Resume Spam

How To Stop Your Resume From Becoming Spam


Today’s more sophisticated e-mail systems often look for certain characteristics in e-mail text and in any e-mail attachments. Unfortunately, words or graphics that may be perfectly appropriate in some cases can cause spam filters to stop your e-mail, thus rendering your resume “never received.”

Related: Resume Clichés: What To Avoid And Why

As crazy as it may seem, totally innocent words can create problems for spam filters. Consider the alternate meanings of these words (as examples) and how spam filters would likely block your resume if it contained them:

  • Free
  • Expand
  • Trial
  • Mortgage
  • Cum (like cum laude)
  • Unusual fonts or colors
  • Dollar amounts
  • HTML formatting in your e-mail (vs. flat text)

Many of the words above could easily relate to common spam schemes like pharmaceuticals, obscene text, online scams, and the like.  The end result may be your address or even your overall ISP appearing on a blacklist or a white list.

In the above examples, you could substitute “summa cum laude” with “high honors” or “with honors.”

Attachments can also create issues as many viruses and spyware programs are delivered by bogus attachments. You may consider creating a flat text resume and cutting and pasting it into the body of your resume, along with your cover letter, to avoid this issue. You will lose some aesthetics, but it’s better than not being seen at all.

Be sure to use the subject line to accurately describe what you’re sending – for example, “highly adept project manager with CRM experience” – this will help to not have the recipient automatically delete your e-mail.

Networking with the recipient beforehand can help to get your e-mail read, especially if your resume is unsolicited. There are just too many e-mails in a day for most people these days, and an unsolicited resume isn’t likely to be noticed. If you must apply quickly, send the e-mail, and follow-up with a phone call or hard copy of your resume as this will increase the odds of it being seen.

Sending your resume as a PDF attachment may also help as it’s far less likely it will trigger spam filters; however, the downside is many automated resume software programs cannot open PDF files.

Related Posts

How To Make Sure Your Resume Gets Noticed
7 Cover Letter Mistakes You Make When Applying Via E-mail
How To Make Your Resume And Cover Letter Work Together


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Michael Trust

Michael Trust is the principal of Trustworthy Coaching and brings over twenty years of business, Human Resources management, and coaching experience to you when you engage his services as a coach.


  1. I am with Teena on this one…leaving out summa cum laude, dollar amounts etc for fear that an ATS will classify you as spam seems far-fetched. I would love to hear from somebody in the ATS world for comment.

    Regardless, this is why I teach my clients to NOT be so dependent on on-line applications…instead expend more energy on networking and making connections to find opportunities. 80% of jobs are never advertised anyway, so if you are not networking (which is how you find those 80%) you are cutting yourself off from 80% of the possible jobs! So stop trying to game the ATS for the 20% of the jobs where everyone else is applying, and learn to be a great networker for the 80%.

  2. Many ATS are unable to accurately parse PDF or anything in tables. .doc or .txt formats.

    The trouble with sloppy filtering is you might lose out on your best applicants…and employers are complaining they can’t find qualified individuals….maybe its there ‘systems’ at fault.

  3. Hey Michael. Curiously, what source are you using for these claims?

    Some of what you’re stating doesn’t seem logical to me … or hasn’t been experienced firsthand anyway. For example, you mention a resume/email can get caught by spam filters by using words like “expand” and “cum laude.”

    Have you experienced this or anyone you know?

    This seems odd to me that these words would cause spam filters to kick in, especially when the first word is so vague and the latter is highly used across the job-searching community. If the word “mortgage” was snagged (even occasionally) by filters, industry professionals would need an entirely different communication system just for job searching alone. How many jobseekers are out there that work or has worked in the mortgage industry? That would equate to (guessing here) millions of resumes that contain the word “mortgage”?

    See what I’m saying? There are too many gray areas when it comes to technology.

    You state: “Attachments can also create issues as many viruses and spyware programs are delivered by bogus attachments. You may consider creating a flat text resume and cutting and pasting it into the body of your resume …”

    What you haven’t addressed is that size of an email has also been claimed to trigger spam filters, so by encouraging jobseekers to copy and paste their resume and cover letter into the body of an email may not be the best choice either.

    You state: “HTML formatting in your e-mail (vs. flat text)” as a potential spam filter issue.

    Again, have you experienced this firsthand?

    Much of the email I receive on a daily basis is HTML (versus text only). So, I would love to hear from hiring managers and recruiters with their opinions on HTML coding within emails. Many email clients, such as Yahoo! and Gmail, offer HTML services. Email clients don’t seem to be stepping back from HTML … has the use of HTML dropped?

    Sometimes claims are just that. For example, HubSpot published an article of potential spam words here:

    The challenge with this list and others is that they aren’t necessarily valid or relevant. I get prospects who reach out daily (cold contact — what some might say is non-compliant to CAN-SPAM) asking for a quote/price for resume writing services.

    Based on the HS list, I should be losing none, some, or all emails that contain those words? Honestly, I would say none as I would routinely receive calls and other communications from folks asking why I didn’t respond, right?

    Just my four cents.

    Teena Rose

  4. Ms. Kodesha M. Slater

    Thank you for the information in these reports concerning
    Resuma preparation I am going to see if pdf attactment make
    a difference in my transaction of my doc .

  5. Only one quibble: Honors and High Honors are actually considered, in most cases, to have meaning that is different from summa cum laude or magna cum laude. The standard way of dealing with this is simply to say “summa” or “magna”

  6. Teddy Burriss (@TLBurriss)

    I encourage my clients to store their resume in DropBox, Icloud, Skydrive, or any of the trending online storage platforms. Using these systems enables attaching a link to your PDF or Word format Resume to an email message, LinkedIn Profile, Facebook Profile,, etc.

    Many of these systems alert you when your resume is downloaded.

    This helps you keep track of your resume being accessed and reduces the SPAM issue.

  7. I’d read before about the problem of saying on your resume that you graduated “cum laude”. The article suggested saying “with honors” instead.

  8. Very informative article. I never knew that I could be jeopardizing my chances for interviews by having my resume flagged as spam due to certain words in my resume. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  9. Great advice! In addition to keeping your email marked as spam, these tips can also help ensure that your resume is read after it is received. Targeting your resume at the hiring manager as another solid way to increase your chances of being selected for an interview. Here are five more ways to make your resume stand out –

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