Why employers are laughing at your resume

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Your resume sucks, and people laugh at you when they look at it. They hold it up in the office, read your feeble accomplishments out loud, and send them as jokes to each other when they feel sad and need a good laugh. Some of them even know you would be the perfect candidate for the job, but they openly mock your unemployment.

That is what many think must be happening when they submit a resume for a job online. There has to be some reason why people are not calling back...doesn't there? And yet, like an ever-replicating zombie-clone beating its head against a wall trying to get through, you continue to submit that resume again, and again, and again, with no response. Not even an email acknowledgment that you exist other than as an "applicant" who they will get back to "if there is a good fit." And yet, even though you know you are a good fit for the role (and many others you have applied to), there is no reply. Only the deafening silence of non-response.

Why employers are laughing at your resume

Could it possibly be your resume? One word answer: "Yes, it most absolutely, positively, without question, is your resume, you moronic clod." OK, that's 13 words.



Sean X
Sean X November 9, 2012 at 1:41 AM


Exactly, your "unicorn" line was actually visual, and that was the main point of my article. That a resume or CV is basically designed to fit everyone in a little box. If you want to get noticed you have to find a way to make that box sing, and dance, etc...

The vast majority of resumes, CVs, never even get looked at. Worse, which I did not even touch on in my article is that robo-resume filter programs employed at most of the biggest companies pre-emptively filter resumes based on a set of criteria. That is why I advised changing the headlines etc... to match the job skills listed. This is one of the best ways to get through that first line of defense by companies HR departments.

There are many companies in the US who will not even consider candidates that did not graduate from certain Universities... ahem, GoogleMicrosoftFacebookAppleYahoo I'm talking to you... so their robo-filter programs actually screen for one of those Universities. If your resume does not have that on it no human ever sees it. There is a way, however, to fool them. When listing your University, if it does not happen to be one of these, list "School of Hard Knocks, The Harvard University of Real Life" ... At least you'll get by the filter. You may get immediately discarded but you have a better shot than before.

But before anyone starts to think this ins unfair, last time I checked I believe Google gets something like 10,000 resume submissions a day... a day. If they did not employ these techniques it would be impossible for them to hire the number of people they need to. They HAVE to choose certain initial criteria... and so does any company that becomes a hot place to work.

Georgie Allen
Georgie Allen November 8, 2012 at 7:47 PM

Hi Sean,

How do you feel about photos in CV's? I applied for jobs for 6 months and had 1 failed interview. I then became extremely frustrated so I wrote a new CV and included lots of photos. Next to my past job experiences I had photos showing me in the role where possible. At the bottom of each page I had a small band of photos showing my personality (snowboarding, sea kayaking, rockclimbing, with friends etc).

After that I was asked to 3 interviews and ended up in a marketing managers role. Dream result. It may not work with super corporate companies but for me it worked well as a unicorn phrase


Lynn Salton
Lynn Salton November 8, 2012 at 6:59 PM

Thanks Sean... I appreciate you taking the time to explain the difference. I get it now... and I will use something like this on my next resume(s)!


Sean X
Sean X November 8, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Lynn, because someone is obviously NOT "10-feet tall and bullet proof" there is a subtle usage difference, with a not so subtle reaction difference; confidence without being arrogant. A sense of humor, without someone feeling they are being insulted.

Whereas communicating that I am a Ninja Rockstar Marketer (which BTW I am) conveys this feeling of wanting to punch me in the face. That statement is one which closes people off to hearing any more. It is false ego, and usually communicates the insecurity of the person making the statement.

I AM NOT a Ninja Rockstar Marketer, however, when I put "(which BTW I am)" after that statement I can almost see how the distaste that appears on peoples faces... as if they just popped a sour-patch kid in their mouths. In fact, even if I continue to tell people that it was just an overt example of what I was talking about to illustrate a point, and I do not believe that about myself, that feeling does not go away for people.

That is the challenge, and the key lesson here. Words can evoke feelings that are not easily changed with more words. I am not 10 feet tall and bullet proof. I am however a Digital Unicorn. Just saying it makes me laugh... and that is why it is me.

If someone finds it too irreverent and not business like enough or judges it, that's ok, because that is them, not me. And that's ok. Those who do respond to the irreverence and the way my mind works will be a better fit for me.

Find the statement that is YOU and that makes people stop and take notice.

Lynn Salton
Lynn Salton November 8, 2012 at 4:57 PM

If I'm not a ninja, wizard, rock star, evangelist, or guru of anything, because these terms are not only tired, but exude ego, arrogance, and hubris... how is being "ten feet tall and bullet proof" any different?

Sean X
Sean X November 8, 2012 at 4:44 PM

Check out the Jane Ashen Turkewitz post on the iMedia Blog about "6 Ways to Use Social Media In Your Job Search" ... Great advice and tips about your job search. She's Managing Director of TalentFoot so she knows...


ozEworks Inc
ozEworks Inc November 8, 2012 at 2:47 PM

There is nothing new here. However the idea that a person actually reads it is a bit laughable. Most shortlists are automated by HR software based on keywords.

So refining your resume for each application is a good idea in order to optimize it to the ad.

You need to SEO your resume ... to even get past the first hurdle.

Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson November 8, 2012 at 12:31 PM

Nice article, Sean. Having hired dozens of people of the past few years I would add another critical aspect to your thoughts on this... After you "stun them", make sure the employer can see how hiring you will benefit them.

All too often resumes focus on skills and accomplishments but don't focus on how that will matter to the hiring manager. Yes, logic dictates that a smart hiring manager can connect the dots. But, the prospective employee that chooses to do it shows me they have enough interest to do some research about what I need and its easier to put there application to the top of the pile.

Bruce Johnston
Bruce Johnston November 8, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Although written to provide resume writing advice this is probably one of the best "Dutch Uncle" advice blogs I've read. Sean takes the time to explain, "this is reality", and what you can do about it. This is a blog you should keep close by for easy reference down the road!