The 10 Things Bosses Hate Most on a Résumé

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

I want to tell you a secret.

When I used to look at résumés, I hardly ever looked at résumés.

The things bored me. They seemed to follow some formula invented by a dullard who attended a summer program at Harvard.

I would scan them, and if the person seemed to have even lived a vaguely interesting life, I’d invite him or her for an interview. After all, you don’t hire résumés, you hire people.

Most bosses, however, prefer to follow formulas. I am delighted, therefore, to have stumbled upon a list of the things supposedly normal bosses dislike on a résumé.

It was compiled by the U.K.’s New College of the Humanities. Because humanities are in such desperate straits that they needed a new college to prop them up.

Apparently, bosses look at a résumé for an average of just three minutes. Actually, I think you’re lucky if it’s that much.

Here, then, are their alleged peeviest peeves.

1. Typos and Grammatical Errors

I find this one deeply unfair. I can roll with the typo problem. After all, most people think my last name is a typo. However, what is a grammatical error? The rules of grammar are more fluid that most businesspeople’s lunches. One person’s grammatical error is another’s bon mot. If your prospective boss doesn’t like your grammar, then he’s likely a micromanager. You don’t want to work there.

2. Overly Casual Tone

You’re going to pin this on Millennials, aren’t you? They think it’s cool to be cool. The thing about tone, though, is that you hope your casual tone will somehow appeal to the one boss who likes to be that casual. You never know your luck. If you go all stuffy, then you’ll end up an actuary: rich, terribly miserable, and soon to be replaced by a robot.

3. Use of Jargon and Clichés

Have you been to LinkedIn lately? The place is full of appalling jargon and clichés, more than the average Tony Robbins seminar. Some bosses adore clichés. Some bosses, especially in large corporations, are clichés. One person’s jargon is another person’s turn-on. Hiring is no more scientific than online dating. If you use jargon and clichés, you might find the perfect job with a boss who does just the same. On the other hand, you might just sound like the perfect horror.

4. A Résumé More Than Two Pages Long

It’s an especially American trait for people to tell you all about their lives the minute you meet them. So when you see a résumé more than two pages long, it’ll likely to have been written by someone who’s been brought up to believe that he or she is special. Very special. The person might be. On the other hand, the person might be especially annoying. The only way to know for sure is to meet him or her. But if you get a long, long résumé, give the person 10 minutes. Then say that you’ve heard enough.

5. Snazzy Borders and Backgrounds

People actually do this? Yes, they do. I wonder who ends up giving them a job.

6. Writing in the Third Person

There are many people to blame for this. Boxers, rap stars, the occasional NFL and NBA star, more than one actor. Honestly, though, it doesn’t bother me at all. It manages to avoid the “I” that can garland certain résumés with every sentence. Perhaps writing in the third person means that you’re not self-obsessed or even that you are able to see from outside of your self. One can hope.

7. Inclusion of Clip Art or Emojis

Wait a minute. Emojis? People use emojis in their résumés? Are they seriously high? Or are they merely Millennials who are seriously high? One day, résumés might be all emoji. Frankly, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing. Until then, if you’re going to do something artistic, please think of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn: Make it work.

8. The Use of Cringeworthy Quotes

You know where they get those, don’t you? From self-helpy business books that have lists and lists of quotes from cringeworthy celebrities. How many résumés enjoy this sort of thing, for example: “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes”? No, that wasn’t Ziggy Stardust. Not Dirk Diggler. This was Zig Ziglar.

9. Unprofessional Email Address

I find this very forgivable. So what if someone’s email address is Should you care if it’s My argument would be that you should want to meet such people more. At least you know that the minutes you will spend interviewing them might at least offer a touch of entertainment. And even politics is entertainment these days, so why shouldn’t business be?

10. Unconventional Font

Perish the perpetrator. Someone decides to use a different font. So what? Surely the most important thing is whether the résumé is at least vaguely appetizing. If the boss is only going to look at it for three minutes, isn’t it worth making it at least slightly striking? Oh, no. You’re supposed to conform. Try telling that to Nina Mufleh, who wrote the résumé that broke the internet. She decided to make her résumé thoughtful, dynamic, splendidly tasteful, very slightly mesmerizing, and certainly unconventional. It worked.

In the end, just be yourself and hope that works. Ultimately, that’s all you have.



Owner, Howard Raucous LLC