Getting hired is a game of Chess.

image by Tim Gouw

 It is easy to forget that getting hired is a competition. Human Resource personnel often have dozens of resumes (sometimes hundreds) to review. Also, remember, we’re only talking about one job position here. 

As a recruiter, who is worth your time? You wouldn’t limit yourself to one opening, now would you- given a chance? 

Unfortunately, there’s often little time for the average, meticulous recruiter to offer each resume the reviewing time it deserves (unless it catches his/her attention, of course). It is, therefore, no surprise that most resumes go unnoticed!

So, if your resume is to going to get noticed, you’ll need to do a little more on your part. Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons your resume is not getting to the front line.

  1. You’re still using cliché words and phrases

I honestly don’t think there’s any recruiter in the world who will want to take one full minute reading a resume filled with ambiguous words and phrases he/she has been reading hundreds of times before. Such words and phrases are rarely convincing and thus end up conveying nothing substantial about your qualifications or abilities. 

Let’s take a look at some of the terms LinkedIn reported to being the most overused in resumes in the US:

  • Strategic
  • Creative
  • Responsible
  • Driven
  • Effective
  • Patient
  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Expert

You can also do a quick Google search for words or phrases to avoid using on your resume, and you’ll see more than 50 million results. This shows that there is indeed an overwhelming view that cliché words are becoming overused on resumes. Therefore, apart from the examples I’ve given above, phrases like “results-oriented,” “highly qualified,” “effective leader” is almost becoming more fluff than anything else on resumes.

What to do

Go through your resume as many times as possible, banishing all buzzwords and replacing them accordingly. In their place, provide specific and concrete examples of noteworthy achievements using a language that accurately illustrates your individual and unique attributes.

If you find some difficulty in it, try to know that recruiters only give resumes about 6 seconds. What are you going to tell them that will drive the point home immediately? Give live examples. Effective leader? Tell them why. They want to see tangible results/evidence.

  1. The focus is too broad

If you are one of those lazy people trying to create a one-size-fits-all resume, you might have to wait a long time before a recruiter notices you. Having a one master resume and using it to apply for all jobs you come across is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Your resume should necessarily be tailored to the job you’re applying for instead of being an off-putting display of everything you can do. For instance, if you’re applying for a developer position, try to resist the urge to include your sales background. The recruiter wants to see your coding skills. When you’re applying for jobs, ensure you pitch yourself for that specific job opening; no one is looking for a jack-of-all-trades. Specialization is King, usually.

What to do

Some of the things that will assist you in tailoring your resume correctly include the following:

  • Below the position title, write the top three keywords that you deem most relevant and vital for the role.
  • Select the accomplishments that you think are important to the position’s success, as well as that of the company.
  • In the job history section, include the most relevant points in bullet points in order of strength.
  1. You’re not paying attention to keywords from job postings

Just like SEO helps people find what they want online, keywords are the “search items” that assist recruiters in finding you.

If you’re the type that creates a resume without considering the (potential) keywords in job descriptions, your resume might not get three seconds of a thorough recruiter’s time.

Any serious recruiter will tell you that one of the things that drive them to read on is the keywords that mirror their job description. This means that you should also look to ensure those words are written on your resume.

What to do

I’ll use an example here:

If the job you’re applying for requires Python, Java and C++ DON’T nestle or hide these skills on page 2 or 3 of your resume. Add them to the first bullet points under “technical skills.” 

If you’re applying for a senior sales manager position, the recruiter will be looking for the length of experience needed, the targeted skills matching the job description and industry-specific words like team management, business development, and high-impact sales revenue. The job description will always have relevant, focused, and industry-specific keywords. Ensure your resume reflects them.

  1. You’re not personal

Professional resumes usually focus mostly on work-related experience, and having such a resume is okay. However, with nearly everyone’s resume focusing on the same, it’s easy for your resume to go unnoticed simply because it’s too ordinary, and doesn’t create any connection with the recruiter. A personal resume, on the other hand, is more of a well-rounded view of both your work-related and non-work related experiences and accomplishments. A personal resume can show who you are, and that’s something your resume should always portray.

What to do

Show a little enthusiasm. Tell the recruiter something about yourself and why they should consider you. You can also let them know why you would be the right candidate for that job. Other things you could do to reinforce your effort include:

· Adding a photo of yourself

  • Including your location in your information section
  • Phone number
  1. The resume’s format and design are too elaborate

When it comes to the resume format and design, less is usually more. The more creative or detailed you try to get with your resume, the more likely the hiring personnel will spend more time looking for the info they want, and obviously since they have minimal time, the more likely they’re going to pass over your resume altogether.

What to do

Stick to a straightforward and clean design that allows any reader to skim your information and understand your story. Save all the fancy charts and graphs for your website. The recruiter wants to get info from your resume within the shortest time possible.


These are some of the most common mistakes people make that keep them jobless. Avoid them, and you’ll be better placed to surpass your competition. Remember, you aim to catch the recruiter’s attention and keep them reading without being distracted by avoidable errors. 


Thottam, I (2018, August 13). The Best Way to Add Keywords to Your Resume. Retrieved from

Shimer, R (2008). The Probability of Finding a Job. Retrieved from American Economic Review.

Fountain, C (2005). Finding a job in the Internet Age. Retrieved from Social Forces.

Hand, K (2013). Finding a job in an overcrowded market Getting what you want. Retrieved from Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma

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