With stacks of resumes to choose from, recruiters are just searching for reasons to rule out applicants. So don’t give them a reason to put yours in that trash pile.

Peter S. Herzog, author of “How To Prolong Your Job Search: A Humorous Guide to the Pitfalls of Resume Writing,” tells us:

“Design your personal profile with the mindset that the people reading it are doing so at five minutes to 5 o’clock on a Friday, right before their vacation.”

After more than two decades of placing professionals in management positions, Herzog has seen his share of resumes and cover letters packed with “cute gimmick, fancy sentence or formatting, or including a redundant and superfluous summary or objective.”

From Herzog’s book, we compiled some tips that will help you steer clear of the elimination process and into the interview.

Never make your cover letter or introductory email longer than three paragraphs

Here’s what you should include:

a.. Why you are sending the cover letter.

b. How (or from whom) you heard about the opening.

c. Something specific that cannot be inferred from your resume (i.e. work situation, special skills or the kind of job you’re looking for).

Here’s what you shouldn’t include:

Don’t state what kind of pay you’re looking for since there are many different components in a salary package that can confuse a recruiter. This is the kind of thing that can be discussed during or after the interview.

Don’t put your name and contact info on the side, bottom or back of your resume — they should always be at the top

Don’t put your name and contact info on the side, bottom or back of your resume — they should always be at the top

This sounds simple, but Herzog says this universal rule’s been tweaked with in the past. This is how it should be done:

a. Put your name in bold face and/or regular caps.

b. Include your full address and home, work (optional) and/or cell phone numbers and your email address but do not bold these.

Don’t assume everyone knows your company if it’s not well-known

If the company you worked for isn’t a Fortune 500, add a brief description of the company before your title and job function. Providing a description will make your position seem more credible, especially if the company is small or isn’t well-known. For example:

The Norinchukin Bank, Ltd., New York, NY

Japanese Commercial Bank — 81st largest bank (ranked by assets) in the world

Assistant Vice President — Real Estate Finance Group

Don’t include an objective — especially if you’re applying for a job that’s different than your listed objective

Education should never be listed above experience — unless you have five higher education degrees

Or if you’ve recently completed a degree and don’t have too much of a work history. The rule here is that you can list “Education” first if you’ve graduated within two years.

Also, always list the most recent degree first and continue in descending order.

Don’t be arrogant

In fact, it works in your favor to be humble.

In his book, Herzog referred to a candidate who wrote that the recruiter will “surely want to learn more” about him after reviewing his resume. This kind of language is arrogant and cocky and no one should have this kind of cover letter.

Don’t include any time gaps without an explanation

If you took some time off to care of your kids, fill this gap in your resume with a “Homemaker” or “Child care provider” position. This is a smart and innovative way not to raise a red flag when recruiters see a big time gap in between your jobs, Herzog says.

You can always explain this “job” further during the interview and it will keep you from being eliminated before you actually have a shot to explain why you took so much time off.

Don’t break the one-page rule unless you have more than 8 years of experience

“Nobody wants to read a book on your life,” Herzog says. But if you have a lot of experience, then two pages can be used — just don’t fill up the second page. Here are the basic rules:

a. A full-time job that lasted less than three months doesn’t need to be included.

b. If you have 3+ years of work experience, omit summer jobs, but internships related to your current job experience can still be included.

c. If you have 15+ years of work experience then your first job doesn’t need to be included, especially if it’s unrelated to your industry or to the position you’re applying for.

Don’t include short, worthless descriptions. Back up your credibility with some impressive numbers

If you’re applying for a job within the same industry, include some big numbers that will surely place you closer to the top of the pile. For example:

  • Manage a portfolio of $750MM
  • Billed over $500k in 2010
  • Market to Fortune 1000 companies with a minimum of $1B in sales

Don’t include skills that aren’t applicable to your job description
Wikimedia Commons

Instead, list your computer skills, honors and awards, affiliations or licenses.

Don’t confuse your potential employers with statements like “references will be furnished for your comfort”

Whatever you do, don’t be cute
This rule applies to cover letters, resumes and interviews.