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5 of the Biggest Red Flags on a Resume for a recent College Graduate (2021)

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How many times have you stared at your inbox looking at a carefully constructed email with the awful phrase, “We have decided to go with other candidates at this time.”

A resume is your first opportunity to show a prospective employer who you are along with the value you can bring to the team. So now that you’re rejected from their hiring process, now what? You could always keep applying to different companies but it’s important to take a look at your resume and see what could be revised. After all, it’s important to showcase yourself in the best possible light and this is your chance!


1. Your Address Listed

Simply put, it’s not necessary. Having your personal mailing address on your resume isn’t going to turn any heads but may turn them away.

“Only include your address when you think it will help you,” said /u/znn94x on a Reddit post asking an address-related question

For starters, you should omit your mailing address entirely because frankly, the employer isn’t going to mail anything to you. Second, it looks cleaner. The first page of your resume is prime real estate so unnecessary information like what street you live on or your apartment number isn’t needed.

“What if they want to contact me?” Your phone number and email address are how they want to contact you. To put it more bluntly, it’s 2021, they’re either gonna contact you via email or not follow up at all so get rid of that address line!

Another thing to note is that there’s the unfortunate reality of an employer not wanting you because you’re located a certain distance away. Whether or not you have plans to relocate, they may see your location and think otherwise. If you live in a suburban neighborhood outside a big city, writer Greater [Blank] Area or similar. For example, when I lived on the east side of Michigan I put ‘Greater Detroit Area’ despite living in a small town located 20 minutes outside of downtown.


2. Typos, Misspellings, Grammar Mistakes, Consistency

 

Easily one of the most overlooked issues on a resume is your grammar! Granted, in the age of spellcheck I’m sure everything is spelled correctly for the system but what about for human eyes?

For example, are you spelling out acronyms specific to your industry or abbreviating them? The human resources specialist reviewing your resume may not understand what Lightroom is and why it matters to a general marketing position but spelling it out as Adobe Lightroom helps.

Even when people don’t understand Adobe’s line of products outside of Photoshop they understand that Adobe products represent creativity along with being a workplace essential for marketers.

Another thing to be sure of is making sure you’re consistent with grammar. Does each line of your previous job’s accomplishments end with a period or none at all? Do they alternate each line? If so, pick which one works best for you design-wise and apply it. These are bullet points so the decision between a period or not isn’t going to make or break it but when it’s inconsistent it might as well.


3. Skill Progress Bars

Image credit goes to Zoran Zlokapa who shared his thoughts on the progress bar here.

Let’s break this down.

What does this actually tell you?

For starters, it’s inconsistent! Adobe Muse followed by Illustrator and Photoshop? Use Adobe in all or none at all. Yes, photoshop and illustrator are incredibly well-known programs but still, be consistent.

Now, let’s dive in.
What is Web Design? HTML? User Experience and User Interface (UX/UI)? Web Design is a broad category and saying you have 81 percent proficiency by your own self-definition is detrimental to your resume.

Instead, think of it this way; what programs do you use and what accomplishments do you have in Web Design?

The issue with progress bars is where do you and industry professionals draw the line? What is 100 percent in your field? Winning a Nobel prize? Pulitzer?

I’m going to be honest, if you’ve won a Nobel or Pulitizer then you wouldn’t be applying with a resume in hand. Nor is this article for you.

Another issue with the progress bar is that it takes up space on your resume. I’ve mentioned how the first (and 99% it’s the only page) is prime real estate. These skills are better suited for a skill section located near the bottom of the resume. Remember you want your resume to flow in an Experience>Education>Accomplishments/Awards>Skills>Personalised Info pattern. A progress bar creates more than spacing issues here.

Also, make sure your resume is up to date! Zlokapa’s article and this image show a candidate’s progress in Adobe Muse but that product was discontinued in March, 2020. 🙂

4. Addressing an Employment Gap in a Resume

 

This is a tricky one. Life isn’t linear and neither is success. If you have experienced an event resulting in an employment gap know that you are not alone. Normally these gaps would be explained in a cover letter, which is still a good strategy but it can also be explained in your resume.

The number one reason is to be honest and explain. You don’t have to give details (and frankly you shouldn’t!
A one-line acknowledgment is enough).

I had a friend who had his college career and employment derailed to a health issue that was out of their control. Completely understandable and more importantly, they are doing well now. However, since they were out of the workforce and their education program for over two years they were unsure how to explain it. They had the mindset that no one reads cover letters and that your resume is scanned by an automatic system but they were smart, equipped, and full of skills that any team would benefit from. 

For their education period, they put 2009 to 2015. Their plan was that if anyone asked “Why they spent six years in undergrad” they would explain what happened during that period while being truthful about their hardships and ending it on what they did to survive. Any reasonable person understands that people have burdens and suffer from hardships. If not, then that company isn’t worth your time.

Next up was how they explained their work gap on their resume. They had to take a year off from working entirely and left their previous employer only 5 months in. Surely that would raise the eyebrows from any HR rep scanning resumes.

In their previous role where they were only there 5 months they put “Left due to personal health complications.” A simple sentence that effectively explains why they resigned so soon. This line had a lot more power than expected because during interviews they realized they were never asked why there was a gap, it was understood between interviewers because life has its hardships!

Well, except for one interviewer who asked what were the health issues but my friend declined to expand on what it actually was. This interview already had a lot of red flags from the employer side too.


5. Unnecessary Content


What do you consider professional? What does a hiring manager look for when assessing a candidate?

Decision makers look for your ability to do the job and to do the job well.

Think of how you word your responsibilities on your resume. Do they sound like tasks followed by accomplishments or general tasks? Remember, a resume is your chance to showcase your skills, personality, and achievements so be proud to talk about yourself!

For example, take a general responsibility from a social media specialist role: being an admin on an organization’s social media. But what if we turned it into something that showcased your accomplishments? Try writing in the format of “Did X and Accomplished Y.” so for this example we could say “Created engaging and strategic social media content to yield a 118% follower growth over a 6 month period.”

Phrasing your responsibilities with this format helps the hiring manager understand your capabilities much better. Take a look at your resume and see what could be improved or even amplified. 

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Donovan Tesin, Admin and Writer of CareerPlace.org

Donovan Tesin

Career Coach

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