Avoiding Red Flags on Your Resume

In today’s world you need a resume if you want to get the job. Sure, there may be certain instances and positions where they are not entirely necessary, but if you want to stay competitive a strong resume is essential.

Before you panic, keep in mind that recruiters spend a great portion of their day staring at resumes…it’s their job. So, guess what that means? Yup…a recruiter can help you with your resume! Seriously. They will tell you what needs to be fixed and how to improve it. Even if a resume is bad, it’s not unfixable. It does, however, need to 1) exist and 2) not raise any red flags with a recruiter. If a resume raises too many questions there’s a good a chance a recruiter will pass you up in favor of a more workable, less problematic candidate. Don’t worry, though! Below we’ve compiled a list of what you can do to improve your resume. 


Spelling/grammar errors. Seems simple, right? With almost every word processing program, there’s a little thing called “spelling and grammar check.” Use this tool! Proofread your resume before you send it out. While recruiters may be more forgiving than a hiring manager about such errors, they’re still unprofessional and too many of them shows a recruiter that not only are you careless, but you’re likely lazy too because you didn’t take the time to fix them before you submitted the resume.

Your resume is ugly. Okay, that’s harsh, I know. However, as mentioned previously, your resume is a marketing document and the first thing that employers/recruiters will see before you have a chance to charm them with your amazing interview skills. What makes a resume ugly? Well, we’re glad you asked. There are a few things. While creativity and individuality might make you memorable, resumes are not necessarily the place to show this. There’s nothing wrong with a little thinking outside-of-the-box, but too much and you risk being dismissed as unprofessional or, for lack of a better word, a weirdo. Granted, there are some jobs and companies that do salute more creativity, but it’s better to be safe and save the creativity for later. So, that means no pink and scented resumes (sorry, Elle Woods), no glitter or clip art, and no pictures of your dog. Sorry. A resume also needs to be clean and unwrinkled, so if you’re going to an interview and taking hard copies, please make sure they do not look like they were pulled from the trash or that you used it as a placemat for your lunch. You can even print your resume on a special paper that is more durable and professional than your standard white 8 ½ x 11 printer paper.

Your resume contains lies or half-truths. This is a biggie for obvious reasons. Look, everyone embellishes a little on a resume. For example, you worked in a place that used Salesforce as a CRM tool. You may have just used it to pull a list or look up a phone number and yet you list it under “Skills.” In order to add an embellishment to a resume, you need to at least be able to ‘wing it’ if questioned about it in an interview, and you should be sure to indicate that you’re not an expert by any means. Otherwise, it’s a half-truth, and we wouldn’t recommend you listing it unless you’re cramming furiously so you DO know Salesforce by the time you interview.   On the other hand, if you’ve never even touched Salesforce but still list it as a skill, this, my readers, is a lie. If you are two credits shy from a college degree but figure you’re close enough to list it on your resume…this, too, is a lie and you will get busted. Trust us on this. You may make it through the hiring process and get busted on a background check. You might get busted on a reference check instead. But you will get caught. Word gets around, and you don’t want to put your reputation in jeopardy. So…don’t lie.

Your resume actually includes “red flag” information. What do we mean, you ask? Well, this encompasses a few things. For example, you don’t have any dates for your employment experience. You should always list dates of employment. If you don’t, an employer will automatically assume you’ve got something to hide. You’re not fooling anyone by omitting dates. Big gaps in employment are not necessarily a red flag, but you should be prepared to have a good explanation for why there are gaps; you WILL be asked.  Other red flag information is sometimes listing too much information, such as something along the lines of “I left this role because of internal political issues,” or “I left because my manager and I didn’t get along.” Save this for the interview and be diplomatic when you answer. Don’t sabotage your chances by including information that might indicate on paper that you might be…difficult. Give the employer something to learn at your interview.

A resume that is too long or too short. Way back in the olden days, there was a rule that a resume should be one-page and one-page only. This is fine for a new graduate or someone who has only been in the working world for five years or less. However, it is not the rule of thumb anymore and there is nothing wrong with a longer resume, especially if you’ve been working for a number of years. A resume should entice a hiring manager or recruiter to call you. Entice them with your experience and tease them with what you know. It’s okay if that means you’re going to have a longer resume. There is no rule for length, but usually five pages for very experienced candidates is about as long as you have before a recruiter or hiring manager stops reading. However, on the flipside, don’t tell them everything on a resume. Give them relevant information that explains why you’d be a fit for the job for which you are applying. This may mean tailoring a resume to fit a specific job and may also mean you have multiple versions of your resume. There is nothing wrong with this unless you’re lying (see above) and tailoring a resume for a job for which you’re not actually qualified. Use bullet points to list out your responsibilities and highlight your achievements. That’s it. You don’t need to include quotes from managers or your ‘employee of the month’ photo. Save something for the interview.

This piece of paper is your gateway into the job market. If you’re working with a recruiter, utilize them. A good recruiter will be honest with you about your resume and tell you if there are any red flags that are scaring. Listen to them. They’re there to help. And, in the long run, your resume will benefit.

Written by Sam Clements

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