How 63% of Job Applicants Shot Themselves in the Foot

When we ran the same ad 3 years ago, we received 48 resumes in a 30-day period. The Januart, 2019 result? This time, we received over 650 resumes in less than a week.

After a couple of follow up questions to my initial post, we decided to go into some more detail on the statistics:

  • 29% of applications had at least one spelling mistake.
  • 33% had attachments we couldn’t open using either the latest version of Microsoft Word or Acrobat Reader.
  • 17% of applications had poorly written, missing, or completely inappropriate cover letters.
  • 44% of resumes had a very vague objective unrelated to the job being applied for.

Ouch! Our initial reaction was a bit of shock at all the work it would take to go through the applications. Then, after we’d gone through a triage process, we became concerned for all the job hunters. Hundreds of them made the triage process easy – because they were easy to eliminate. It’s not like there aren’t many online resources and desktop tools to help, but for whatever reason, people aren’t using them. There’s a combination of a lack of job hunting skills, a poor use of available tools, and perhaps a bit of self-defeating desperation.

The most important take-away here is that non-executive job hunters can differentiate to a certain extent by doing a solid job with the basics.

It might be helpful to address each of the issues in more detail, and build a bit more on our initial post about this with some additional specific examples.

Missing/Poor Objectives on Resumes

On 44% of resumes received, little time or effort was given to the objective on the resume. In several cases the objective on the resume was totally different from the advertised job. After reading a few resumes, you get very tired of the same old garbage items like seeking a rapidly growing company with opportunity for advancement”, “seeking a company that will give me a chance to learn”, “a job that will challenge my skills and education” and “seeking a job in a stable company that doesn’t have lay-offs”. Over 20% of the resumes had no objective at all. Suggestion: Keep the objective simply the title of the job you are applying for at that time.

Inappropriate or missing Cover Letters

Job Search - Fishguardtaxis.com17% had poorly written, missing, or completely inappropriate cover letters. For example, one letter stated:

“[…] although you may feel I am highly over qualified for the position, I really need a job so as to be able to pay my rent”

Suggestion: A cover letter to a prospective employer is not a good place to look for sympathy. Even if the employer is empathetic, they are looking to hire someone who really wants the job, will do well, and will not leave the second they find something else. Employers don’t want to hire someone who’s desperate, or who doesn’t really want the job.

Another said:

“Although I have had no experience in that field, my friends say I am a quick learner”

Suggestion: It would have been much better to say, “I feel that I am well qualified for the position and would appreciate having the opportunity to meet with you in person.”

Resumes that Won’t Open

33% had attachments we couldn’t open using either the latest versions of Microsoft Word and Acrobat Reader. Obviously, this can work to immediately exclude you. If a prospective employer already has too many resumes to look through, why will they spend extra time if your document doesn’t work on the first try? Suggestion: Send a test email to a friend first. If you have to submit the resume through a website, still double check any attachments with someone.


Over 29% of applications had at least one spelling mistake or grammatical error. Um…we’re not even sure where to start here. A typo is never good form in a professional document. If you’re not a good speller, use a spelling checker. Suggestion. If there’s no spell check available on a web page, write your cover letter in a word processor, spell check, and then copy/paste it into the web form.

Showing up at the Interview

Next post…we’ll follow up on our post on interview dress based on our actual experiences from candidates who made it to the in-person round.
Good hunting!