Top 15 Resume Red Flags
In Job Search
May 28, 2019
The internet is full of wonderful material that is geared towards helping job-seekers craft the perfect resumé. After all, your resumé should be a reflection of who you are, and help differentiate you from the rest of the applicants. This information is highly useful and should be taken advantage of because a bad resumé can quickly eliminate you from the competition, even if you are highly qualified.
While your resumé may be filled with information that you are supposed to have, you may still be including things that set off red flags for potential employers. You might not even know you’re making these mistakes that could potentially lead to an automatic disqualification in the eyes of the recruiter, employer, or hiring manager. All it takes is a few simple changes or revisions to make sure that your resume is working for you, instead of against you.
In the following article, we have detailed some of the most common and easy to avoid mistakes that people make when crafting their resumé. Make sure to eliminate these things, and give yourself the best possible chance to score your dream job.
Top 15 Resume Red Flags:
We’ve compiled a list of the top resume red flags that you should be aware of when you’re crafting your resume or looking back through it to correct some mistakes that might exist – knowing what the resume red flags are will help ensure that you do all you can to land that healthcare job you’ve been pursuing.
1. Unexplained Gaps in Employment
With the ever-changing economy and increased competition for open positions, it is almost inevitable that everyone will have a gap or two in their employment history. However, hiring managers do make note of these gaps, and it may raise questions. Unexplained gaps in your employment tend to raise a bunch of questions for employers and hiring managers that you need to answer. Whether you were exploring potential career opportunities, taking time off to go back to school to advance your education, or you were taking a break to rest and recharge — employers want to know.
So if you have a gap that is longer than a few months, make sure to include a brief explanation in your cover letter, and expand upon that explanation in person if asked. You don’t want to eliminate yourself by raising a concern about something that may be easily explainable. And remember, keep it positive! You have to be careful when you’re explaining this gap because you don’t want to come across as lazy or irresponsible. Come up with a solid reason as to why you have some gaps in your employment history, and be ready and willing to open up about them when asked about them and you’ll do just fine.
2. Careless Mistakes
Nothing will turn off a potential employer more quickly than careless mistakes on your resumé. You may have followed every resumé tip and trick you could find, but that can be completely undermined by careless mistakes. The most common mistakes are poor grammar, bad English, and not enough attention to detail.
When you update your resumé, take the time to ensure that the new information matches the rest of the content. Verb tense, formatting, font and style all need to remain consistent. A sloppy resumé that doesn’t look like you or someone else proofread will surely put you at the bottom of the pile.
Nearly every single text editor comes with a spelling and grammar check, and all it takes is a click of a button to have it proofread and review your resume. In the incredibly rare event that you are using a text editor that does not have a spellcheck built-in, there are tons of outside applications, websites, or services you can use to proofread your resume really quickly. Another fantastic addon you should consider getting to proofread and edit your grammar is Grammarly. This resource is one of the most popular grammar-checking tools that you can use, and it’s free.
The next thing you want to make sure you check is for punctuation mistakes. One of the best ways to check for punctuation mistakes is to carefully read your resume out loud to make sure everything flows nicely, and you aren’t using improper punctuation.
3. A Lack of Professionalism
This may seem like common sense, and we hope it is — but it is very important to make sure that every aspect of your resumé portrays you as a respectful professional. One of the most common ways to eliminate yourself is to have an unprofessional email address listed.
While there may have been a time in your life where you were indeed the ‘Halo King of LA’ it shouldn’t be in your email — nor on your resumé. Making sure that you write in a professional way will also paint you in a positive light. Being too casual could end up costing you. You have to remember that you’re trying to set yourself up for success. Part of setting yourself up for success is making sure that you come across as one of the most professional individuals they are considering.
4. Ambiguous Language
When a hiring manager takes the time to review your resumé, they want to know exactly what you’ve done and what your skillset is. If you phrase things in such a way that leaves them wondering, you may have already eliminated yourself. Vague descriptions of responsibilities raise red flags as to the degree to which you were responsible.
