Résumé Rejection Reasons – An Illustrated Guide – Part 3 – Résumé Content

Part 3 – Résumé Content

Let us take a magnifying glass and zoom in on the various faux pas in a résumé’s content that get it noticed, and not in a good way. If you can avoid these mistakes in your résumé, you make a huge leap up on the leader-board.


The rules of the English language are simpler than those of programming languages. You have studied both for years. If you still don’t know how to properly capitalize words, especially while applying for a software engineering position, your résumé would slide down many irrecoverable steps in the sorted priority list, probably because the hiring manager would imagine you trying to debug your code for hours to discover that the root cause was an incorrectly spelled variable in the end.

Learn the right case(s) to use for proper and common nouns, abbreviations and title case phrases, and use them consistently.

Respect your University name – use it as it is printed on your degree.
Perhaps the rule is to capitalize the first four months only.
Two opposing perspectives on capitalization.


Proper capitalization is good, unnecessary capitalization is bad. Title case is rarely required in sentences in a ‘normal’ résumé.

This candidate would have improved his chances by not adding the above sentence.
The capitalized A does create a certain kind of balance in this sentence.


There is Capitalization, and then there is CAPITALIZATION.


Did the paragraph above hurt your eyes? Imagine a bespectacled hiring manager going through hundreds of similar résumés, and the relief that a nicely capitalized résumé would bring him. Save a hiring manager’s eyes. Don’t capitalize unnecessarily.

My eyes!


Any spelling mistakes in your résumés are immediately noticed by the hiring manager (and your spell-checker), so there’s no room for error here. A résumé with typos is a résumé at the bottom of the rejection pile. Along with writing code, developers are also required to contribute to technical documentation, and nobody wants a teammate who can’t spell, and badly written documentation is an embarrassment for the whole team.

Use a spellchecker (or is that spell-checker?), and a grammar checker while you are at it. Its It’s free. Your future self would thank you for it.

I would not let this candidate come close to any production code, or documentation.
Irony, illustrated.
Watch your vowels. Remember: Extra Es elicit extreme expletives from the employer.
One character could make or break your CV. Especially if your FYP revolved around language and patterns.

Don’t Just Spell Cheque

Sometimes, relying on a spellchecker does not quite work out. Proofread your resume yourself, then get it proofread by others. Spellcheckers fail when it comes to technical terms and technologies, so it is up to you to be meticulous in ensuring the accuracy of any proper nouns that you use on your résumé.

On the bright side, no spelling mistakes.
My spellchecker doesn’t recognize ‘Steganography’ too.
Male chauvinism at work.
Smiting is a dangerous activity, especially when paired with knives.
The classic mistake.
You keep using that word…
Spellchecker approved.
We all know the universe is already a simulation, so just succeed.
This candidate was rejected because he couldn’t stand straight.
Stop, you’ll get tired. One positive reply coming up.
The candidate was probably codding!
Freudian slip?
But of course!

Proper Nouns

If the most important word to any person is their own name, then the name of the organization that they work for is at least somewhat important to them. Do not expect an interview call any time soon if you have misspelled the name of the company that you are applying to, either in your cover letter or your email. It is a big red flag and shows carelessness, while they are looking for meticulous candidates.

Any time that you mention the organization’s name, make sure that you use the official version of their name, as used by them on their official documentation or website, and not one from an alternate reality. If you are reusing an old cover letter, at least update the previous company’s name in your cover letter before mailing it to the next company – this is a faux pas that is hard to recover from.

All of the above also hold for your previous employers, educational institutes, and your own name.

While we are on the topic, please don’t address me as Zohaib, Shoaib, Sohail or anything else besides Sohaib in your emails.

This candidate sent an old cover letter without changing the firm’s name, for a job that was not a UI/UX Designer.

Punctuation and Whitespace

If you can not grasp the simple concept of how and when to use a comma , an apostrophe or aspace,a hiring manager ,consciously or subconsciously,would notice the error, and you know what that means. The same goes for dashes-and periods and ellipses..

Space before comma, space after comma, comma after comma, anything goes.
When in doubt, add an apostrophe.
‘Hands-on’ is a common mistake that I keep coming across.
Watch how your words wrap, especially if the word is COMMUNICATION.
Bullets are not sentences.
At least the dates are consistently wrongly formatted.
Extra spaces in technology names are twice as important as spaces in other words.
Words are not sentences.
Is it a list? Is it a sentence?
If, like me, you are in the habit of using nested braces, open and close them properly before applying for that C++ job involving compiler construction.

Writing in the Third Person

Sohaib thinks that anyone writing a personal statement or a cover letter in the third person is asking for the résumé to be thrown on the rejection pile. Sohaib believes that you can do better, and urges you to not make this mistake on your résumé. Heed Sohaib’s advice and use the first person throughout on your résumé.

Sohaib was amused when he read this personal statement. No interview though.


Your résumé is a chronological record of your academic and professional life, and hence, it contains a bunch of dates. The Goldilocks Zone of date precision changes from case to case. You would want to mention the year alone for certain older events, while more recent events may require the month as well. Use your common sense while mentioning dates.

August 2020 is easier on the eyes than 2020-08 IMO, but feel free to disagree. Whatever format you pick, aim to be consistent in date formatting throughout your résumé.

Capital A hath August, except when followed by 2012.

Technical Terminology

Developers’ résumés need to be heavy on long lists of languages and technologies. Any time you mention an abbreviation or a brand name, ensure that it is capitalized and spelled properly.

