How to Eliminate Any Potential Red Flags from Your Resume

Call it intuition, foresight, spidey sense, or old-fashioned good judgment.  We’ve all encountered people, facts or scenarios that throw up red flags and tell you to exercise a little extra caution.  While this can be handy when venturing down a dark alleyway alone at night or sipping cocktails with that shady first date, the last thing you want as a potential job-seeker is your perspective employer raising an incredulous eyebrow over your resume.  Add in today’s competitive job market when even one potential red flag is enough to send your job interview hopes plummeting and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Never worry though, we’re breaking down just how to eliminate any and all potential red flags from your resume.  Read on to find out just which issues give hiring managers pause and how you can avoid them and up your chances at scoring that interview.

Gaps in Employment History

When reviewing your resume, prospective employers like to see stable, long-term employment.  Large gaps in your work history can throw a wrench in the works and create questions as to why you were unemployed.  When crafting a resume, strive for continuity in positions, listing even seemingly irrelevant jobs if they help flush out job history.  If you do have a gap due to personal or other reasons, consider putting in an entry marking time out from the workforce due to family or other issues or address the gaps in a cover letter.

Missing Cover Letter

In today’s competitive employment space, candidates can’t afford to fall behind the competition for the best job openings.  Unless an application specifically asks you not to include one, always be sure to attach a brief, well-written cover letter to serve as a preface to your resume.  The cover letter is an excellent way to showcase your communication and writing skills and can also help fill in blanks when it comes to your personality or soft skills.

Just as a missing cover letter can throw up red flags, so can a missive that is out of character with the norm.  A good cover letter should be no more than one page made up of three brief paragraphs that provide an introduction, basic background information on your skillset and an offer to provide additional information if needed.  Include these items and you’ll be in line with best practices and formats for what hiring managers expect to see in a resume and cover letter.

Getting Too Personal

When preparing your resume and reviewing for potential red flags, keep in mind that prospective employers are really only interested in your professional qualifications.  The extensive inclusion of facts such as personal hobbies, religious or political beliefs or other information that isn’t relevant to your qualifications not only takes up valuable resume space, it can also raise red flags for would-be employers.  HR professionals and hiring managers alike are also leery of knowing this type of personal info regarding candidates, which could open them up to potential discrimination claims. Keep things professional and leave out your penchant for knitting doll sweaters from your cat’s fur, to give your resume a leg up in the hiring process.  

Errors and Typos

Ask any hiring manager about their biggest pet peeve when reviewing resumes and they’re likely to tell you that avoidable errors such as typos, formatting issues, and glaring grammatical mistakes rank right up there.  Sure, we’ve all been known to switch up a tense or miss an Oxford comma from time to time, but a professional resume is a far cry from a Facebook post or email to your mother confirming your attendance for Thanksgiving dinner.  Prospective employers expect that candidates have put a great deal of time, effort and revisions into crafting this snapshot of their professional qualifications, and expect to see few if any, obvious errors.

The resume should be a candidate’s best foot forward.  When that foot is muddied with grammatical mistakes, spelling errors and fonts and indents, it can distract from the candidate’s overall qualifications.  If a person can’t get a one-page resume right, after all, how can they be expected to perform adequately in the open position? Before submitting your resume, be sure to read and re-read.  Don’t be afraid to ask one or more friends or colleagues to also give your document a once over. As a bonus, once you have an error-free base, future revisions to update your work history will be that much easier.

The Red Flag Bottom Line

While we’ve identified a few of the most common, and annoying, red flags employers see in resumes, keep in mind that anything out of the norm will draw attention to your candidacy.  While all attention is good attention may be a common marketing saying, the same certainly doesn’t hold true in the professional world. Keep your resume red flag free and let your qualifications shine for the best shot at landing that job, position or career of your dreams.

Article Updated from the Original on December 9, 2017