Did you “lead” a group that helped reduce costs by 25%, or did you “participate in” that group? Vague wording may lead hiring managers to assume that you’re trying to disguise a lack of experience in a certain area, which may hurt your chances of getting an interview. Make sure that you’re being careful with the ambiguous language that you’re using throughout your resume because you will have to explain your previous roles, responsibilities, and accomplishments to anybody who is evaluating your application and resume for each job that you apply for.
This means that you should be ready to explain and backup all the things you’ve listed on your resume, including the ambiguous language you’ve used. Be careful with using any ambiguous language, because it can also lead to potential employers and managers expecting more from you than you realize. If you’ve listed all of these fantastic accomplishments and responsibilities you had, which you were only a participant of instead of the leader — you can put yourself in a tricky position and set up many for disappointment, including yourself.
The best thing to do is to be straight forward with the language you use throughout your resume, to ensure that nobody is confused about the nature of your previous roles and accomplishments.
5. An Un-Tailored Resume
It’s undoubtedly an extra step to take, but taking the time to tailor your materials to the job you’re applying for is very important in setting yourself apart. A general cover letter that states your qualifications may undermine your credibility before they even reach your resumé. Taking the time to match your resumé and cover letter to the skills and requirements of the job you are applying for will demonstrate that you are serious about the position. Explain why you would be a good fit, based on what they are looking for. Take specific examples from your work history, and use them to strengthen your credibility.
Tailoring your resume is one of the most effective ways in making sure that you stand out from the competition as the most complete and well-rounded applicant that they could possibly consider.
6. Career Shortcomings
The next thing that you should avoid including on your resume is any potential career shortcomings or failures that might send the wrong message. For instance, are you sending a message that your career has already plateaued or you’ve potentially failed at some point throughout your current career and it will have a direct impact on the job you’re applying for?
As an example, if you’re applying as a healthcare professional and you’ve had some indication that you’re not a people-person throughout your career, then you’re demonstrating a potential shortcoming that you could have in your new role.
Another thing to watch out for is any evidence that your career has potentially stagnated based on the titles or the responsibilities you’ve had in various roles. Throughout your career, there should be a distinct notion of advancement and progression. Does it look like you’ve stagnated throughout your career or you have potentially sputtered to a standstill?
One way you can identify whether or not it might look like your career has sputtered or come to a standstill is if your titles have seemed to go backward in your resume. Another red flag for potential career shortcomings is if your resume demonstrates that the number of responsibilities you have had has actually decreased over time.
If your resume indicates that you have taken a step back in your career or held roles with fewer responsibilities because you needed a break, just make sure that you’re willing to explain that to those individuals who are reviewing your resume or interviewing you. If you’ve found that you didn’t enjoy a particular role and needed a step back in responsibilities and title, explain why you felt that way and how that experience has set you up for success moving forward.
7. Job Hopping History
The next resume red flag you want to avoid is indicating that you have a tendency to job hop, or showcase that you have job-hopped in the past. Unfortunately, in the modern economy and employment environment, sometimes the only way to advance in your career is to pursue a new opportunity quite frequently. New opportunities might lead to a better title, more compensation, better benefits, etc. The problem with seeking new opportunities at the drop of a hat is that it can potentially lead to the perception that you’re job hopping.
Job hopping is when you don’t hold a single job for a very long period of time. In fact, it seems like you move jobs quite frequently because you’re seeking new things that your current employer cannot provide you like a new title and compensation. The problem with this perception is that employers are always seeking talent that will set some roots. They are hoping that you will be willing to work with them for a considerable length of time, because sourcing, hiring, and training job candidates is an incredibly expensive and time-consuming process. If you look like you might jump ship within the first year, then you’re forcing them to spend even more money the following year because they’ve had to train you and someone else in a short amount of time.
If your resume makes it appear like you’re a job hopper, then you clearly need to indicate that you’re looking for an opportunity where you can grow over a longer period of time and you are hoping to find a place where you can settle down. You can almost guarantee that employers will be hesitant about interviewing you or considering you for the role if you have several stints of job-hopping on your resume, so you should be prepared to explain those timelines in your resume.
