Wednesday, April 23

Works for Me: Résumé Red Flags

My tips today are especially pertinent for anyone on the job hunt. I was recently reading through a training manual written for HR professionals. I found the section on interviewing potential employees particularly intriguing.

Here are the top seven things your interviewer has been instructed to watch for on your résumé:
  1. Poor spelling, typos, and grammatical errors
    A prospective employer will assume this is your best work. Always use the spell-check feature, but also have several other pairs of eyes looking out for mistakes. As the saying goes, you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
  2. Several stretches of unemployment
    Most of us have been unemployed once or twice. Some even for many months at a time. But if you have more than one or two significant breaks in your job history over the past 10 years, you may not look like a particularly desirable candidate.
  3. Listing of qualifications without paid work experience
    If most or all of the relevant experience you have is volunteer work, it will not be considered as highly as previous employment. While in some ways, I consider this a form of employment snobbery (I have certainly held volunteer jobs that required a lot more effort and attention than some of my paid positions), it is a fact that generally volunteers are afforded a much greater level of flexibility and freedom than paid workers.
  4. Many jobs in unrelated fields or multiple jobs within a short period of time
    Job hoppers (as these individuals have been termed) may not have much loyalty to an employer, or perhaps there is some uncertainty about what they like to do or where their strengths lie. Or perhaps you are just interested in many fields or have made some poor choices in the past. An interviewer will be trying to determine whether you are worth the risk to employ and train.
  5. Vague descriptions of responsibilities or achievements
    A prospective employee who is vague about his or her previous work may not have done very much worth elaborating, or perhaps is trying to conceal a job that was not as impressive as its title. Be specific about what you did, and especially how your work benefited the company. Whenever possible, use numbers (e.g., "Supervised 7 employees" or "Increased revenue 23% in one year").
  6. Work experience that is disproportionate with level of education
    While it is certainly possible for individuals with little formal education to achieve great success in business, sadly, it is not nearly as common as people padding their résumés in hopes of finding a better, higher paying job. Make sure you list the qualifications which allowed you to advance above what might be expected of someone with your education.
  7. References from companies which are no longer in business
    Many of us have had a previous employer close its doors. However, when the majority of your employment history is comprised of companies which no longer exist, an interviewer may wonder if you are trying to keep him or her from checking your references. In the case that several of your former employers have gone out of business, be sure to have several business references available for potential employers to choose from, such as previous managers in their new positions.
While in most cases, one of these items (or even a few of them together) should not keep you from being considered, you should be prepared to answer questions on anything that may look sketchy to a potential employer.

For more tips to improve your life, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

P.S. Anybody know how to edit my blog template so that the bullet images show up for unnumbered lists only? I got it!


  1. Hi

    GREAT tips!

    I think it's a problem with this blogger theme - I also had it at one point!

    Marcia, Organising Queen

  2. I've been a "mom" for the past six years but last week I filled out an application for a part-time job. These are good tips.

  3. Thanks for stopping by my WFMW post!

    You could try this for your idea:

    It will send you an email in the future. There are probably other similar services out there, just google it.

  4. Great tips.
    Very Useful.

  5. I've recently read that potential employers are also looking at blogs and myspace, etc. pages... Google your name, if anything comes up that you would not want a potential employer to see- change it now!

  6. I usedt obe in charge of hiring for a hotel. Depending on the position being sought, spelling and grammar were a HUGE deal.

    Another biggie was appropriate humility. It's easy to come across as pompous and cocky in a resume, and that is very off-putting to a prospective employer.

  7. Thanks for posting these tips! They're great reminders.

    I think that just as important as the resume is the follow-up. Last year I posted a job description for an open position in our company, and I had to sort through hundreds of applications that came in. I didn't conduct the interviews or make the hiring decision; I was merely the first hurdle in the hiring process.

    I was SHOCKED by the number of horrible resumes that came in. Many weren't even resumes; they were just emails that listed their contact information and said they were interested in the job. Tip #1: Don't make the hiring manager contact you to get your resume. He's simply not going to take the time. That seems like a given, but I saw it again and again last year.

    Tip #2: Contact the company before and after sending the resume if necessary. When people called beforehand to ask what we were looking for and to get my name so they knew to whom they should address the resume, I gave them special consideration. I made sure to pass on their resumes (if they were qualified), knowing that they cared enough about the job to call in. It didn't hurt them if they called in after sending their resumes either. Caveat: too much calling (or emailing) is a nuisance. Use discretion.

    Also note, NONE of the candidates who sent their resumes but failed to follow up were called back for an interview. They simply slipped through the cracks.

  8. I'd probably be in big trouble if I ever needed to apply for a job again.

    I worked for my dad from my early teens until I got married almost 9 years ago, then worked for just a few months as a veterinary assistant. The vet has since passed away.

    I had to drop out of college for health reasons, and I was "let go" at the vet clinic because I asked to be considered as the person to be given fewer hours when the workload was light, again for health reasons.

    I've been a SAHM for most of my adult life. With my health the way it is right now, I'm really glad I am able to be a SAHM.


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