Wondering Why You Haven’t Landed a Job?

Maybe the answer lies in your résumé.

July 23, 2009
by Sukanya Mitra

It’s very easy to blame the recession for not landing a job in these trying times. Add that to all the hiring freezes and you’d think you’re not the one to blame.

But maybe you are. Just maybe it has to do with you not going back to the basics.

Accountemps, a leading temporary staffing firm, recently conducted a survey of top executives to see what could ruin a job seeker’s chances of landing that lucrative offer. Surprisingly, they pointed out basic carelessness. More than three out of four (76%) top executives said your résumé will go down the chute if it had only one or two typographical errors.

Here’s the complete breakdown for the question: How many typos in a résumé does it take for you to decide not to consider a job candidate for a position within your company?

(Source: Accountemps)

As Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps pointed out, “If you make errors on your application materials, the assumption is you’ll make mistakes on the job.”

“The résumé is essentially a marketing piece that should effectively communicate why you are the best choice for a particular role,” agreed John Hartnett, vice president at Princeton, NJ-based recruiting firm Jack Farrell & Associates. “Résumés that contain misspelled words, lack structure or formatting sends a message, rightly or wrongly,  that the candidate is not detailed-oriented, lacks written communication skills or is merely going through the motions and not truly interested in a particular job or organization,” he added.

Not all are as harsh. As long as there are no more than one or two typos, your résumé will get a second look by Geremy Cepin, director — Assurance/Tax/Advisory, at Chicago-based recruiting firm PDI Executive Search. “One or two typos do not typically deter me from taking a closer look at a good/viable candidate. I always look closer at a candidate whose skill-set and professional goals seem to match with a position for which I am recruiting.”

What Job Seekers Need to Know

So do HR recruiters and managers have pet peeves?

“Pet peeves by definition are a particular and often continual annoyance; annoyances are personal, and therefore to me are not a valid reason to reject a viable job seeker,” said Cepin. “While résumé or interview etiquette may be common sense for some, the job search process can be daunting for even the most seasoned member of the workforce. Just today I spoke with an accountant who has not had to put together a résumé since 1985 and had no clue about best practices! I saw this as an opportunity to include, not exclude,” he added.

And yes, HR managers and recruiters are not the evil, bad guys trying to trick you. Here’s a similar take from Hartnett. “As an outside recruiter  — depending upon the candidate and the circumstances — I will often take the time to rework a résumé rather than arbitrarily reject a candidate who has the requisite skills and qualifications, but has not communicated them effectively in their résumé.”    


As a candidate you should definitely go back to the basics and put your best foot forward — after all you are trying to sell yourself — the best candidate out there, to the employer of your choice. That means making sure you outline your accomplishments and provide examples in your cover letter of how you got the job done and how you are different from other candidates. But, while doing all this, it also means not to rely solely on spell check, because even spell check needs a pair of human eyes to make sure it has done its job correctly.

“From my perspective, there is confusion about what elements are required for a “good” résumé. People do make mistakes and typos and grammatical errors occur,” says Hartnett. “If I see the effort and the intent, I'm more inclined to be forgiving. If I don't see it — it's on to the next candidate.”

So, there you have it. Happy job hunting!

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Sukanya Mitra is Managing Editor of the Insider™ e-newsletter group.