“Resume: a written exaggeration of only the good things a person has done in the past, as well as a wish list of the qualities a person would like to have.”—Bo Bennett.
In today’s precarious economy, is there piece of paper that is more essential than a resume? More than a six-letter word that sounds kind of French, the resume is the modern-day worker’s ticket to an interview, which—with luck—leads to that elusive thing called “a job.” However, not everyone has the resume-writing finesse to make their personal merits stand out. In those cases, it’s best to be conservative; but every now and then, employers and HR folk will get a resume which does take risks… and ends up taking the bullet points too far. How far?
Reddit asked employers of the Internet to share the most outrageous exaggerations ever witnessed on a resume. Some of these stories fell outside the category of “exaggeration” and into something else altogether. From headshots to freaky references, unpack that work history to these 42 unprofessional stories about the zaniest things seen on a resume.
Underwater ceramics and glass cleaner for a multi-million-dollar company meant dishwasher at Chili’s.
I interviewed a guy that brought a resume that covered 30+ years of employment. The crazy thing was he never worked at a place longer than four months; he had a ten-page resume single-spaced with every job he's had for 30 years and not a single one was longer than four months, and he only had maybe one or two years in that span where he wasn't employed.
The crazier thing was that we hired him—he was the only one who applied.
I had an applicant list super basic "I am able to exist in society" skills on a resume. Including:
Application at a restaurant I managed years ago.
Prior experience: “school cook.”
Reason for leaving: “the passioned lefted”
Not an employer, but the employee. I was applying for my first adult job after graduating college.
Where it asks if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime, I came clean and put “Yes. Fined $40 for walking through a park after dark. 2014.”
My bosses—whom I ended up becoming good friends with—told me about a year into that job that you don’t actually have to put those things on resumes and that they were almost in tears laughing about it.
I think there was some weird glitch, ‘cause I don't know why anyone would do this to their resume...
This girl had 8-bit hamburgers clip art all over the damn thing...and it had the formatting of text all messed up.
On their resume was a 3x4 table under the header of Soft Skills. The bottom right cell reads
With "detailed" being centered and "orientated" right-justified.
I was handed a resume probably 10 or 15 years ago while I was the manager of a computer store in Utah.
I wish I could remember the exact verbiage, but this dude absolutely SOLD his work as lead fryer at a fast food place; made it sound like he was solely responsible for Burger King’s success as a company.
I wanted to hire him just for that but, alas, zero computer experience.
Hope he got something!
A full paragraph about why they got fired from their last job.
Guy had retail experience in an adult store and put "Assisted in ordering pornographic material based on customer input.” Ended up getting the job (not because of that).
Had someone list their reference as “Baby Daddy.”
Ability to summon and command several kinds of mystical creatures.
It wasn’t so much what was on the resume at first, but how he applied.
We were hiring for an entry-level, overnight analyst position in the QA lab I worked for. Guy applies, then calls immediately after to ask if we got his resume. We told him yes, we did, and we would be making calls later in the week. My boss and I—I helped with hiring at night because I was overnight supervisor—reviewed his resume, and it looked okay.
About an hour later he calls back and asks my boss if he can give her his “elevator speech.” He then proceeded to brag about himself for 15 minutes and managed to condescend most of us by saying he was a mature adult unlike most recent grads—all of us were under 30 at the time and most had graduated recently.
She again thanked him and said she would be making calls later in the week. The next day—yes, just one day later—he showed up on site at the facility we worked at. The facility has 24-hour security at the gate. He was held up and then security called us asking if we knew who he was. My boss went to the guard shack to meet him, and he again gave her his elevator speech and a paper copy of his resume.
On this resume, he put in the cover letter that he was only interested in laboratory supervisor or the VP position for plant QA (usually requires at least a Master’s). He also changed a lot of the info in the resume. When he called AGAIN on day three, my boss told him she was considering going with other applicants but thanked him for his time.
He called her a gendered slur on the phone, and that was the end of that—for the time being. Fast forward six months and I no longer work there.
I’m in graduate school and I’m talking to a couple people who are undergrads about to graduate looking for job opportunities. I mentioned where I used to work, and one of them says they heard that place was a scam and not a real place to work. Apparently, the crazy guy who applied there told some people at the college we were at it was a scam and had scammed him when he tried to apply.
My manager was laughing uncontrollably one day. I asked him what was up, and he just held up a resume, unable to speak through the laughter. The first comment on the resume said: "Please do not drug test me.”
Someone brought in a template where it had a place for a head-shot. He put a picture of Superman in.
Not an employer, sorry. However, I did get to see the resume of a man applying for a high school art teaching position. It was in one of those fonts that looks like Comic Sans but isn't—the letters alternated rainbow colors. On the front was his Bitmoji. I wish I was joking.
In his portfolio—this school took its art program seriously and expected all art teachers to be practicing artists—he had several very bad paintings. The kind of stuff eighth graders make with leftover paint. No attention to concept, color, or composition whatsoever. No technical skills. He had an "abstract watercolor" that was VERY CLEARLY shapes he had filled in with marker. Best of all, his last piece—the big finish—was a wire tree sculpture. The same wire tree sculptures all kids in Art I are required to make at this school. It wasn't any better than the average one made by students.
