bread home. And when you come home, she will probably ask whether you bought any. She will not be very interested to know where you went, what were you doing along the way, how many miles away from home that store was... What matters is the result: you either bought the bread or you did not. In the same way, when companies hire employees they expect them to contribute to the company's development by achieving specific goals. Now many job seekers love to tell on their resumes about what they did as opposed to what they accomplished. This fact alone is a big turn-off, especially if you are aiming high. Instead of saying what you did, focus on what you accomplished. Adding some figures can help one to have a greater impact too (facts and figures make a huge difference. especially when it comes to the results of your work). In the sample above, the statements like "generated ideas", "implemented marketing programs", "analyzed consumer behavior data" can certainly be developed into something much more impressive. Besides, the received awards were given for something much more significant than what we read in the experience section.

[4] Be Selective. Job seekers often succumb to the temptation of including all of their experiences on the resume. Why should something that appears to look good be left out after all? Makes no sense, right? It actually does if you look at it from the perspective of potential employers and hiring managers specifically. The thing is that they don't really care how well you performed at school if you apply for a managerial position. Likewise, employers don't care much about your high school diploma or any other thing that won't help them assess your qualifications and skills. Once you have a couple of years of professional experience, it is considered a must to remove GPA from the resume. In other words, that's where your work experience speaks way more to your qualifications than your GPA. It is okay to let go of your outdated academic success; use that space on your resume to provide more information about your recent accomplishments. This should also show your prospective employers that you didn't stuck in the past but have matured into a professional ready for new career challenges. 

[5] Photo. There is an ongoing debate regarding whether job seekers should or should not place photos on resumes. But this case is too obvious to start a discussion about it because this particular picture does no good whatsoever. The rationale behind a firm "No" for including a picture of you on your main marketing document is to protect employers from allegations of discrimination (gender, age, race, weight, etc.) Some career experts say that including a photo is a good thing if you are an actor or model (in other words when you apply for jobs where your appearance matters a lot). But the photo included in the resume sample doesn't help much anyway because you can't really see the person there. It adds no value and only distracts hiring managers from the content. That said, you should be aware that in some countries a photo is required.

Beating Applicant Tracking Systems

If you are aiming high, then you have to be aware of the fact that established brands and reputable companies don't have time to check each and every resume manually because they are literally bombarded with applications daily. So most of such companies choose to use applicant tracking software to parse through the resumes and only those that meet criteria make it to the hiring manager's desk. The fact that more and more companies use this kind of software means that more and more resumes need to be tailored to pass that initial ATS scan. The reason why employers love ATS is because it saves them time by selecting only those applications that are worth HR's attention. In essence, these systems just scan the documents for keywords to identify whether they contain the required keywords (qualifications, skills, etc.). The sample resume above doesn't really focus much on keywords and that may be the problem (as well as the formatting of the document). Therefore, job seekers today have to thoroughly strategize their resumes in order to land that interview.

Customers feedback

Read more feedback
Michael S.

Thank you for the wonderful resume and layout. I am pleased with the work. My job search will kick into high gear in December so I will probably be using cover letter service then. Please add the gaduation date from Excel Technical college as 1998. Thank you so much.

Claire M.

Well written and it doesn't concentrate on the foodservice manager, a field I do not want to work in.

Melissa H.

I wanted to tell you that my resume now looks very, very impressive. It’s perfection itself!

Darin A.

I wanted to let you know that I got the resume the very day you sent it out. My interview was scheduled for Tuesday and that same night, by 10 pm, I got an email from the principal informing me that the position was mine. The result was superquick!!! The job’s at the school I really wanted to be a part of. Thanks a million!!!

Steven Z.

I, once again, want to thank you for the outstanding service and the timely help you provided.

Mike E.

Thanks to your resume, I got calls from companies of a much higher caliber. It definitely beats the one I made for myself. Thanks!

David P.

“You really excel at what you do. My resume looks impressive. Thanks!”

Tom S.

Both the cover letter and the resume are excellent! They definitely won’t be the reason I fail to find the right job. You rock!