The resume is your entry paperwork. It is needed to get your foot in the door but what is it saying about you? We all have had blips in our career that maybe we would rather not highlight. The key around these anomalies is to understand your story and manage their concerns. Check out these tips for four common resume red flags.
Gaps in Employment
Employers are looking for confirmation that you have remained up-to-date in your profession. Be prepared to answer industry questions to highlight your current industry knowledge. Show that you are so interested in your field that you found ways to apply your skills or read up on the current industry even while you were unemployed.
You need to be aware that an employer’s worry about relocation is that it will happen again, and you will have to leave your position if hired. If asked how long you plan to be in the current location, state, “The hope is three to five years, possibly longer.” I never advise lying, but by saying “hope” you remove any falsehood from your statement. If you are asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” talk only about your career goals as they relate to the company and the role, not about location, family status, or unrelated education planned
Job or Career Hopping
If you have academic degrees that do not closely match your work experience, or if you have multiple degrees and vast work experience that are not consistent with one another, this could indicate to an employer that you don’t know what you really want to do, and that you’re not just job hopping, you’re career hopping. Ideas for handling these situations are:
- Create a targeted résumé. Select the content that best suits the position you are targeting; highlight the skills, functions, and industries that are most applicable.
- Tell your story and connect the dots. Present your experience as a continuous progression during which you gained skills and experience along the way.
Lacking Career Direction
Employers are looking for motivated workers who truly want to be working for that company, in that industry, in that role. If you lack career direction, take the time to figure out what you want to do so that you can commit to the position and the industry. You will also be more compelling in an interview if you can explain why you want to do a particular job. Let the enthusiasm and passion come through. Once you decide what you want to pursue, consider these ideas to help direct your career:
- Make a career plan for the next two to five years.
- Build industry experience by continuing to work or volunteer.
- Maintain a network of contacts. Keep in touch with the people you met at college, parent groups, or previous jobs.
- Get active and join local industry organizations such as the chamber of commerce.
- Be creative—if you can’t find the job you want in the industry you desire, look elsewhere. No nursing positions available at a hospital? Try a local school, a doctor’s office, a nursing home, or even a service for home health aides.
When you step into your job interview, you’ve already set a precedent within your resume. Before you seriously apply for a job, ask yourself this question – have I edited my resume enough? Does my resume accurately reflect me as a person? Beware these red flags and always keep on top of your resume. It’s your first impression, so make it a good one. Find more tips in my book, Nail the Interview.