Your resume is your first impression with an employer, so it better be a good one. Recruiters are trained to scan your resume in a matter of seconds looking for any potential red flags before they decide to put you in the “yes”, “no”, or “maybe” file.
In order to make sure they are sending the very best candidates through the application process, they have to make sure they can quickly spot unsuitable candidates.
So, what are these red flags and how can you avoid them?
1. Poor or Messy Formatting
Outside of your resume being Applicant Tracking System (ATS) friendly, the resume needs to have good formatting. Before ever getting into the substance of what’s actually in your resume, a sloppy format can look unprofessional and convey a lack attention to detail.
This can also be a red flag to a hiring manager if the work they do requires a level of care and attention.
Messy formatting can also make it difficult for a recruiter to spot the important information that they need. Having very little time already, it’s very important that the format is easy to digest, efficient and to the point.
To Fix This:
- Find or create a template that is clean and simple.
- Make sure all of the different sections (i.e. professional experience, education, skills, etc) are clearly separated with a header section.
- Stick to a maximum of two fonts.
- Don’t use too many emphasizing features (bold, italics, underline, color, etc).
- Use the same format for all of your dates (i.e. May 2016-June 2018 or 5/2016-6/2018).
- Decide if you want to use periods or not. There is no right or wrong, just stay consistent throughout.
- Make sure all of your tenses are correct; current role should be in present tense and past roles should be in past tense.
2. No Targeting
One size does not fit all when it comes to jobs. Every job is different, which means that sending a general resume to different jobs will not work in your favor.
Hiring managers are looking for very specific skills, qualifications, and achievements of the people they hire.
It’s important that your resume contains very targeted information. This makes it possible to determine whether someone has the required skills for a specific position, versus just being a general, all-around, good candidate.
The resume needs to be focused toward the role that you are applying for and show exactly what you offer and how it relates to the job. If the resume fails to have focus, then you might be passed over for the position.
To Fix This:
- Keep one master copy of your resume and tailor it for every position you apply for.
- Use the information you find inside of the job description to help you decipher what is important for that position.
- Copy and paste your resume and the job description into JobScan.co to see what specific hard and soft skills you might be missing.
3. No Measurable Results
Your resume shouldn’t only be a list of your responsibilities. Sure you need to convey what you’ve done, but employers also like to see what the results of you’ve done were. They want to see how you’ve saved your company money, time, resources, etc.
Your resume should include at least five achievements, which facts and figures to back them up.
To Fix This:
- Before you know what the results are, you need to find out the bottom line considerations for your department
- Think in terms of time frames (your entire time in your position, quarterly, month to month, or even daily.
- Look at your performance reviews, they can include some great performance metrics that you can include in your resume.
4. Unexplained Gaps in Employment
Employment gaps are common and not red flags themselves. Life happens and people take career breaks to raise a family, go back to school, travel, etc.
However, when a gap is unexplained in a resume can be a red flag for a hiring manager. The immediate things that go through their heads are “are they hiding something?”.
It’s important that if you have a substantial gap to simply explain it – you can put in your resume if you are worried that the gap will prevent you from getting the initial call, or in your cover letter.
When explaining the gap to an employer, make sure you are prepared, just as you would be to explain any of your prior employment history.
To Fix This:
- Have the reason prepared ahead of time and address it in a positive and confident way, highlighting what you’ve learned during your time off, any transferable skills you’ve attained, or any volunteer, training or courses you’ve participated in.
5. Resume Length
A resume that’s 3+ pages, it becomes for a very horrible first impression. It screams that the candidate hasn’t considered their target audience – busy recruiters and hiring managers.
It also could indicate that the candidate will have a tough time understanding what’s important and what isn’t while on the job. This can be another red flag, especially when the job requires producing concise and brief communication with team members, clients, or stakeholders.
To Fix This:
- Keep your resume to a maximum of 6-8 years of relevant experience
- Take out all fluff and keep only what is truly important for your next position
- Keep your resume word count to 750, this increases focus and ease of reading by recruiters