Employers spend about 10 seconds looking at your resume before deciding to keep it or ditch it and move on to the next. The more applicants there are, the more likely they probably are to ditch, and they’ll be looking for a reason to do that. Don’t give them one.

Here are some red flags employers look for in resumes that will cause them to reject a candidate.

A mismatch between the position and your resume.

When your experience doesn’t fit the position, an objective is a good idea. It’s your opportunity to explain yourself and why you are right for this position even though you don’t have matching experience. If there is a discrepancy, explain it in your cover letter. However, you can’t rely on your cover letter being read. You absolutely must tailor your resume for every specific position to which you apply. If there is a disconnect between your experience and the position, you have to find a way to bridge it by focusing on relevant skills and experience.

Large gaps in employment.

Things happen. People get laid off. People get sick (or have to care for others who are sick). Hiring managers are aware of this, and for the most part, they’re also human. A gap in your employment is not the end of the world, but certainly, a gap longer than a year or two will raise eyebrows.

Where were you? What were you doing? Whatever it may be, find a way to use it in your resume. Working on personal projects? Include it in your resume. Volunteering for an organization that’s important to you? Add it to your resume. Picked up a new hobby? Create a hobbies section in your resume. Remember, hiring managers are often looking for someone that will fit their team and culture, and while these types of details may seem flimsy, they can go a long way towards revealing the kind of person you are.

See here for more tips on how to explain gaps in your resume.

A resume using the “functional” format.

This is a resume that focuses on skills rather than work experience. It’s recommended by career experts when you don’t have any experience. Unfortunately, hiring managers know that and are often wary of functional resumes. That being said, there are ways to get them to give you a chance, including emphasizing soft skills and any other relevant experience (including academic and from extracurricular activities.)

See here for more on how to choose the right resume format.

A lack of accomplishments.

Your resume shouldn’t just be a list of your tasks and responsibilities. It has to illustrate what you can bring to an employer. Think of it like a marketing tool. What is the best way to sell your experience and skills? A resume full of phrases like “duties included” and “responsible for”? Or one that is filled with action words like “increased,” “drove” or “initiated”?

We’ve also looked at the impact numbers can have on resumes, particularly when it comes to making achievements stand out. See here for 14 important numbers you should be using on your resume.

Typos and spelling errors.

Always proof read your resume and cover letter before sending it. Then do it again. You’ve put a lot of time into this, and the last thing you want to do is get rejected because you used “you’re” instead of “your.” It’s a stupid reason to miss out on an opportunity.

Good luck!


See also:

How to tailor your resume to any job posting

How to optimize your resume for the 10-second skim

Should you put a picture on your resume?

What to include on your resume to get an IT job


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