The Attack of the Killer Resumes

On-line resumes can be just as deadly as the sugar-coated treats that grow deadly claws in the movie, “The Attack of the Killer Donuts.”  In that recent horror spoof, a mad scientist accidentally injects rows of donuts on display at a donut shop.  They still look just as sweet and innocent as ever.  However, when customers reach for their poisoned purchases, the donuts’ vicious bear claws pop out and attack the customer.


Many on-line resumes today are like the killer donuts.  They arrive in the inbox looking sweet, but are so inadequately composed they cannot be digested.  The reader just aches to hit the Delete key.

There are many kinds of killer resumes.  They have one feature in common.  The experience, the location, even the applicant’s job goal are wildly off the mark of the job sought.  Either the applicant didn’t read the job advertisement or didn’t provide any relevant details to let the reader see why this job might be a good match for this applicant.  The result, the employer rejects fast or simply hits the Delete key.


One notorious source of killer resumes is the giant job matcher, Indeed.  This job search engine has eclipsed all the major job boards, such as Monster, Career Builder, or Linked In.  Unlike them, job search engines incorporate jobs from all kinds of public and private web sites.  At the same time, anyone can create an account and post their resume on Indeed.  According to Indeed, 14 million job seekers worldwide have posted their resumes.  To manage this giant database, Indeed has very simple job matching algorithms and even simpler requirements as to what constitutes a “resume.”  Job search engines can “recommend” jobs based on keywords and the applicants can apply to many at once with the twitch of a finger.


There were almost 6 million US job openings at the end of 2017 as reported by the US   Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  This would seem to be a wonderful opportunity for the millions of job seekers applying via job boards for work of their choice.  The problem is that only a tiny percentage of applicants ever get job interviews.  And without that critical interview, it’s virtually impossible to get a job offer.


According, Sources of Hire 2017 by Silkroad, it took 99 external (job board) applications on average to find three interviewees and, from that pool, to hire one new employee.  That’s a 1% applicant conversion rate. Likewise, the BLS reports that despite 5.8 million openings in December, new hires constituted only 3.7% of American payrolls that month.


Why, you might ask, with a well-known “talent shortage” and upwards of 14 million aspiring applicants don’t we fill the job openings and solve our talent problems?  The answer, at least in part, lies in the killer resume.


Indeed, as one example, has a woefully simplistic resume format which strips all individuality and completeness from applicants’ resumes in exchange for the ease of pushing a button to cast the application far and wide.  Some resumes arrive in my inbox with no more information than “I work hard.”


As a result, many, if not most, online resumes received appear to be a wretched match for the job they select.  Because technology has made it easy to apply to multiple, wildly different, job posts, many of the “Killer Resumes” don’t match the job’s posted requirements at all.  Even worse, when I ask, many applicants have no idea which jobs they applied for.


Why do Killer Resumes scare off hiring authorities?


According to the resume, the applicant appears to

  • live 100 miles away
  • have no relevant experience
  • have only worked for a hot minute or not worked in five years

The cover letter is one-size-fits-all

  • The career goal is often the flip opposite of the job sought
  • The blanks on the resume template haven’t been filled in: for example,

“Experienced professional seeking to fill a <name of position> position”


In fact many of these applicants are a far better match than their resumes would indicate.

  • They may have moved closer to the job desired since crafting the resume
  • They have relevant work experience. It’s just not listed.
  • They have only listed one recent job, when, in fact, they have lots of experience
  • Recent experience is omitted which would show a steady work history.
  • The applicant may be working towards a new career direction


Each company has specific needs for their new hires.   And, given the flood of online replies to any job post, hiring authorities must flush out the apparent unqualified candidates with a click of the “Delete” button.


Why is there no widespread outcry against the attack of the killer resume?  Why is the internet, with Artificial Intelligence tools, not better able to arm job seekers with best practices?


One can only guess.  Some possibilities:

  • Candidates like it. It’s the easy way to apply
  • Self-styled resume experts have no idea of what happens to bad resumes
  • Job boards haven’t figured out how to improve their odds
  • With all those resumes flying at them, employers don’t mind deleting a few hundred thousand.


Just like in the movies, there is a solution to the attack of the killer resumes.  It will take heroes and heroines to take on the mad scientists that allowed for such poor resume standards.  It will take committed warriors to insist that resumes be brought up to date when applying.


To find an answer to the attack of the killer resume, watch The Attack of the Killer Donuts.  Hint:  against all odds, the hero and heroine defeat the mad scientist and rescue the tasty donuts for all of us to eat.

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