How To Write an Ineffective Resume

While the intent of a resume is to gain an interview, many of them are written in a way that doesn’t help that cause!

If you’re determined to submit a resume that includes the most common problems, be sure to incorporate these…  

Make the Reader Work to Understand your Role

On average, a recruiter or hiring manager reviews a resume for 6 to 10 seconds before deciding whether to read more in-depth, or move on to the next resume. If it takes them several seconds just to determine if you’re even in the ballpark of the open position, it’s very unlikely they will keep digging further. MANY applications come from candidates with completely unrelated backgrounds.

Often, resumes have no headings, and the title of the person’s last position is unique to their most recent company. If the opening is for a Project Manager, however, the resume submitted begins with a paragraph describing the candidate as a Strategic Thinker and Dynamic Leader, and the title on their most recent position is listed as Business Analyst III, it is difficult to quickly determine if the candidate is even a Project Manager at all.

Instead… be sure to put  a title as a bold sub-heading on the top of the resume that helps them instantly see you’re in the ballpark. And if your last title is not a clear match, include a title that connects the dots in parenthesis. For example:  Business Analyst III (Project Manager).

Include All the Information You Can So They Can Decide to Hire You

An employer never decides to make a job offer based on a resume. While the background is critically important, a hiring decision only comes after conversations and/or meetings where culture fit, work relationships, and attitude can be determined before an offer is considered.

Too often, candidates include far too much information and detail on the resume, making it too dense, too long, and too difficult to read. A resume is rarely, if ever fully read at all. A recruiter or hiring manager typically visually scans the resume up and down looking for key pieces of experience and knowledge that they are hoping to find for the role. While many great bits of information may be included in an overly dense or overly long resume, if they are not easily found and read, they do you no good.

Instead… using the job description and knowledge about the organization as a guide, primarily include only the most applicable experience on your resume. Make sure the most important requirements of the role are easy to spot in a quick scan of your resume. Including key information in the 4th bullet point in a list of 6, is unlikely to get noticed. 

Include enough information in your resume to gain the interview, and additional experience can be discussed in an interview. As a general rule of thumb, a resume shouldn’t be more than 2 pages, avoids large blocks of text and paragraphs, and includes white space (not necessarily in wide margins, however, spacing between bullet points and sections).

Show Off Your Sophistication by Using Highly Technical Language and Corporate Lingo

While a hiring manager for a particular role MAY be able to decipher exceedingly technical language related to a role, or commonly used lingo for specific industries or fields, a resume often has to first get past a recruiter or HR professional that may not have as in-depth of understanding of each position. And even a hiring manager will appreciate a resume that is clear and easy to follow.

Instead… always keep the KISS principle in mind (Keep It Simple Silly)! An effective resume is easy to read and understand, even by someone that is not in your field or industry. Often, an overly complex resume comes across as pretentious.

Simply Use the Job Description of Your Last Position to Write Your Resume

While the responsibilities and tasks of your previous positions are important to convey, there are two things a potential employer is trying to determine from your resume: Do you have related experience AND were you good at your job?

Without including achievements, successes, and growth in responsibility, it can easily be assumed that you simply had the job, but didn’t do much.

Instead… along with your responsibilities, be sure to include accomplishments, and metrics of successes whenever possible. Show what you did, and that you did it well!

Proverbs 3:7a says “Be not wise in your own eyes”

When we read our own resume, we fully understand everything we wrote and think it’s clear. Someone else that doesn’t know your career history, however, may be very confused by it. Look at your resume as someone that may not know you. Have someone else read it and tell you what they learned about you. Are their first impressions the things that are most important for a potential employer to know?

James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Seeking God first in every aspect of our job search (and life) will help open our eyes to the things that matter most. He will provide wisdom to those that sincerely seek it and help us see things that help others see us more clearly.

If you want to increase your chances of landing a call or interview, write your resume in a way that easily connects the dots for the reader between the requirements in the job description and your related experience. Make it easy to gather information from a quick scan, easy to understand, and easy to see that you’ve had a track record of success!

Harry Urschel has been a recruiter for over 35 years. He is a partner in a retained executive search firm in the Minneapolis area in addition to doing executive outplacement coaching. On a volunteer basis, he also leads MN Crossroads Career Network (, an affiliate of Crossroads Career.  


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