Turn your Resume Red Flags into Positives

Even the most competent professionals often have one or two resume negatives that could raise an eyebrow. The trick is to realize what areas may raise a red flag and to customize your resume to overcome potential resume pitfalls.

As a Seattle-area staffing agency, we analyze resumes a lot! Here are some guidelines straight from our expert recruiters on how to makes those resume negatives disappear.

Fill your Employment Gaps

Always assume a hiring manager will catch employment gaps. An unexplained gap looks like you’re hiding something and the last thing you want to do is leave a hiring manager with questions. Fill all employment gaps, especially if the gap exceeds 3 months.

This can be done in a few different ways. If your job history has a pattern of gaps with similar reasons, then include a quick statement of why that is. Alternatively, you can explain employment gaps in your work history section by inserting a “job title” that explains the time gap. It should be relevant to your job objective, or at least demonstrate that you made use of non-paid or non-employed time. Examples can include: Volunteer, Student, Independent Study, Travel Abroad, or Personal/Family Leave.

Include any volunteer work, projects, or work done for the community. If possible, include concrete examples of how you kept your professional skills sharp and any classes/education you acquired.

For a current employment gap:

  • Sharpen your skills with an online course or by learning software relevant to your career. A current unemployment gap looks much better if you show some initiative in making yourself more marketable.
  • Consider volunteering. Volunteering at an event, conference, or organization can showcase your work ethic, help you gain skills, and potentially obtain a reference.

Avoid Age Discrimination

Dates on your resume can lead to an impression of age, which can lead to discrimination. While there’s nothing wrong with being seasoned, it generally helps open doors if your age isn’t too identifiable. A well-crafted resume uses dates to lead the employer to deduce that you are within the ideal age range for the position you are seeking, regardless of your actual age.

Generally, the age that a resume may convey is the number of years of your listed work history plus twenty. This may mean limiting your work history on your resume to only 15 or 20 years and scrubbing graduation dates from the education section once you’ve been graduated over five years. If you’ve been in your field a long time, forego listing legacy tools or old technology unless it is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Do include dates of recent continuing education to demonstrate that you keep up with the latest tools.

Spin a Long Tenure

While longevity once was associated with solid, loyal employees worth keeping, now it is sometimes associated with skills stagnation and complacency. With the lightning fast pace of technology, employers seek candidates who have stayed up to date on the latest programs and skills related to their field and who show a track record of adaptability.

If you have over five years at the same company, emphasize how you’ve kept your skills sharp and your knowledge up to date. This can be as simple as taking a quick online course. Additionally, showing your growth or mobility within the organization, either vertically or laterally, is seen as positive and potentially the equivalent to having worked at two or three companies. Break the job down into the titles and functions performed, as well as notable accomplishments, to demonstrate your growth within the company.

The bright side is that these same managers often still desire a certain degree of loyalty and longevity in the candidates they review. Focusing on emphasizing both these attributes can be a plus if done right by someone who’s been with a company for a long time.

Handling Short Job Stints

Sometimes it’s hard to win at the hiring game. While a long time at a company can be a red flag, short job stints can hurt just as much – if not more. Short stints are regarded as those worked for less than a year. Multiple short tenures can signal you’re not dependable or lack commitment.

For blips on your resume that were mainly out of your control, like lay-offs, the business closing, a merger, or a corporate restructuring, note it. Hiring managers understand things like that happen.

Keep in mind that consulting and gig work has become much more the norm. If you have been doing short projects of a similar nature, group that work together when you can. This can also apply if you worked multiple temp or contract positions. Group your frequent, shorter-term assignments, especially if they are fundamentally similar. You could also list yourself as a contractor and create a list of the selected companies where you worked.

Ready for your next career step? Team Red Dog is your local Bellevue-area recruitment agency and ready to match you with your next great role!

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