10 Reasons Why Resumes are Put on the
'Thanks, But No Thanks' Pile
Will Your Resume be Rejected?
There are lots of reasons your resume may be put onto the TNT ('Thanks, but No Thanks')
pile! Here are ten of the most common red flags recruiters are looking for.
1. Gaps in Employment History
This is usually the very first thing I look at when reviewing resumes, and all by itself is often
enough to toss a resume. If there's a single gap in employment but the resume otherwise
seems worth taking a better look at it, a recruiter will usually ask about the gap; numerous
gaps, however, may be indicative of a bad employment pattern in which an applicant has quit
numerous jobs or been fired. It's the poor work history that we're trying to detect; we're also
looking for dates on the resume that have been changed to hide the gaps, and oftentimes
the dates just don't add up. One method of trying to hide gaps on a resume is to only use the
years for the dates of employment, instead of using both the month and year; this is a glaring
red flag to me, and virtually always signals someone trying to conceal a gap.
The reason for an employment gap will usually fall into one of four categories:
Some gaps in employment are understandable and justifiable, such as a severe illness
in the family, or the birth of a child, then taking time off to be with the growing family.
Besides the justifiable reasons above, I can't hardly think of any good reason to simply
quit a job. Oh sure, I'll hear lots of things like the pay wasn't good enough or the
applicant wanted to concentrate on a full-time job search, but there's a good chance
they were either fired, or on the verge of being fired.
The recruiter may want to find out how big the layoff was, and how many rounds there
were. Were you one of the first individuals to be let go, or were you kept until the last
possible moment? A layoff in and of itself usually doesn't reflect negatively on a per-
son's employment history--especially in today's economy--and it can be strengthened
by having been one of the final people to be let go.
This is the biggest red flag when it comes to a person's resume. Having said that, I
know some bosses are jerks, and that misunderstandings or differences with those
bosses can have a devastating effect on one's career; regardless, if someone has
been terminated from a job, or worse yet more than one job, it's important to under-
stand what was behind it. If the balance of a resume holds much promise I may spend
time with this candidate, but I'll absolutely tread very carefully.
2. Inconsistent Dates
While studying the dates to look for gaps in employment, we also look for inconsistencies in
those dates. For example, dates that overlap could be a matter of having two jobs at one
time or simply a mistake, or maybe it's because the person tampered with the dates and
didn't do a very good job of it.
3. Frequent Job Changes
What is probably not known to most job-seekers is that the recruiting function in any organi-
zation is often very expensive! Add to that the cost of the new employee as they learn the
ropes, and their initial period of inefficiency while they're in the learning phase, and bringing
a new person on board soon becomes quite an investment. It's for this reason and others
that an employer wants to know a new employee has a high level of stability and dependa-
bility. The employer certainly doesn't want to hire a new person, then a short time later have
to go all through the recruiting process again because the person quit within a short time-
frame! Employers want dependable people.
correct person whenever possible. If necessary you can
address your correspondence to "Dear Sir or Madam‟, but
that's really not the best option. Do some quick online
research to look for the contact name, or call to ask for a
specific name. Regardless of how you conduct your
research, finding a specific name is beneficial to you, but
in many cases, this just won't be possible, or there may be
multiple recruiters working on many job openings. Using
the recruiter's name is great, but if it's not readily
available, don't spend much time trying to find it because
your time is better spent on more job-hunting activities.
9. Lack of Details
One of the best ways you can make your resume pop is by
including specific details, such as quantitative data. If
you're in sales, did you exceed your quota? And by how
much? If you developed a new process in the accounting
department for increasing its efficiency, what annual sav-
ings resulted? If you're a packaging engineer, how did
your redesign of the corrugated shipping containers result
in savings? By adding specific details and numbers you
can paint a better picture of what you bring to the table,
and how an employer would benefit from bringing you on
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10. Poor Career Objective
A career objective at the top of your resume should state in a very clear way just exactly
where you're coming from and where you want to go. Remember that you have just 15
seconds on average to catch a recruiter's attention, so your entire resume—including the
career objective—must be clear and concise, and leave no doubt as to precisely what your
objective is. More than 75% of objectives are meaningless, sharing a worthless sentiment
such as, “Looking for a company that can use my talents, and that has opportunities for me
to grow.” This type of objective tells us exactly nothing! You must tell us precisely what you
bring to the table, and remember that your objective—and your resume in general—should
not only tell what you did, but how well you did it!
4. Spelling or Grammatical Errors
Word processors make it very easy to check for spelling
and grammatical errors, yet many job-seekers still submit
resumes with mistakes. What this tells a recruiter is that the
job-seeker didn't make the effort to ensure the resume was
correct, they're not technically savvy enough to use spell
check, or they're just plain sloppy—and in any case it
doesn't create the image of an applicant that does quality
work. Make sure your resume is perfect! Give it to a few
friends or relatives that are good with spelling and grammar,
and ask that they review it for mistakes. One single mistake
means you're already starting out with a mark against you in
the recruiter's mind.
5. Functional Resumes
There are several formats of resumes, and the most common is the chronological in which
jobs are listed in their proper sequence, from most recent to earliest. A functional resume is
different in that it's centered around describing the skills and experience of the applicant,
and doesn't list jobs in sequence, rather by those skills. Some sources will recommend that a
functional resume be used if the applicant is trying to change careers, but most recruiters
know that functional resumes are more often used when the applicant is trying to hide some-
thing such as a gap in employment, so this type of resume, in and of itself, will raise a red
6. Unprofessional Email Address
You may think your job interview starts when you sit down to speak with a recruiter, but it
actually starts the instant the employer has any type of interaction with you whatsoever. That
includes your resume, any phone conversations, all emails, and any other bits of information
or interaction the recruiter has. And speaking of emails, an unprofessional email address
can be enough all by itself to get you eliminated from consideration. Believe it or not, I
received an email from a job-seeker whose email address was BabeMagnet0526; that
resume was one of those that was instantly eliminated the moment I saw that email address.
I'm looking for candidates that are serious about their careers, and that have a certain level
of maturity—and that applicant didn't fit the bill. Remember that in this very tough economy,
the competition for every open job is tougher than ever, and there are usually enough
serious candidates that we don't need to spend our time on those that are immature.
7. Inconsistent Career Path
Another indication that an applicant is confused or not serious about their career path is an
inconsistency in job type within their employment history. Has the applicant stayed consistent
within the same line of work from one job to the next, or has he jumped from one type of work
to another? Here's a real example of a very diverse employment background, one that would
raise a red flag:
- customer service representative
- personal healthcare assistant
- store clerk
This type of employment history is indicative of an individual that doesn't know what he wants
in his career, and is willing to accept just about anything. I'm looking for a candidate who
knows what his goal is and what route he needs to take, and that he has the willingness to
work hard to get there. It should be noted, however, that this isn't as important for lower level
positions, but really, if a person expects to advance in a career, he must first know in what
direction he's headed.
8. Resume is Not Personalized to the Job
When you submit your resume to a job board or in some other way submit your resume such
that you don't know who will be reading it, you have no choice but to submit a resume that's
more generic in nature. If, however, you're submitting your resume to a particular company
for a specific job, you'll stand out from your competitors if you personalize it. Take termin-
ology from the job description and incorporate it into your resume, but only if the terminology
truly describes what you bring to the table. Give details of your experience that specifically
relate to the experience they're looking for. Downplay your experience that doesn't have
much relevance to the job, so you have more space on your resume to build on the experi-
ence that is relevant. And by all means, if you choose to write a cover letter, address it to the
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