As an ex-recruiter, I’ve reviewed thousands and thousands of resumes throughout my career. And some of them have been committed to my memory because they’ve been so freaking awful! In this episode I share three stories about resumes that made it to the top of my “worst ever” list.

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33. The worst resumes I’ve ever seen – Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi, there I’m Bec McFarland the host of the Pop Your Career Podcast. As a career coach, I’m most passionate about helping my clients to discover their own personal flavour of career fulfillment. In this podcast, we are going to be exploring ways that you too can feel more fulfilled by your work. So strap yourself in, get ready for the ride. The tips around here are fast and in abundance.

[00:00:29] Hello, hello, Bec McFarland here helping you do better and be better in your career. Today I wanna talk to you about the three worst resumes that have ever come across my desk. Before I start, I just wanna say I am really not coming at these resumes from a judgmental place. We are gonna have a giggle [00:01:00] today, but we are definitely not laughing at anyone else’s demise in each of these situations.

[00:01:06] I did actually reach out to the person and provide them with some feedback to help them change their resume and have a better luck next time. But, It’s a lesson. It’s a lesson for all of us, and I am hoping that you’ve never made these mistakes, but if you have, you can walk away with this lesson and make sure that you don’t make these mistakes ever again.

[00:01:35] Let’s talk about resume number one. This one was really interesting, I guess they were all really interesting in their own ways. It was incredibly hard to read. I am pretty passionate about resume design. I really believe that it is an opportunity for you to show off your personality, [00:02:00]to stand out from the crowd.

[00:02:02] You can even in some industries, make some risky choices. I’m all about it. I love a little bit of experimentation. One thing that I think that we can all experiment with is our use of fonts. However, whenever you’re experimenting, you always wanna make sure that you are actually selecting a font that can be read very easily.

[00:02:26] I’ve told you guys before a little bit more about what it’s like to be on a panel. As a panel member on a role, you know, you could be receiving hundreds and hundreds of applications and often the panel members or the recruiters are flat out during the day. So I know for me, a lot of times what I would do is I would print out all of the resumes so that I could really dive into reading them and marking them up and putting notes on them and stuff like that. I’m sorry, environment. Um, I hate the paper wastage, but [00:03:00] also it’s so much easier for me to do resume shortlisting when they are in paper format. But I would often also do this at home after hours and sometimes even in front of the television.

[00:03:13] So what I’m doing, and particularly for myself because of the fact that I’ve been reviewing resumes for so long, I find that I can make decisions pretty quickly about whether a candidate is suitable for shortlisting or not. It does not mean that I’m not reading their resume, but what I can say is that I’m not reading their resume in full detail.

[00:03:33] I am definitely not paying attention to every single word. I am really not going to be reading past probably the second page. I’m looking at that most important information just to see what I can glean from that, and then I’m making a decision. Should I interview them or should I not?

[00:03:50] With this in mind and noting that it happens quite quickly, that it also often happens when your panel member is quite tired, it’s really important to make sure [00:04:00] that your resume design is easy to read, and there are a couple of different ways that I recommend that you do this. I love using a combination of paragraphs and also bullet points. I think it helps you to break it up really quite nicely. Using white space, so not covering every single pixel of your resume with text just gives the eye a little bit more space to be able to glance over it.

[00:04:28] Making sure that your font is of a decent size. I, you would usually say at least size 11 point. But the other thing is, is choosing a font that is easy to consume. Now, one thing I will say is that through my own resume design and experimentation, I have used some pretty fun and radical fonts for my own name and also the name of clients when I’ve been working on their resumes.

[00:04:55] I think in terms of the name, we’re usually doing it in a larger font. It gives us a [00:05:00]little bit more space to be a bit creative about what it is that we choose. But in general, for the majority of the text on a resume, it needs to be really pretty standard. In saying that standard doesn’t necessarily mean boring.

[00:05:18] There are lots of really lovely fonts out there that you could choose that would still give you a little bit of a design element without them being difficult to read. Usually what I would recommend is using a sans serif font, which means using a font that doesn’t have the little flicky bits. It just makes it a little bit easier to scan over to be able to take in the information. It’s not at all cluttered. Sometimes as a design choice, I will use a serif font, so a font that has the serifs, which are those little flicky bits, and usually if I’m using a serif font, then I will [00:06:00] actually make the font slightly larger to give the panel member a better opportunity to be able to read it quickly and interpret the information that’s there.

[00:06:11] This is a really long way of me getting to a point to tell you that the resume that I received was 100% from start to finish in the font Papyrus. If you aren’t familiar with the font papyrus, I would encourage you to do two things. Firstly, go and check it out. It’s actually the font that was used, I believe, on the avatar poster, if that helps you to visualize it all.

[00:06:41] The second thing that I would really encourage you to do is to go and watch the video of Ryan Gosling sharing his own opinion on the papyrus font. It is a comedy skit that is available on YouTube. I’ll make sure that we pop a link to it in the show [00:07:00] notes. Definitely watch it. It’s hilarious, and I usually watch it at least a couple of times a year just to remind myself how much I hate this font. And after you watch that video, you will well and truly understand why this resume landed on my list of the top three worst resumes that I have ever received. Not only was it incredibly difficult to read, But it was also quite comical because of the fact that I was aware of that Ryan Gosling skit.

