Three Red Flags Hiring Managers Look For in a Resume (And How to Fix Them)

When Hiring Managers receive hundreds of applications for a job, they aren’t initially spending much time combing through resumes to look for the most qualified candidates. Instead, they’re going to spend their time (typically about six seconds per resume, according to a CareerBuilder study) looking for red flags that will eliminate candidates from consideration. Which red flags are they looking for, and how can you make sure that you keep your resume out of the shredder? Let’s examine three of the most common offenders:

Typos or Grammar Issues

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but it’s important you hear it again: typos and grammatical errors in your resume are likely to disqualify you from consideration. Need more proof? A 2018 Harris Poll/ CareerBuilder survey showed that 77% of Hiring Managers identify typos or bad grammar as an “instant” deal breaker.

What you can do to fix this: Have multiple people, preferably those who have experience checking for typos and grammar, proofread your resume several times. Additionally, If you can afford some sort of dedicated proofing software (no, Spellcheck doesn’t count), it’s a good investment, and can be used for other items, such as checking emails and other important documents.

Unprofessional Email Address

Using your old account may cost you the job opportunity. More than a third of Hiring Managers in the Harris Poll study stated that an unprofessional email address is an “instant” deal breaker. The email address will make a Hiring Manager question your professionalism, and it’s typically one of the first things they see on the top of your resume.

What you can do to fix this: It’s time to make things simple with a new email address. Stick with a well-known service like Yahoo, Google, or your cable provider. Setting up an email is free and can be done in a matter of minutes. The best email addresses are the ones that don’t stand out at all, as most professionals just go with a variation of their name (johndoe, janeldoe, jldoe, etc.). As for your old address, well, you can keep it if you want (we don’t judge), but all professional email should go through your new account.

Long Employment Gaps (With No Explanation)

There are certainly legitimate reasons why you may have employment gaps. In fact, according to Monster’s 2019 “State of the Candidate” survey, a majority of Americans have been unemployed for an extended period of time, or have other gaps that appear in their career employment history. Hiring Managers understand the nature of business, and won’t eliminate a resume solely based on employment gaps if the rest of it seems strong, but they’ll definitely have questions.

What you can do to fix this: There are two ways to go about employment gaps: 1) explain the gap; or 2) fill in said gap with experience you received outside of traditional employment. If you took time off due to illness, caretaking, or other emergency, mention this in your resume or cover letter. You don’t need to go into great detail, rather answer their question proactively. If you were unemployed for a prolonged amount of time, consider what you did during that time that helps fill the gap. If you volunteered or worked on community projects (even if it was only once a week), put that in your resume. If you worked an apprenticeship or took an unpaid position, list it in your work history as well. In addition, if you participated in training, or online learning, mention that in your cover letter. This shows that you spent gap time wisely, bettering yourself and improving your value to employers, which a Hiring Manager is certain to appreciate!

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