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An HR Manager Reveals: Why I Threw Out Your Résumé

Suzanne Lucas
Updated Mar 30, 2022

So often it seems like when you submit a résumé to a company, either via email or an online application, it’s like sending it into a black hole.

You apply, and you get a response 30 seconds later saying, “Thanks for applying,” and that’s that. You never hear anything again.

What’s happening? You worked so hard to make a good first impression—but maybe you’re doing all the wrong things.

Your résumé is getting thrown out and here’s why.

Related Article: Who Are You Hiring? The Shocking Cost of Résumé Fraud

You Applied for a Job You’re Not Even Remotely Qualified For

We all complain about online application processes that are tedious and annoying, but that doesn’t stop people from applying for jobs they aren’t qualified for.

Sure, there are some times you should apply for a job that is a stretch, but a small stretch and not something you would never be considered for.

It’s not harmless either. If you apply for jobs you’re not qualified for at a company; the recruiter won’t consider you for for jobs you are qualified for.

She’ll know you don’t want this job, you just want a job. Don’t waste your time.

Your Résumé Is in the Wrong Format

I’m not talking about using bullet points or not. I’m talking about instructions that say to submit as a PDF and you go ahead and send in a Word document.

It’s a little thing, but résumés are entered into systems and if you send it in the wrong format, that requires the recruiter to change it to the proper format, well, forget that.

Your Résumé Focuses on Style Rather Than Substance

You’ve probably seen cool designer résumés on the internet, and I don’t deny that some of them look super awesome.

However, résumés are functional documents. Most recruiters spend less than a minute before deciding whether to pursue you further or hit delete.

They aren’t interested in trying to decipher a résumé written in a spiral or trying to put together your career progression from an infographic.

The right format for a résumé is a reverse historical explanation of your accomplishments at each job. Dates and titles and company names are important. Make it readable, but not fancy.

You Didn’t Proofread

Most people will ignore a single typo, or maybe a comma splice. After all, most recruiters and hiring managers don’t know how to diagram sentences any more than you do.

But, when you have terrible grammar, and misspellings, and you use “their” when you mean “there” it shows you’re sloppy. No one wants to hire someone sloppy.

Have someone proofread your résumé first and run it through a grammar checker to catch the little things. It’s worth the time.

Related Article: Quick Tips to Improve Your Résumé in Just 5 Minutes

You Use Fancy-Shmancy language

Of course you want to show you’re brilliant. That’s the purpose of the document. You don’t do this by using words normal people don’t use.

You do this by talking about the great things you’ve accomplished. Use plain language and be clear about what you’ve accomplished.

You Lied

Here’s the thing: recruiters see a ton of résumés. Most of the time, they can spot an exaggeration from a mile away. An outright lie? Busted.

They won’t bother to email you and tell you that they think you’re lying, you’ll just get silently rejected. Yes, talk about your successes and not your failures, but be honest.

If you’ve been unemployed, don’t say you were a consultant unless you actually had some clients and did real work.

You Are Annoying

Your mom, and maybe even your campus jobs center, told you to be proactive and to “call the recruiter to let he know you’re interested in the job.”

That might have been great advice in 1983, but it’s terrible advice for today. Let me give you a tip: the recruiter knows you are interested in the job because you applied.

She doesn’t need you to call and tell her. She’ll contact you if she’s interested. Most recruiters are super busy and are juggling numerous positions and a zillion candidates.

She doesn’t have time to speak to everyone. Once you’ve had an interview, then you can follow up, but until then, don’t annoy the recruiter, or you’ll be eliminated from consideration.

You Tried to Be Creative (In a Bad Way)

Please don’t send a shoe with a note saying, “I just want to get my foot in the door.” In the United States, pictures are not appropriate. They are in many other countries, but not in the USA.

Don’t send the recruiter flowers or a pizza or even chocolate. Yes, people will remember you, but not in a good way.

Related Article: The Hidden Ways Gender Bias Can Sabotage Recruitment

You Included Inappropriate Information

What is inappropriate information? Age (college graduation date is fine, but not a birth date or high school graduation date), social security number, interests, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, and anything else controversial.

Now that controversial thing is sometimes necessary if you held a job at a controversial organization, but that is the exception, not the rule.

Don’t put your membership in PETA, or the NRA or anything of the like. Don’t mention that you teach Sunday school, or that you have three adorable children.

Your résumé is about your work skills, not anything else.

If you have any of these things on your résumé get rid of them. Don’t waste your time applying for jobs before you fix everything up.

Suzanne Lucas
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate HR where she hired, fired, managed the numbers and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about how to make your business a success and your employees happy. Send her an email at