All members of the art faculty emailed or spoke directly to the principal to express how dreadful this guy would be if allowed into the program.
He was hired.
Listing their mother for a reference, and her not picking up or returning the call.
Have shared this before but used to edit college students' resumes to help them find jobs. One senior had organized a charity beer pong event to raise money and he listed that under his Volunteer experience.
The issue was the only bullet he had for that was that his team came in 1st place in a charity beer pong tournament that he put together. I had him delete that, asked how much $ he raised for the charity, and put that on there instead. Also removed the 'beer pong' part and just said “organized a charity event with my fraternity that raised $ X amount of money for (whatever the cause he was promoting was) ...”
Entire CV in bright yellow. I could not read a word against the white paper. Made me wonder how many jobs she missed out on by doing this.
Had a guy apply for a clerkship at our law firm and his resume spent an inordinate amount of space focusing on his accomplishments with his high school marching band...
Some people say that’s normal for someone just out of high school or in college, I totally agree. This dude was two years out of Cooley Law School but apparently hadn’t passed the bar because he was applying to be a clerk for $15 an hour. On top of that, he’d gone to school part-time, so he was at least ten years removed from high school.
Was running a resume critique for students. Got one that was two pieces of paper of single words center aligned on a page. The words were not organized in any meaningful way and weren't even the same parts of speech. It would be like "AutoCAD" then the next line would say something like "Motivated" and the next line would be like "Education".
I just told him he ought to go take a look at literally anyone's resume, and until he understood what a resume looks like, I couldn't help.
Dude came in, 20-something, dressed fairly nice, handed in his resume. He was rather well spoken, and I had high hopes about him joining our team.
I take a look at his resume no more than 4 hours after the first encounter. It’s nearly perfect, but his “Hobbies” section was quite peculiar. It included:
Naturally, I called this guy back quickly for an interview. We ended up hiring him, he’s one of our best employees.
This was over 4 years ago, last I heard he has a new girlfriend. As far as I know, I’m the only one around the workplace who knows about his strange hobbies besides him. Perhaps he will share these with his new girlfriend. What a guy.
I worked as a recruiter for office jobs in inner-city Philadelphia. One young man had a resume that was co-created by his high school's counselor.
The career objective was "To be an honest, hard-working young black man that is an asset to any organization." I wanted to pick up the phone and scream at that counselor. Instead, I very diplomatically asked the young man to remove all mention of race from his objective statement as we were legally unable to submit his resume for jobs with a clear race identifier on it.
We even blocked out home addresses so potential employers couldn't judge them by their neighborhood. I wonder how many potential employers trashed this kid's resume just to avoid any liability issues. I'm sure his counselor thought she was doing him a favor, but she was hurting him and anyone else she coached with that nonsense.
My uncle was on the recruitment panel for his law firm. One day he received a pretty strong application. The applicant looked great and they fully intended to ask her to interview until a lie in her application came to light.
One of the achievements that the applicant listed was that she had been head girl at her school. It didn't really make much difference to her application, but it stood out because by sheer chance it was a local school and my aunt taught there.
"Hey, guess what?" my uncle asked when he got home that night. "You'll never guess who has applied to us. It's [whoever], one of your head girls".
"I don't think so," replied my aunt, "We don't have head girls."
I once saw an application where the guy claimed he had "a conical shaped head" and was "able to create possibilities".
Had a candidate apply for a trucking position. Under previous experience, he had listed rear-ending cows and chickens. Not sure if he was trolling us or being serious.
I work for our state government’s IT department. The guy we fired for not being able to do his job at all later applied for the same job in another area of the state, that, unbeknownst to him, was now merged with the area he got fired from. Where I was on the interview panel. He listed all of my coworkers’ and my projects and achievements as his own, took credit for all of our work, and claimed he was let go when the project was shut down, not fired.
He didn't get an interview. But I really wanted to just to see the look on his face.
Got a resume the other day that had a name, phone number and "I have not worked" written on it. At least they were honest.
First post because I had to share this. Interviewing for a call-center position. Got an application where the cover letter said something like this:
“Ever since I was a young girl, when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I replied "Darth Vader.” Since galactic evil icon is not available at the moment, I decided to settle for less and apply for your company.”
It then went on with a well-written and normal explanation of why she wanted to work for our company but then in the end she finished it this way: "If they ever take me for Darth Vader I will go, as that is my dream job, but be assured, your company will be the last one I destroy with my Death Star.”
We hired her.
Writing With Hope
One guy had his opening paragraph above his employment history say, "Due to my divorce I am once again seeking employment. My wife has gained sole custody of our children due to my alcoholism and domestic violence charges. I have turned to the Lord to seek answers but require money to regain visitation rights of my children and hire a lawyer."
I mean...points for honesty but maybe too honest for a resume.
