People often ask me to review their resume and note any potential red flags that they should address. Although I’m not able to review the majority of resumes that are sent to me (I simply do not have the capacity!), here are some of the most common red flags that I personally come across (and how to fix them):
Copying and pasting job descriptions into your resume provides zero value to the reader. Emphasize results instead. Share pertinent content from your career that demonstrates proof of ability in alignment with job requirements.
An Objective Statement
Hiring managers want to know WIIFM “What’s In It For Me”; NOT what your personal end-goal is. Ditch the objective and share a value-based headline/tagline that aligns offerings with needs.
Extremely long resumes are rarely read in full – or appreciated. Think quality of content versus quantity. Distill details down to what matters most, letting value dictate an appropriate length while keeping content focused and succinct.
When I posted this topic on LinkedIn and asked resume writers and career experts to weigh in with their thoughts on resume red flags, responses centered around several common themes. Here is the link to the entire thread but I’ve gone ahead and captured a few of the responses below for your reading pleasure:
Lack of Focus at the Start
Kelly Gadzinski (Career Coach/Resume Writer): Lacking a bold headline and opening summary that effectively showcases personal brand in an unique and eye-catching way.
Skye Berry-Burke (Career Coach/Resume Writer): For me the key is in the branding Headline/ Tagline. If I can’t determine what your target or industry is from the start, my motivation to continue reading is challenged.
Jessica Hernandez (Executive Resume Writer): I agree with Skye. I think the branding headline/position title at the top really sets the stage for the entire resume. If this is missing it cripples the entire resume and leaves the potential employer with a big question mark. I’m a big believer in the importance of clarity on a resume and a clear branding headline/position title is critical for that clarity.
Kamara Toffolo (Resume Writer): Bullet Barf. Listing every single detail with a bullet or bullets that are actually paragraphs. Max 2 lines per bullet please.
Virginia Franco (Executive Career Storyteller): Dense text is my biggest beef — when something is too long, too verbose, or doesn’t get to the point — you run the risk that the reader will skip it altogether.
Ana Lokotkova (Career Search Advisor): If it’s a bullet, it means it needs to be short and sweet and not a 5-line long paragraph.
Omar Osmani (Recruiter): Lack of customization, using the same resume to apply for all positions. Take the time to review and understand the Job Description. Then customize your resume to help show the potential employer how you are a great fit for the role.
Erin Kennedy (Executive Resume Writer): Not backing up your value with actual accomplishments. Just saying you are a “business development rockstar” isn’t enough. Prove it. What did you actually do to give yourself that title? The reader wants to know!
Jamie Chapman (Career Coach / Recruiter): I second several of the previous comments about backing up your “brag” items with your experience… it’s not congruent to say “I’m awesome at managing budgets” and then never drop a single dollar figure in your resume.
Scott Leishman (Assistant Director Career Services): Resumes should have specific numbers that show the scope of the candidate’s responsibility and achievements that relate to the position they are going after. Dollar signs are much more powerful and precise than percentages.
Tom Adam (Recruiter): People need to list concrete, measurable achievements, whether it’s performance against sales quotas, up-time maintained in complex IT systems, number of new customers obtained, etc. Listing your duties alone isn’t a resume — it’s a job description. Whether you were an accountant, a sales rep, or a software engineer, we know what you did. What we want to know, however, if is you were any good at it.
Weak Attention to Detail
Jeff Lipschultz (Speaker/Trainer/Facilitator): Errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If you cannot proof your own resume, what kind of attention-to-detail do you possess?
Javier Vinsome (Career & Adversity Advisor/Resume Writer): Repetitive action words. Overuse of “Responsible for…”. Employment with no dates.Sarah Johnston (Job Search Expert): I’ll add font sizes under 10! The reader should not need to squint to read your resume.
Laura Smith-Proulx (Executive Resume Writer): Information shown in bold for no good reason – when it’s detrimental to the candidate. If you’ve job-hopped, don’t put dates in bold or right-justify them. If your positions date back to 1979, don’t put them in bold (and of course, eliminate some of these positions). If your job titles don’t do you justice because you really held a higher-ranking level of authority, don’t put the job title in bold. Quit showcasing data that doesn’t do you any favors. Highlight distinguishing qualifications, keywords, and achievements that you want employers to spot!
Kerri Twigg (Career Coach/Speaker): When it looks like it came from a resume book. They should look like living documents with heart. You can do this by using words you normally use (and will use at the interview) and not playing it too safe.
Michelle Precourt (Career Coach/ Recruiter): Recruiter bias happens…if we are honest, we are all biased. To mitigate this, create a gmail account with your name. It’s simple but effective. Hotmail accounts could imply an older job seeker and a university email could imply someone inexperienced.
Thank you career experts and resume writers for sharing your insights!
I’ve captured the 6 resume red flags which I feel need the most attention, by all levels of job seekers, in the infographic below:
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