Don't let your resume immediately fall into the "no" category. Learn how to fix what hiring managers and search consultants consider resume red flags.

Q. I’m about to re-write my resume. What kind of problems lead you to “red flag” a candidate when you review resumes?

A. Your analysis of the resume evaluation process is fairly accurate. When search consultants or organizational hiring managers review resumes — at first, quickly and sometimes dozens at a time — they usually divide the resumes they examine into three piles: “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.” Your objective should be to avoid the round file, so I am going to share the key problems reviewers spot that I believe lead them to eliminate candidates:

  1. Job hopping. Employers are looking for stability and for a candidate who has a proven track record. That is, at least three to four years with an organization.

    Solution: If you have worked with one organization for an extended period of time but changed positions within the organization, make sure that the overall date range of employment with the organization stands out next to the name of the organization. Include date ranges of employment for each position beside each job title. This way, if you held three jobs at the same employer, the resume reviewer’s eye will be drawn to your overall tenure with the organization, not the number of position changes you made in that same period of time.

  2. Lack of career progression. Employers are looking for a candidate who has shown upward movement in his/her career.

    Solution: If you changed jobs for a promotion or moved to a bigger/more prestigious organization, make sure your position titles and/or responsibility/accomplishment sections explain this progression. If you made a lateral (or career regression) move at any point, it can be beneficial to include the reason for leaving a job, especially if this reason is related to a personal issue (spouse, illness, etc.). Dealing with this issue succinctly (in print) at this point is important as you are not there to voice your explanation.

  3. Organizational inertia. Staying in one organization or position too long can sometimes be perceived negatively by employers, as something that limits a candidate’s exposure to new cultures and ideas. 

    Solution: If you have worked for one organization for a long period of time, be sure to show increased responsibility whenever possible. If you have held different job titles, this should be relatively easy. If not, use the responsibilities and accomplishments sections to detail career growth. To counter the notion that you have limited exposure to outside cultures and ideas, stay active in outside associations and obtain certifications in your area of expertise, then be sure to detail these qualifications on your resume. Finally, this attribute can be spun as a positive in terms of stability and loyalty. Be sure you make this point! 

Learn how to prepare a proper resume and review a sample resume in the Cover Letters and Resumes category in News, Articles, Blogs.