The applicant's past work experience:
Dishwasher—reason left? "Got in fight with boss."
Sign waver—reason left? "I lost the sign."
Warehouse—reason left? "Coworkers were mean."
Table busser—reason left? "Had to move back in with parents."
Warehouse—reason left? "Got in fight with boss."
Table busser —reason left? "Got in fight with boss."
Dishwasher—reason left? “Boss was mean."
It wasn't on a resume, but I was once hiring for a social media manager at a dispensary. The guy submitted his portfolio of social media work and his arrest record for possession (pre-legalization).
He got the job.
I've got two that stick out in my mind.
There was the girl who put down on her resume that her reason for leaving her last job was all the drugs being dealt there.
Then there was the guy who supposedly had multiple degrees, including post-grad, but misspelled the name of his home state three times. I can't believe any college grad doesn't know to at least run spell check on an important document like a resume.
I had been back in the workforce for about a year. Before that, I was a stay at home mom.
The online application system would not let me submit the application with gaps in my work history, so I said that during that 6-year timeframe I was the CEO of the household and listed duties and qualifications.
I got the interview and was hired with no experience in that industry. It was an inside sales position, so I think they appreciated the hustle.
I helped an old shipmate fix up his resume many years ago. We were working on a tall ship and all a bit pirate-y. He was looking for work ashore as a chef and had written: "I've slaved two years before the mast and six years abaft the stove." He'd honestly forgotten that normal people don't speak like that.
Oh man, I'm currently hiring right now and the resume I got yesterday made me laugh. This was literally all it was:
November 2016 to November 2021
I am also driving the car
I know also how to drive the car
Nothing majorly funny or interesting comes to mind, but I do remember seeing one where the applicant put “remained clam under pressure” instead of “calm” and the image of that gave me a good chuckle.
My own name as a reference for their previous position... at the very place they were applying to.
I had never heard of them, nor had anyone else at work. Invited them for an interview partly out of curiosity, they didn't recognize me and had very clearly never been in the building before.
Went through the interview, and then told them they should really ask me before using me as a reference.
Had a guy apply to work the cash register at a store I managed. He had no work history but was like 35 or 40 years old. I saw he put down that he had a felony armed robbery on his record and had been in prison for most of his adult life.
I was managing the store he’d once held up.
Was going through a stack of resumes of people who applied for the job of Hotel Manager. I worked at the headquarters of a large hotel chain and had the mundane job of sorting resumes that looked nice. Literally, just that. I was not to judge the content, which would be done by better trained monkeys than myself, who had the habit of not wanting to look at resumes they didn't consider nice looking.
One lady had put a headshot of her baby on her resume (over here it’s common to include a picture, or at least back then it was). I asked my supervisor to give the lady a call, just to find out why she had put a baby picture on her resume. My supervisor was interested in the story too, so gave her a call and did a bogus phone interview all so he could just end with "Oh and by the way... why the baby picture?"
Turned out it was not her baby, it was her, as a baby. She thought it was a cute picture and used it on a resume, applying for a job paying north of 100k a year.
I received a resume where the person's objective was to save enough money to publish their own manga. All of his experience was centered around manga and watching anime and no actual work experience.
He also attached a photo of himself cosplaying as some anime character.
The position was for a truck dispatcher.
In engineering. This guy—I'll call him Tony—applies with a bit of unconventional resume and experience but seemed interesting. He didn't have an engineering degree, but he'd worked his way up from machinist and had 20+ years’ experience. He brought in a ton of portfolio work and explained how he'd set up these complex processes and improved several product designs. We ended up hiring him as a junior engineer and he was assigned to work with a few different engineers to help with their projects.
After working for a bit, Tony was a little difficult to explain things to, but would get things done after spending the time making sure he understood. However, he had this thing where he would never do it the same day. He would always be busy with something for someone else right then and would get to your stuff by tomorrow.
One day an engineer needed a very simple change to a design and asked him to make the change in our CAD software—in which he'd claimed to have years of experience and it is a ubiquitous minimum skill for the job. Tony pulled his "I'll get that to you tomorrow" routine but engineer needing the change said he needs it now and will just wait for Tony to do it while he watched. Tony fumbled for a while, couldn't even figure out how to open the file, obviously pretended to take a phone call, then just left for the day.
After investigating a bit, we found out Tony didn’t have any of the experience he'd claimed, just took the portfolio work from former engineer colleagues and passed it off as his own. Best part, he had convinced a local college student that he had an unpaid internship and Tony would have this kid do his work after hours and bring it in the next day. Despite the admiration for Tony's ability to run several simultaneous con jobs involving several people, we felt it appropriate to let him go.
About two years later, we're hiring for another similar position and Tony's resume shows up on my desk. This time he lists two years of "Principal Engineer" experience at my company—as in, the previous two years, the exact amount of time since we’d fired him—with super embellished job duties and fully made-up accomplishments.
Apparently, Tony was looking for work again and had sent his resume to one of the recruiters we work with not knowing he was applying to the same company from which he'd been fired two years earlier and was falsely claiming as his current employer.
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