[00:07:36] So as I mentioned, I did reach out to the person and I did tell them that it would definitely be in their best interest to choose another font for next time, because it’s really not ideal.

[00:07:50] This episode is brought to you by the Career Clarity Quest, my absolutely free, seven day program, which is designed to [00:08:00] support you in getting so much clearer about your next steps. Find it at

[00:08:10] The second resume that I wanna talk to you about was what I call the shopping list resume. Now, this resume was wholly and solely built up of bullet point lists that were either single or two word items. So what I mean by that would be the same way that you might write a shopping list, right? You are shopping for bread and eggs and milk and dishwasher tablets and orange cordial. And this person was doing something very similar on their resume.

[00:08:51] So in their key skills section, they had a list of, as I say, single word or double word responses. Things [00:09:00] like banking, customer service, stakeholder engagement, client work, graphic design, so on and so forth, right? You get the point. When you are reading a resume like this and coming across this kind of shopping list type behaviour, it’s really difficult to actually make a judgment on whether this person is suitable for the role because they’re not giving you any context or any information or any detail.

[00:09:33] They’ve given you a list that they’ve called maybe key skills or strengths or something along those lines, and then they’re basically just asking you to trust them based on a single or double word response that they have what it is that you are looking for. Personally, it’s not enough information for me, and I know that for pretty much every other panel member under the sun, that this is also just [00:10:00] not enough, but it got worse. It wasn’t just their key skills section, right? It was also their employment list. So we had their list of their jobs, and then underneath each one they gave another shopping list of things that they had done in that career.

[00:10:17] Things like eFTPOS transactions, point of sale system, writing reports, leading a team. These very short and punchy dot points don’t actually provide any information about what you’ve done or what you can do. This resume in itself was basically just a group of shopping lists, and in the end, it really was not enough information for me to be able to shortlist this candidate, and nor was I particularly confident in their communication skills based on the [00:11:00] fact that this was the type of work that they produced. Again, I did reach out to the person. In this case and let them know that I would recommend that they provide a little bit more information in their resume.

[00:11:14] Now, of course, we don’t wanna go into too much detail. There is a really happy medium, but usually, as I say to people, it’s all about giving enough context for the panel member to make a decision, and you want to make sure that you include as much information as you need to to convince your panel members that you are the most suitable candidate for the role.

[00:11:35] Resume number three. This was a doozy and I have shared this example before. It is something that honestly was pretty sad and I really felt for this guy because I knew that he was probably shooting at his resume to lots of different places, and I also knew [00:12:00] that most of those places probably weren’t going to be as kind as I had been in writing back an email response and saying, Hey, did you realize that you’d made this mistake?

[00:12:10] So the mistake that this gentleman had made was not just a spelling mistake, but in fact what he had done is that he had sought some feedback on his resume. At face value, I think this is a really great thing to do, and it’s something that I encourage absolutely everybody to do. I’m not sure who it was that he asked for support, but he had sent the document to them.

[00:12:36] They had turned track changes on, and then they had gone through his resume with a fine tooth comb. They had made hundreds of changes to things like spelling, grammar, they had added detail. There was comments that had been added all the way through it, suggesting ways that this [00:13:00] gentleman could improve his resume.

[00:13:03] And again, something that I am always encouraging people to do is to get fresh eyes. Ask somebody else to have a look over your resume and give you some feedback on ways that you might be able to improve. But the next part of my recommendation is that once you receive that resume, you really need to accept all changes, delete all the comments, and turn off track changes.

[00:13:30] For those of you who are proficient in using Microsoft Word, you’re probably like, yeah, no, duh. You know, we know, we know. This guy obviously didn’t really know how to use Microsoft Word, or he just didn’t realize the dreadful mistake that he had made. What I can say is that his friend, whoever she was that had provided all of this feedback. She was really spot on. She had some great ideas. She gave him really great [00:14:00] constructive feedback and suggestions about ways that he could make his resume more appealing to an employer.

[00:14:07] But unfortunately in this situation, being able to see the resume as it was in the beginning, and then also see all of those notes and feedback and the change. The whole works. I wasn’t able to shortlist this guy. It just would not have been a decision made with integrity to do that. But as I said, I did email him. I never heard back from him . I never got a thanks or anything like that, but that’s okay. I can imagine he was probably very, very embarrassed.

[00:14:43] So they are the top three terrible resumes that have come past my desk, each one making a very simple mistake that is probably a little bit too common. If you are making any of these mistakes on your [00:15:00] resume, then it should be reasonably easy for you to change them.

[00:15:05] By all means, if there’s anything that I can do to support you through that process, please feel free to reach out to me. Otherwise, I hope that your resume is absolutely schmick and I’m wishing you all the best with the next steps in your career, whatever they may hold. I’ll see you soon.

[00:15:22] Thanks so much for listening to the Pop Your Career podcast. I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s tips and that you found value in what I’ve shared with you. If you like your career advice quick and entertaining, I would love for you to subscribe. Also leave me a rating and a review. If you wanna continue the conversation, come and join me over on social media. You can find me everywhere at Pop Your Career. I’ll see you soon.


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About the author 


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.