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Strategies for Managing “Red Flags” on Your Resume

Life happens. The best of intentions fall short. The decisions of others create workplace drama. Or, something as unpredictable as a worldwide pandemic rocks the economy. Whatever the forces and factors at work, you’ve found yourself with a resume that is less than desirable. Either what it contains or what it’s missing will raise red flags. But that doesn’t change the fact that you need a job.

“Ultimately, overcoming these red flags comes down to developing and controlling your narrative,” says executive coach and consultant Patricia Carl. “Red flags can — with good reason — call into question a candidate’s commitment, performance, and reliability. But by unapologetically owning your decisions and planning out concise, forthright talking points, you can proactively address these concerns and make the best possible impression on your interviewer.”

Let’s take a look at strategies that will make your red-flag resume issues manageable.

1. Gaps in employment

Don’t leave a recruiter or hiring manager wondering, imagining the worst scenarios, about the glaring employment gaps. Rather than clutter up the resume with a squeezed-in explanation, use the cover letter to explain the reasons behind the time spent unemployed. There, go with a straightforward, honest approach and include a concise highlight of how the “gap time” may have been used (hopefully!) to better yourself via classes/workshops attended or volunteer work that utilized your skillset. Then, be prepared to address employment gaps during an interview with a practiced response that thoroughly yet concisely explains it.

2. Unplanned departures

Being “let go” happens to many employees, the vast majority of whom go on to be successfully employed elsewhere. Yes, it’s generally favorable to hire a currently employed candidate. Most likely, a hiring manager will notice that your last job ended recently but forego an explanation on the resume. You may include a brief mention in the cover letter, but only if the situation resulted from something other than negligence or poor performance on your part. Such as a mismatch of skills, the company or role proved to be a poor fit, a change in leadership or company direction altered expectations, or the job requirements changed. Regardless of why you were let go, do prepare a concise, honest statement to address the situation at an interview. Do not allow bitter feelings to seep out during an explanation, either in the cover letter or in person. Do not succumb to the blame game or make accusations against anyone.

3. Overqualified for the position

When the resume paints a picture of the candidate being overqualified, many a resume gets tossed, as the hiring manager fears wasting time, energy, and money on a candidate who will soon leave for a better-fit position. The key is to tailor your resume to the job. Make the focus on how your experience matches the job you’re seeking. Highlight the qualifications that pertain to the job and consider excluding items such as an advanced degree or work experience that sends a definite overqualified message.

Manage Your Red Flags with the Help from A.R. Mazzotta

A.R. Mazzotta’s Career Placement Services can handle the toughest resume red flags. We understand how these challenging times can reflect poorly on one’s resume, and we know how to manage the resulting red flags. Give our team a call to see what A.R. Mazzotta can do for you and your career.