Death by Resume: Pitfalls That Prevent Good Candidates From Getting Hired

By Jaci Rivera

     I know you are probably thinking... what the heck? Let me explain. You can be your own enemy when it comes to your resume. In the words of the infamous Jerry Maguire, "Help me help you."
This week, as I am busy recruiting and filling jobs, I have noticed one common mistake with many candidates' resumes. This glaring error is so great that it can be a fatal flaw. So what am I talking about?
     Update your resume! An old resume is NOT helping you get calls from recruiters and HR Managers. You are wasting your time by not having a fresh up- to- date profile/resume on job boards.
I've been busy working on several positions that are new and fresh this week. I'm looking for new talent but 25% of the resumes and profiles I came across were old, yet were categorized as "updated or modified" within one week!? Confused yet? I know--I was too. Here's what I mean specifically. Many resumes show a LAST employer in 2009, some 2008, and I even found one that read 2006. So what that tells me, the hiring manager is that the last time that person had a job was 6 years ago! Even if it's 2009, this means this person has not worked in almost 3 years! What is wrong with this, you might ask? Think about this for a minute...
     Put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes. You are the hiring manager and you are the one interviewing people for your company. Pretend this person will be working directly for you and whomever you hire will be contributing to YOUR bottom line. His / her results will directly affect your pocket. Would you choose someone that has been out of the market for several years? With technology changing every 6 months and systems being updated even more often than that, someone out of the market for 3 years may not be "up-to-date." Processes change constantly, and companies are always looking for ways to make more with less. They are looking to decrease cost, increase profit, and be lean and aggressive. These days are critical, as many changes have occurred in the last few years with the down turn of the economy: companies closed, mergers were inevitable and new growth was non-existent. So especially now that the economy is making a slight up trend it is more important than ever to be ahead of the competition. Companies are starting to rehire - slowly - but they are being cautious with every hire. HR Managers are carefully selecting qualified, experienced, and up-to-date candidates - people that can make a strong impact on the bottom line. The reality is that you have to make your employer more than what you cost them--it's that simple. It's business. 

     Naturally, HR Managers gravitate towards people that are current, recent, up-to- date, results-driven, go-getters! When they see a resume that says 2009, 2008, or even 2010, they pass. They keep looking for a current candidate--someone that has the relevant and current skills and experience. They ideally want someone that IS doing that very same job NOW! Someone that is doing it for someone else and making them money. "Bring me that person, those skills--that's what we need! That's the ideal candidate." That's what we as recruiters are asked to look for. So now you know our big secret! Employers do not want the unemployed but rather the underemployed!

     So to all my unemployed friends out there that lost their jobs in 2008, 2009, don't lynch me for publicly stating what most HR people are thinking. In fact, now that YOU KNOW, what will you do? You CAN turn this situation around. You can actually do something to make yourself marketable and desirable to employers. Update your resume.

     Most of you in this situation have in fact had some jobs whether part time, contract or consultant roles since. Most have not been able to live off of unemployment monies for long - that was simply not enough. Many of you did work doing something. So update your resume, list it, and bring your resume current. If your resume says 2009, an HR manager has no idea if you were unemployed, working, or in jail for 3 years. You were probably not in jail - that's a stretch - but you get the point. If you are thinking, "well, they should call me and ask. I can do the job. I have done it in the past and I am well qualified." You may be right--but realize that right now there are hundreds of other candidates with the same qualifications, skills, experiences, available and with current credentials that are ready, willing, and able to take the job. So why should a hiring manager pick you over someone current and available?

     Update your resume with education, certifications, new processes/ programs, etc. Many of you went back to school finished your degree, learned a new trade or skill. More than likely you have worked somewhere in 2012, 2011, etc. So add it to your resume so it doesn't look like you sat at home for 3 years doing nothing. You are not just "looking for a job," you are competing with hundreds if not thousands of other hungry and savvy candidates - so stand out!
On that note, I'll end my rant on old resumes. I just hate to see good people passed over for lack of recent experience. So, if I come across your resume and it still says 2008, I'll have no mercy on you. Remember--friends don't let friends have old, out-of-date resumes. So pass this along to someone you know and help me help them!

     Jaci Rivera is the Vice President and Co-Founder of Cornerstone Recruitment Group ( She is a nationally renowned life and career coach with a special focus on Hispanic Americans. She has spent the last 15 years working for major Fortune 500 companies, in Management, Human Resources, Career Development and Recruitment. For more info on Jaci, please visit [] and be sure to subscribe to her site for the latest tools for your career development.

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