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Readers Respond: Share Your Resume and Cover Letter Red Flags

Responses: 15


Employers need to pay attention to certain resume and cover letter red flags on the application materials they receive from job applicants. These resume and cover letter red flags tell you a lot about the habits, work ethic, enthusiasm, and accomplishments of your job candidates. Resume and cover letter red flags should affect your employment decisions. Won't you share examples of red flags that get your attention when reviewing resumes, cover letters, and job applications?

Trust article if you want to hire idiots

I couldn't believe what I've just read and had to respond. Working in the field of technology and having hired people from all walks of life, the techniques described in this article are antiquated. I always ask HR to give me ALL resume submissions. What idiot tosses out a resume because of a missing period in the sentence? What I've discovered in my experience hiring people is to overlook the sales gimmick. Some people look better on paper than in person (i.e. top notch candidates, industry experts, ivy leagues & etc). HR are not psychologists, they are hired to protect the company and not necessary assist with finding the best candidates because they are not experts in the field (i.e. technology, niche areas of expertise). Look for a person who's willing to learn and grow and have demonstrated that effort on their resume or during the interview. Please discard everything you've read in this silly article with antiquated methods. The work force is rapidly changing and we must adapt!
—Guest A Person

HR Open Your Mind!

While I agree with proof reading and mistake free materials should be expected as it is a professional document, I have to laugh because of the number of poorly written, ridiculously wordy job postings I've seen. Honestly, editing is an amazing tool, more HR departments should use it. I echo Georgie's comments. Not sure when this article was written, but employment gaps are not in a lot of people's control anymore. When you are over 50 you are facing an uphill battle. I'd rather see on someone's resume that they took any job they could find to keep their head above water then to worry that they stepped out of their career field. So what? With the exception of technical jobs you could step away from many typical jobs for years, and still know how to do it. Judge people on the strength of their character not on whether or not they were promoted every six months. As to salary, what I earned next door or five years ago is meaningless if you won't tell me what you pay, why should I share?
—Guest marcia

Time stamp on job applications

The time stamp on an online job application shouldn't be a red flag. I am an executive whose industry requires working on weekends. My time off is during the week. If I was job hunting while at work, my time stamp would be Saturday or Sunday. (Have to go look. I think I meant using company email address and equipment.)
—Guest Sharon

Read Your Resume-Don't be afraid to...

1. Read Your Resume! Salary history, I don't ask for it on resumes or cover letters, but I don't try to "outwardly" cross hire. My company is actively growing, and between our 4 offices, I travel DAILY and interview, and still due to growth , have more than 50 openings.
—Guest Guest Beth Laf

Spelling Grammar MAJOR ISSUES

I usually don’t comment on articles and such; however, I feel I must in this case. I find it pretty hard to believe that HR professionals out there are discounting spelling and grammar. Granted, it mostly depends on the position you’re attempting to fill. But simply put, USE SPELLCHECK if you’re sending in your resume or cover letter. I can’t tell you how many times someone will email their MS Word resume or cover letter AND IT HAS MISSPELLINGS! REALLY? This is what we call “having an eye for details”. Again, it depends upon position. I don’t look that closely at spelling or grammar for a dishwasher, but for a professional / office or even a cook, yes! They have to be able to read, understand, and carry out (whether it’s the handwritten note from the owner to be typed or a recipe they must follow). I have an old HR saying and I think it holds true… “what you do to GET the job is what we can expect you to do KEEP the job”. So, if you hired them with a mistake riddled resume...
—Guest J.T.

Would you advise a "reason for leaving"?

Many people have gaps for different reasons. Do you recommend explaining one's reason for leaving ON the resume? (Actually, the cover letter is good for that and they probably will ask you about it during an interview, too. So, be prepared with a reasonable answer. If you give them no reason on your application materials, you risk being rejected.)
—Guest Robin, Career Coach

This is what gives HR a bad name

I am an HR professional and can tell you this article is the sort of thing that gets me to question whether I am in the right line of work. Humans and human behavior are very complex. People have unique life circumstances. Who are we HR people to be judging people just from a resume without understanding what they have been through. I pray that most HR people find themselves on the job seeker end of the equation. Why should someone put down a lengthy employment history. That would exceed the HR 2 page golden rule and that resume would be tossed to the recycle. Put too many jobs within a 5 year span and you are labeled a job hopper. Just put one job for a 5 year period and they call you lifer. Spelling and grammar mistakes! Gimme a break. Do you realize we have so many immigrants whose first language is not English yet they are very good at what they do, with their English being sufficient to perform their work. Unless it is an editing or writing job, it dont matter.
—Guest Georgie

Fraudulent - Not listing all jobs?

