by: Kazim Ladimeji
Have you checked your resume for red flags lately? These are potential “question marks” on your resume that, at best, will cause employers to grow suspicious of you as a candidate – and research suggests that such suspicion is very hard to shake off. At worst, these red flags may even cause employers to immediately dismiss you as a candidate without even taking a second look.
If your job search hasn’t been going too well, it may be because your resume contains some of these red flags. This is why it’s vital that you look over your resume thoroughly to identify and address any possible red flags. Doing so could turn your arduous job search into an absolute breeze – or at least make things easier on you.
Here are four classic red flags to look for on your resume, along with some tips on how to address them:
1. Being Unemployed
There is considerable bias against unemployed applicants, according to research from The Pew Charitable Trusts. This bias grows worse the longer one is unemployed: Those who have been unemployed for six months or longer have to send out, on average, 3.5 times as many resumes as the short-term unemployed before they receive an interview invite.
Employers don’t really have any just cause for this bias, but the fact remains that being unemployed is seen as a red flag for many companies.
What can you do about it?
First, never apologize for being unemployed. Unemployment is simply a fact of life – especially in today’s economy. Don’t feed the interviewer’s bias by painting your unemployment in a negative light. Just focus on the positives. Where possible, show that you have successfully gotten interviews and received good feedback. This will put many employers at ease, as it will show them that other organizations thing well enough of you to give you a shot. Third-party validation will enhance your credibility in the eyes of most any interviewer.
Second, be sure to outline any new skills you have learned while unemployed – especially skills that are immediately relevant to the job at hand. Doing so will show employers that, contrary to their biases, being unemployed has actually helped you improve.
2. Unexplained Gaps in Resumes
Unexplained gaps in a resume make employers feel like you’re hiding something. Combat this by actually explaining the gaps. Don’t just present the gaps on your resume – outline exactly what you were doing while you were out of work.
Were you studying, volunteering, taking a sabbatical, looking for work, looking after a sick loved one, or raising children? These pursuits can all add greater value to a resume than an unexplained gap. For example, if you were raising children, you probably picked up a variety of transferable management and coordination skills. Emphasize these on your resume!
3. Multiple Short Tenures (A.K.A., a History of ‘Job Hopping’)
Employers are slowly beginning to understand that job hopping is the new normal. These days, the lifelong job has been largely replaced by shorter tenures, and employers simply have to accept this fact.
Nevertheless, some employers are stuck in their old ways, and they continue to view short tenures with suspicion. To combat this suspicion, show employers that you are a responsible job hopper. Prove to employers that you have always honored and completed all contracts and projects before leaving a company. Show employers, too, that you always provide the proper notice – you don’t just up and leave!
It’s also worth showing employers that you have a history of performing well in each job, no matter how short your time there was. You can do this by listing your achievements in each role on your resume. You should also try to get as many LinkedIn recommendations as possible, which will demonstrate to employers that you left your previous roles on good terms.
Employers should know that, for you, job hopping is a deliberate part of your career strategy, and that you deliver great value to every employer you work with, regardless of your length of time with each company.
4. A ‘Template’ Resume
It’s fairly easy to spot a generic resume that has not been tailored to a specific job opening. If you’re simply firing off template resumes to every opening you come across, employers will pick up on that fact – and many of them will instantly dismiss you because of it.
Make sure you write a tailored cover letter and resume for each and every application. Emphasize your skills and qualities that are most relevant to this position and company.
There are plenty of reasons that a resume might be rejected – and, often, resumes are rejected for very good reasons. Sometimes, you just aren’t the right person for the job.
That being said, it’s never a bad idea to tighten up your resume by addressing these red flags. Doing so will greatly improve your chances of landing an interview – and maybe even the role itself.
About the Author
Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.
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