If Microsoft uses ASP.NET everywhere, then Asp.Net or asp.net is wrong. If you are unsure about whether to use Nodejs, Node.js or NODEJS, look it up on the official website.

Hiring Managers for development positions, like C++, are also case-sensitive, and expect the candidates to be case-aware.

If you haven’t been in heated arguments around the pronunciation of Linux, the softness or hardness of the g in gif or the correctness or incorrectness of ‘Star Trek’, you may need to get into that mindset before you join a seriously technical workplace.

Seriously though, if you can’t spell a technology name correctly, why would a hiring manager believe that you’ll be able to follow the coding conventions used by his team, much less to be great at programming in that technology?

If this were an exam, the candidate would have recieved 5/13 marks.
Sorry, we were looking for Prolog experience.
A bad speller, or a DS9 fan? We will never know.
Pressing the shift key shouldn’t be that tiring.
Another assortment of typical careless errors.
Pi. Pie. π. Whatever.
Too lazy to use the shift key?


The one good thing about electronic résumés (as opposed to their paper-based ancestors) is that they can contain hyperlinks. It is up to you – you can take advantage of the hyperlinking and hope that the hiring manager is curious enough about you to click and visit your Github or blog, or you can avoid creating links and hope that they will put in the effort to type your LinkedIn profile URL, which still has the default random strings in it because you did not customize it. (Spoiler alert: He won’t).

Each time the recruiter finds a hyperlink for a long URL in a pdf file, they silently thank you for caring for them.

Also understand that underlining your URLs does not automatically make them hyperlinks.

If you are using a résumé template, make sure that you change ALL links in the template to your own, and not just the text for the URL.

Don’t make the recruiter work even before they’ve hired you. Link.
Your LinkedIn URL is not whatever is in your browser address bar.
A rare example of how to create and signify your outgoing links without clutter, though not recommended for LinkedIn profile.

Fill the Template

Résumé templates are amazing. They save you from the effort of creating a visually pleasing layout, choosing fonts, and the rest of the work that you’d rather avoid. With all that work cut out for you, you have one job – to fill the template accurately. You need to do it well.

If you forget to fill in the sections that should either contain your contact information or be taken out altogether, then forget about getting an interview call.

I couldn’t call this candidate for an interview, because, no email!
Please, when it says ‘Type your e-mail address’, type it!
My sneaky pdf reader displays the pdf metadata for the original author of the résumé template.

Don’t Copy the Copy

If most of your résumé uses broken and incorrect language, the reader would immediately detect an anomaly when he encounters a perfectly polished paragraph or sentence. If a simple Google search on that sentence, in quotes, leads him to a résumé template or someone else’s résumé that is the actual source of that paragraph, that is enough reason to reject the résumé, for me at least.

Do yourself a favor and ensure that your resume is actually entirely yours.


When you make a claim, whether it is about being an expert in a certain technology, your duties in a past job or the years of experience that you have in a language, the hiring manager has to take your word it, until they assess you during the technical interview. If you exaggerate certain aspects of your skills or experience, the truth will eventually come out during the interview, but if your exaggeration is not technically possible, it can happen much sooner.

Be truthful in stating all facts on your résumé, so that the interviewer’s expectations are proactively managed.

20 years of experience in a 10 year old technology – I want to borrow this candidate’s time machine.


A little amount of exaggeration is acceptable and even expected in résumés, as the candidate’s perspective and measurement scales are never fully aligned with the hiring manager’s, and many things included in the résumé are purely subjective. Lies, on the other hand, are a deliberate manipulation of facts, and if exposed, the candidate is usually blacklisted in that firm for future applications. Lies can be as small as inflating your GPA, or as serious as adding fake past experiences or job titles to your résumé. Most firms employ third party candidate validation services, so the best policy, as always, is honesty.

I recently received a candidate’s résumé who had worked for me a few years ago. His past experience from that period in my team included projects that he never worked on, in technologies that were never used and with accomplishments that were not possible. Needless to say, he was immediately rejected.

Please don’t lie on your résumé and present the facts as they exist. You’ll sleep better at night.


We all want to hire ambitious employees with passion and drive, but if you just graduates and have nothing exceptional to show on your résumé, do not apply for leadership or managerial positions such as Architect or Team Lead – positions that demand multiple years of experience. If someone gave you the advice to ‘Apply everywhere, you’ll never know when someone might give you a call.’, forget that advice and be very selective about your applications. If you apply for a job that you are unsuitable for, your application for a job that you are a perfect fit for might get rejected.

Weak Words

Words are powerful, and they are the only tools you have when creating your résumé. Choose them carefully, and consider the nuances in their meaning as if your life depended on it (it does). Realize the difference between ‘I was a team leader for five projects’ and ‘Led a team of six and delivered five web application products successfully’. A lot has already been said on the use of adjectives and verbs on your résumé, so I will expand upon this topic later.


Know Thy Audience

Create your résumé as if the hiring manager is sitting in front of you, watching your every move and scrutinizing every word. Does it look like he knows Chinese? If not, then write your résumé in English. Is he a C-level executive? Highlight the value and profit that your work brought in your past jobs. Is he a hard-core software developer? Explain the elegant architecture that you implemented for your last project.

If the imaginary hiring manager sitting in front of you is not satisfied with the final product, keep working on it until he is.

An actual résumé that I received for a job application that had nothing to do with China or the Chinese language.