Resume Writing Help:
Our Top 10 Resume Flags
While our Top 10 resume flags are really designed for hiring managers, this resume writing help will
be helpful to anyone looking for their next career opportunity as well. You'll learn a few things
about how your background gets screened out...so avoid these pitfalls and increase your
chances of making it into the "Yes!" pile.
If you're a hiring manager, this list should speed up your review process. It's a quick and
easy way to effectively find the gems within the stack of resumes you need to review.
In the spirit of David Letterman...here is some of my best resume writing help...drum roll please...
The top ten resume flags that scream "buyer beware":
Typos and grammatical errors.
You need to assume that a candidate is putting his/her best foot forward when
applying for a position. If the resume is full of errors, what is their day to day work
going to look like?
Gaps in employment.
These need to be explained.
Academic credentials that don't specify a degree.
It's easy to assume that a degree is granted when you see:
University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
Finance and Marketing, 1988-1992
If a degree is important to you, make sure that your candidate actually graduated!
Job hoppers always have a good reason for moving around. But, this is a classic
"buyer beware" situation. You can see the pattern. Unless there is something really
compelling about the person's experience, move on.
Dates expressed in years vs. month/year.
This is typical on a resume, especially when a candidate has significant experience.
Look at year changes from one position to the next. For example:
ABC Widget Company, 2000-2003
XYZ Building, 2004-2005
You don't know if this candidate worked for ABC until January, 2003 and then remained
unemployed until December, 2004. Not a show-stopper, but something to check into. Close
readers will know that resume advice found elsewhere on the DerrJones website suggests to just use
years - and that's good resume writing help if you're the candidate. Not so good if you're the
Is the document readable? Look for white space, reasonable margins, appropriate use of
bold and italics. A resume in all CAPS is annoying; likewise, a candidate who requires me to
read 10 point type covering an entire page is not very sales oriented!
Mismatched key words and target companies.
If I need a seasoned sales professional with a consultative, relationship driven style,
coming out of a particular industry, selling a particular type of product or service, I look
for these elements. When I review resumes - especially in bulk - I operate with 3 piles:
Yes - No - Maybe. I scan for the following:
- Does the candidate work for one of my target companies?
- If not from a target company, does the candidate work for a company of
equal or greater size to my client? If I'm recruiting for GE, it's hard to get
excited about someone who's coming out of a small family run business.
- Does the title seem reasonable for the level I'm recruiting?
- Academic credentials - where did the candidate go to school and does he/she
have an advanced degree?
- Metrics - on a sales resume, I want to see metrics! Make sure that what's reported
is in line with what's needed in the role - i.e. if average deal size and quotas are not
consistent with the performance level needed to succeed with my client, I pass.
From the candidate perspective, keep this in mind:
You will be more successful in getting interviews if you apply to positions for which
you are qualified.
Let's repeat that...because it's not only good resume advice, it's good job search advice!
You will be more successful in getting interviews if you
apply to positions for which you
Where does the candidate's experience really start?
When a candidate's first job is shown as a position with a Director or VP title, chances
are this candidate has experience that doesn't show up on the resume. Find out what's
Candidates who apply for a position that is clearly too junior for their experience.
For example, an SVP or VP level sales manager who is looking to "carry a bag" again.
This always feels desperate to me. Perhaps I'm too judgmental, but I never work with a
candidate who wants to take a step back in their career. It's a big red flag. Heed
And, the number 1 resume flag that I look for:
Resumes that contain a snapshot of the candidate, along with all of the personal information
I'm not permitted to consider in the hiring process - age, marital status, religion and
similar off limits data.