Red Flags – Are there any in your Resume?

Posted by | August 14, 2011 | Interview Tools

Having interviewed over 1,000 people in the past 35 years, I have looked over at least 4,000 applications. One of the first things I look for are Red Flags and there are four that I focus on:

First I look for gaps in employment. Large gaps indicate to a potential employer that the candidate may have hot and cold streaks, substance abuse issues or may have legal problems that prevent them from holding a job (meaning the candidate was behind bars). Certainly a gap in employment doesn’t automatically mean something bad. There could be many reasons for not working including being the primary caregiver for an ill family member. As you proof read your resume, take a look at how it flows. If it looks “spotty” you might want to focus on skills you developed at different jobs and don’t list dates

Second, I look for many jobs in a short period of time. This to me indicates a person who either isn’t clear about what they want or the person doesn’t get along with people once he or she lands a job . I would assume that if I hired this person, they would already be looking for another job before they went through orientation. If you have had multiple jobs, try to emphasize jobs relates to the company you are applying to today, and not list everything.

Third is a tough one to get around, terminations for cause. Yes, things happen beyond our control and we sometimes make decisions that we later see may have not been the best. Most employers do background checks and many more are using social media to verify information supplied on an application. If you aren’t asked why you left a job, don’t volunteer that you were fired. However, honesty is the best policy in this situation. If asked, be prepared to talk about what happened, but never, never blame others. Your job is to get the employer to focus on your overall skills and what you can bring to the company.

Lastly, many people put down that they resigned for personal reasons. During the interview, when I ask about this, I have gotten statements such as “my last boss was a jerk” and “I didn’t get along with my co-workers”. With any new job, there are going to be things about it you don’t like. And if you find the job is not what you expected, you should move on to something more satisfying. Ideally, you would line up a new job before leaving so you don’t end up with a) gaps in employment or b) many jobs in a short period of time. If you did leave because your boss really was a jerk, don’t tell me that. As your future employer, all I will be hearing you saying to me is “one day you will be a jerk”.

Depending on the application format, you may or may not have control over how your application is presented. Certainly with your resume, you can craft it to highlight your strengths and minimize any potential red flags. Being aware gives you the chance to think about your responses and to make sure that the employer stays focused on what you can offer the company.

Having any of these four red flags doesn’t mean you won’t get hired. But it does mean you need to be prepared. It is possible that the subject will never come up. The overall tone of your resume and application may keep the interview on track. Focus on being positive, never blame others and make sure when you leave the interview, they know you are the right person for the job.

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