A typical job candidate with a job-hopping history usually only stays in a positoin between six to 9 months. For most employers, it can take several months to half a year before that employee is fully trained, and up to speed in their current role. Evaluate your resume to make sure that you’re not sending the wrong message with a resume red flag, and you’re prepared to explain it if you are.
8. Unprofessoinal Contact Details
Earlier we’ve talked about how you need to be professional throughout your resume, but it doesn’t stop there. One of the most overlooked resume red flags that you might be waving is an unprofessional email address. These unprofessional email addresses might be the ones that you’ve had from back in grade school and never got around to fixing on your resume. You might think your email doesn’t matter, but it does.
Even if you’re attached to an email that you’ve used forever, you should still get in the habit of creating a professional one and using it in your job search. The best way to make sure that your email address is appropriate is to keep it simple. The first way that you can do that is by structuring your potential email address like this:
- (frst name)(last name)@email.com
- (first name)(last name letter)@email.com
- (first name letter)(last name)@email.com
- (first name)(middle name letter)(last name)@email.com
- (first name letter)(middle name letter)(last name)@email.com
These different professional email combinations ensure that you can come up with at least one email combination that will remove that unprofessional email address you’ve been using for years.
9. Resume From Current Employer Mailing Address or Email
Another resume red flag that you need to be aware of is where you’re actually mailing your resume, or which email you’re sending the resume from. If you’re mailing a resume still, not many people do anymore, but if you’re sending it from your current place of employment — it sends a really bad message. In addition, if you’re sending your resume with your current employment email, you’re sending a wrong message to potential employers.
One thing that could automatically disqualify you from further consideration is if you’re sending from your current employer’s address or email address. The reason for this is that each employer puts faith in you as an employee when you’re working for them. They are paying you to work for them during traditional work hours. If you’re sending out resumes while you’re supposed to be working for them and on their behalf, it sends a message that perhaps you will be careless about the time you spend in a future role.
Your job search should be conducted on your own time, and the mailing address and email address you feature on your resume should reflect that. Don’t be rude or disrespectful to your current employer and send teh wrong message to future employers by sending a resume from an inappropriate work address or work email address.
10. Vague Descriptions
The next resume red flag to watch out for when you’re crafting or reviewing your resume is to avoid using vague wording or vague descriptions. One thing that many job seekres do when they’re trying to apply to new job opportunities or make a career change is to make their resume really vague. They do this with the intention to apply to a multitude of job postings that are in different industries or career scopes.
The problem with this is that you can be potentially eliminating yourself because you’re being far too vague about the previous positions and responsibilities you’ve had. Even if you’re making a career change, you still want to be specific about the responsibilities that you’ve had, because you can use it as a tool in your job search to demonstrate your previous work ethic, your ability to learn new skills, ability to be responsible for multiple different things at one time, and more — the list goes on.
Another thing that you want to remember when you’re filling out your resume and sending it in to recruiters, hiring managers, and employers is that using vague words might also sabotage the view they have of your previous experience. Each role you have is very different from the next, and your responsibilities are the same way. For instance, if you change, “Managed” to “Oversaw”, did you actually manage as part of the process of overseeing? Or did you just review the paperwork and let the team handle everything themselves?
You don’t want to paint a picture of uncertainty or confusion with your resume because you’re using vague wording or descriptions. Take the uncertainty out of the evaluation process and craft a strong and straight foward resume.
11. Inappropriate References
One of the biggest tools that companies and employers use when they evaluate each job seeker for a potential position is to take a look at the references they might have included on their resume. It’s no longer recommended that references be included on a resume, but some job seekers still opt to include them.
In the event that you do include them, or have them on your resume, you need to ensure that they are appropriate and relevant references. You should not be including references like your parents, or your significant other. Your references list should be tailored to just be former co-workers, peers, employers, managers, bosses, and other professional contacts.
When you include references on your resume, and then list a bunch of potential references that aren’t professional contacts, you’re potentially raising the chance as to why there might be no professional contacts who will speak on your behalf.
In addition, inappropriate references reduce the chances that somebody will speak objectively about you. Employers understand that people most likely list references that will speak positively about them. Unfortunately, when you list inappropriate references, you increase the chances that they will be overly positive.
