Job hunting can really suck.

You have some solid credentials, but you’re getting few to no responses even though you’re careful to apply for jobs that you’re qualified for.

It’s bad enough that you have to fulfil what seems to be an endless list of mind-numbing criteria because of the employer’s relentless search for that “purple squirrel”.

That’s why only about 6% of applicants actually make it to the interview short list.

You’re under major scrutiny.

To add insult to injury, you also have to worry about how your résumé is going to be perceived.

Recruiters in particular have a long list of “selection criteria” that could filter you OUT in as little as 6 seconds.

If you’ve been sending out countless résumés to no avail, something is clearly not right.

There might be a deeper issue at play.

I’m not talking about things like typos, bad grammar, and sloppy writing. I’m talking about those stubborn résumé nasties that are really hard to hide and virtually impossible to eliminate.

They’re like annoying house guests that refuse to leave. You might not even know they’re that much of a problem or even be aware of them until it’s too late and you get eliminated from the running. What’s the issue?

Résumé red flags.

That’s industry code for “Houston, there’s a problem”.  

These are career missteps and mishaps that get transferred onto your résumé and can wreak havoc.  Your first line of offense is to identify which of these you have and then deal with it before you apply to any more positions.

How to determine if you’ve got any résumé career killers:

1. You’ve got work gaps.

Generally speaking, the more work gaps you have on your résumé, the longer in duration, and the more recent they are, the more likely your résumé will be passed over.

Employers typically don’t like work gaps even if you have a good excuse. If you have them, you need to employ an effective strategy to minimize their negative impact before you send your résumé anywhere.

Excluding dates is a bad idea because it gives the impression that you have something to hide.  Worse, the computer applicant tracking systems might reject your résumé because they are often programmed to calculate dates and then score and rank the document accordingly.

You need to show the dates you worked for each employer and they have to be accurate and consistent with all of your other documents including your Linkedin profile.

If you have a work gap, there might be ways to address it in the résumé and cover letter, but there is no one-size-fits-all answer on how to do this since everyone’s situation is unique. Consult an expert.

2. Your career zigged when it should have zagged.

Employers like to see a career that has a logical progression where there is a common thread between the positions that link them together in a nice little package that makes sense to them.

They don’t have time to play “connect the dots”.

When they see a career that has gone backwards, plateaued, or the person has held a whole pile of jobs that don’t relate to one another, they might move on to the next résumé that’s in line for review.

While you can’t rewrite your career history, thankfully your documents can be re-written to turn résumé lemons into, uh……lemonade.  😊

When your résumé effectively showcases your career contributions and expertise that are relevant to the position you are targeting, the employer will be more inclined to take the time to learn more about what you have to offer.

3. You’ve been hopping around.

Employers tend to prefer candidates who demonstrate staying power in each job they’ve held. It gives the impression of stability – that they won’t suddenly jump ship after they’ve accepted the job.

As soon as the employer sees a lot of jobs held within a short period of time, alarm bells go off in their head. If it isn’t completely obvious that the jobs were contracts or there was a series of lay-offs, plant closures, or something else beyond your control, your résumé might get immediately ditched.

Employers won’t necessarily take the time to find out what the situation is behind what appears to be “job hopping” which is why you need a résumé that’s strategically crafted to show you in the best light.

4. You show uncompleted education.

Employers like people who finish things. It shows commitment, determination, discipline…all those qualities they look for in an employee. When you include any kind of education and professional development in your career marketing documents, you should have completed them.

It’s misleading for the reader to think you have a degree, diploma, or some kind of designation, certification, or completed coursework when you don’t. If you have any credentials that you started a while ago that you don’t intend to complete any time soon, it might be best to just leave them off.  If you do include them you will have to be crystal clear as to whether they are complete, in progress (if they are) or not completed.

If your target positions require specific education or professional development which you have but they are incomplete, a premium résumé writer/career strategist should be able to find a way to position you more effectively and with integrity.

5. You worked for less than stellar employers.

Rightly or wrongly, you are judged by the company you keep.  Same applies to your career.

If you’ve held a string of jobs with companies that are not held in high regard, that can reflect negatively on you.  You could be perceived as someone who makes poor choices and is not a “quality” employee.

I know it’s not fair but it’s that guilt by association thing.  The best way to address it is to have a résumé, cover letter, and Linkedin profile that clearly communicate the kind of value you can bring to the table.

6. You’re using the problematic functional résumé format.

The functional format is typically used when there are red flags as discussed. When you send this type of résumé, you are in effect indicating there’s a “problem” even if there isn’t.

The general rule of thumb is to avoid using the traditional functional format résumé. Recruiters and hiring managers hate them because they mask career progression. Additionally, computer applicant tracking systems might not scan it properly and it might end up in résumé purgatory.

You will need a hybrid or combination résumé that is a cross between the functional and the chronological formats.  It can be structured in such a way to pump up the positive and downplay the negative.

There is a solution.

There are ways to reduce and even eliminate the damage of résumé red flags but it can take quite a bit of time and know-how to come up with a strategy that’s going to work.

Since you can’t erase the past and should never be misleading in any way, the best and easiest place to start is to fully optimize your résumé, cover letter, and Linkedin profile.

You do have some control over how others will judge you but it will take action on your part.

Here’s how to get started.

If you’d like to discuss how we can work together to create a résumé to help get your foot in the door, click here to set up a free discovery call.


Hi!  I’m Diana.

I leverage over 10 years recruitment and sales/marketing experience to create attention-grabbing résumés, cover letters, and Linkedin profiles that help job seekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired.

You can learn more about my story here and about how I can help you here.

Need help? That’s what I’m here for!

Are you in the midst of a job search and not getting the results you want? Or are you’re thinking of making a change and want to make sure you get started off on the right foot? Then I recommend you reach out for some help. You can contact me directly here!

Free résumé help below!

If you haven’t done so already, just click on the links below for and download these valuable PDFs:

“20 Quick Fixes To Common Résumé Fails That Might Be Hurting Your Job Search”

“Make Your Résumé An Interview Magnet: How To Customize Your Résumé To Help You Stand Out, Get Noticed, And Get Hired!”

I look forward to helping you with your career success!