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Resume Tips – 5 Resume Red Flags

9 Oct, 2017

Resume Tips – 5 Resume Red Flags

Prospective employers may spend as little as six seconds looking at your resume to make an assessment of your abilities and to match those abilities to their job opening. In those six seconds they do not read every word on the resume!

Instead, employers look at the overall format – is it easy to read? Does this resume contain the relevant information to their particular field? Do the first bullets at the top of the resume match their job description? If any of these things do not meet their criteria, they move your resume into the “bad pile.” Resumes in the bad pile are those resumes that will never be read completely and probably will not be looked at again.

Avoid these five resume red flags to make sure you stay out of the bad pile!

Red Flag #1: Resumes written in third person.

Resumes should never be written in third person. Use first person and choose the present or past tense to showcase the most important and relevant information to your employment goals.

In the example below, you will see that a resume written in third-person does not have the dynamic impact of a resume written in first-person: Jane Doe is an excellent event manager and never went over budget.

The resume statement above does not use action verbs and is not a strong statement of Jane’s abilities. We know this resume is written about Jane because her name is at the top of the document, so there is no reason to keep stating Jane’s name – we need to use that space to sell her abilities to the prospective employer!

A stronger, more relevant resume statement would start with a strong action verb: Managed numerous large and small events, always staying within budget.

Red Flag #2: Resumes that do not have eye appeal.

If the resume is not appealing to the eye, you will turn off the prospective reader immediately. No one wants to read a resume that is formatted with tiny font and no white space! White space allows the eye to rest between reading and absorbing the content and it acts as a clue to important information the employer should read with care.

At the same time, a resume with too much white space will make it look like you have no relevant experience or skills to offer the employer. Find a happy medium – keep the resume readable and clean while filling the space.

Red Flag #3: Resumes written in an inappropriate format.

Never write the resume in complete sentences! There is a format and style to resumes and curriculum vitae (CVs) that is different from other genres of writing. The resume must be written in a way that anyone who picks it up and looks at it will know that it is a resume.

This is not to say that you label the document RESUME at the top of the page! Instead, you must utilize effective formats and the common language of your field to indicate your knowledge in a way that is immediately recognizable as a resume.

Red Flag #4: Resumes that are not an appropriate length.

Employers and recruiters are very busy people and expect to read a certain amount of content depending on the type of job they are hiring for. For example, they do not want to read a four-page resume from a new graduate with no work experience.

The appropriate length for resumes and CVs is based on depth of experience, knowledge, and current job goals. A new college graduate will not have the same resume as an experienced executive. And neither of those resumes will be similar to the CV used by those in the academia and science fields.

The standard resume length is one page, but do not feel limited to that requirement. If you have years of relevant industry experience, you will want to use two full pages. You can even use three if you have over a decade of experience and are looking for a high-level executive position.

Red Flag #5: Resumes that have not been edited for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Those kinds of mistakes can get even the most qualified job candidate thrown into that bad pile of resumes – completely taken out of consideration for a position. Remember, the resume is an excellent way to show the employer or recruiter how hard you are willing to work. If you did not edit your resume thoroughly, the people reading it may think you will not put forward enough effort in the actual job position.

After you review your resume carefully, have a friend – or two – review it again for you!

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4 Comments on "Resume Tips – 5 Resume Red Flags"

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Your tips are on point. This is especially so for red flag #5. I’ve interviewed many otherwise qualified technical candidates that failed to proofread their resumes. All of their respective resumes went to the shredder and were piles of confetti before the candidate likely made it to the parking lot.


Thank you for the tips . There are many “professional CV writing” companies out there who are trying to sell me. one of the tip they offered me was that they will rewrite my resume in 3rd person , i never felt it was correct. Your article makes more sense to me and confirms my understanding.

Deb K

Extremely helpful.

Maria Hebda

Glad you found value in our posting. Please feel free to share this very important info and thanks for commenting on our blog.