The problem with this is that employers and hiring managers often see through these overly-positive referrals and references and want to find references who will still speak positively about you, but will also provide positive statements and answers from an objective stance.
12. Formatting Issues
The next resume red flag for you to be aware of is any formatting issues that might pop up. As we’ve mentioned before in our Resume Guide or 22 Common Resume Mistakes That Can Cost You the Job, one of the most recent advancements that employers are using is Applicant Tracking Software that scans resumes and pulls important information for the individuals who are reviewing the resume.
As an example, these resume scanners will pull keywords, contact info, experience, and more. The problem with this is that if your resume isn’t formatted properly, then it won’t be scanned properly by applicant tracking systems. This means that the scanner might pull information improperly. If the scanner doesn’t pull information properly because the resume isn’t formatted correctly, then you’re sabotaging your job search before it can even begin.
Another problem that might arise from your poorly formatted resume is that it might even confuse the individual who is reviewing your resume. It might seem like a good idea to format your resume in different ways than traditional measures or to put a bunch of fancy art or font choices to make your personality stand out. But these can all lead to formatting issues or reading issues that will make your resume get thrown in the trash in an instant.
It only takes a few seconds for a person to glean the information they need from your resume. If you stuff your resume with poor formatting issues or an ugly design, you’re going to frustrate the reviewer to the point where they don’t’ even want to bother trying to sift through the information on your resume.
For more information on how to properly format your resume, and view the different formatting option, take a look at our Resume Guide: Chapter 3: Resume Format.
13. Being Overqualified
Another resume red flag for individuals who are reviewing your resume is when you’re clearly overqualified for the job posting that you applied to. In any job search environment, there are going to be individuals who apply to jobs that they’re overqualified for. As we’ve mentoined earlier, this might be because you’re looking to reinvent your career, you’d like something a little bit easier, or something else entirely.
Whatever the reason, it still raises a red flag when an overqualified candidate applies to a position that is beneath them. The reason for this is because overqualified candidates often get bored when they take a step down or when they apply to a position that they are massively overqualified for. Over time, as the boredom gets deeper, employers worry that the employee will get bored and seek a new position in a short time.
These candidates are often considered short-term candidates who are looking for a new opportunity when it comes along and just need something to hold them over until that happens. In the event that you’re overqualified for the positions that you’re applying for, you need to be ready to explain why you’re applying for the position. If you are only looking for a short-term position until you can find something better, you need to be capable of conveying why you should still be considered based on the value you can bring in that short time.
14. Including Outdated Information
The next resume red flag for you to watch out for on your resume as you’re reviewing it or crafting it is including outdated information. Outdated information on your resume can be a variety of different things, including previous positions that aren’t relevant, roles that changed over time, contact information that is no longer valid, the list goes on.
Including outdated information is an important thing you should avoid overlooking because you could also forget about listing some of the more current positions, responsibilities, and achievements you’ve had in that time.
15. Bragging Too Much
Another resume red flag that you want to avoid including throughout your resume is bragging too much. In contrast to being too broad throughout your resume, you might find that you’re actually bragging too much about what you’ve done previously. This can be because you’re worried that you’re not actually qualified for the position, or that you feel you should brag about what you did to secure the future position a little easier.
It might seem like an easy thing to just add a couple of flair statements to your resume to make you seem like the ideal candidate, but those professionals who review resumes every single day will see right through it because they’ve read other resumes with similar positions. The odds of you being an outstanding achiever compared to the tens of other resumes that have the same positions, experience, and responsibilities is pretty slim — and they’ll see right through it if you’re anything but authentic throughout your resume.
You should also avoid using statements that make you seem like you’re a genius compared to everyone else because it can create the illusion that you’re difficult to work with.
If you take the time to audit your resumé and make sure that it doesn’t include any of these red flags, then you’ll undoubtedly have helped put your best foot forward in your job search. We know that finding a great job (or any job) can be difficult, and you wouldn’t want to lose out on your dream hospital or medical job due to such easily correctable mistakes. If you’re just getting started on your medical resumé, make sure to check out our resumé guide where we help you discern between and decide on the best font, format, skills and more!
( Article / Content Updated 2019 )