I was incredulous when the article said the person was fraudulent in not adding All her jobs to the resume. For someone laid off and with 20, 30 or even 40 years experience Every Job would be overkill and giveaway age. Ageism is real. Some professionals suggest only going back 10 years on jobs. That's certainly enough to show experience. Anymore than that there is a chance employers will discriminate on age. And, anyone over 40 should have moved out and up in a few jobs. You have got to be kidding. (I have carefully reviewed this comment and the two articles and I cannot find where you think that I said this. I warn employers about employment gaps - inquire - and about other resume efforts to cover up, but I ususally advise an applicant to only list the past 10-15 years of employment, too, for all of the reasons you list. Plus, older employment is not considered as much as more recent. Susan)
—Guest Mark Renner

Salary range is important

I have been out of work for 9 months now and I find that most employers do not post their salary ranges externally, and it's frustrating. Because of the state of the economy and my particular location, I'm trying my best to match my skills with jobs both inside and outside the industry I have experience in. I do this carefully to ensure that I don't waste anyone's time. While the pay scale can occasionally be derived from reading the job description, others, often times, are ambiguous. For example, I applied for a position in my industry that sounded similar to a position I've held in the past. There was no salary range listed. Because of my situation, I was happy to get a call back to come in for an interview. The interview went very well and we were both excited. That was until I was asked about my salary requirements. To be sure I didn't cut my throat, I undercut my former salary by a few k. My reduced salary was still too high for them and they passed on me. It was wasted time.
—Guest Brian

Typical HR Uselessness

1. I have always had great jobs and never sent in anything other than no cover letter or form cover letters. 2. When I hire - I look at the content of the person's background - the fact that they might spell something incorrectly is quite honestly stupid to weed someone good out. I'd rather have a good employee than one that lied on their resume but had perfect spelling. 3. Unlessy you are an amazing writer and that is part of your job - the cover letter is useless unless it explains perhaps a location issue or something that you can't see as it is not a work related item. (relocation or industry change) 4. It's a 50/50 who you know and someone seeing something on your resume they like. 5. Salary - why should you base this on what the person was making before - you value a job for what it is worth to you and the person you hire. As far as I'm concerned HR is probably one of the most inefficient and cost draining centers in a company unless it is for training and admin work.
—Guest PT

Employer Should Provide Salary Range

I have to disagree with giving a complete salary history. It is very one sided that applicants provide this type of confidential information. If the employer is so concerned - THEY should post the salary range. Our managers were shocked when HR told them they we don't post salary ranges. The managers asked, "How do potential employees know if they should apply when they don't know how much we offer in salary?" Common sense, but employers get away with not providing very important information. As to cover letters, it was just posted on Yahoo that many employers don't even look at them. You obviously have not been job hunting in awhile! It can take 2 hours to apply for one job online! It can be very labor intensive. I recommend that job hunters have cover letters with customizable sections. I think that is a big leap to think people are LAZY when many qualified people have been out of work so long. The tide is changing as the job market picks up and applicants get their revenge! (I actually support that employers should give the salary range. I also know many employers who still do read cover letters and find them important. But, online applications are changing job searching, that's for sure. My best advice to online job searching is keyword rich applications that emphasize the keywords in the employer's job posting. http://humanresources.about.com/b/2010/03/23/post-salary-in-job-postings.htm Thanks for responding. Susan)
—Guest Monique

Suprised by your comment on salary

Susan: I was quite taken aback by your comment that applicants are wrong to not supply salary history/salary expectations information. I'm a CPA in Oregon who has seen first hand how some employers use the salary expectations/history information in order to get professionals to compete with each other in order get a position. It seems to me that the tactic is highly unprofessional and demonstrates short term thinking on the part of HR people. Admittabily, I am at the top end in terms of salary history/expectations, but it seems to me that this is used to drive down salaries. (Hi Eric, I believe that I supplied some information on both sides of the equation. I can't answer for employers who have no scruples, but the lack of info requested invalidates the application. I'd say, supply it and don't waste your time interviewing with companies that can't afford you. Or, nickel and dime you. A legitimate salary expectation is - legitimate for good employers.)
—Guest Eric

Proofread Carefully

I am glad that you are discussing every essential subject. Just a week ago, I got two juicy job adverts in the newspapers and just used one subject reference for different jobs. I just realised, when it was already posted. I have learnt a bitter lesson, given the fact that I had potential to obtain the job in question. This calls for proof reading whatever is sent to prospective employers. Cheers.
—Guest Mike

Generic Cover Letters

The cover letters that are obviously generic for any position at any company they are applying for is a red flag to me. "To Whom It May Concern: I am applying for the open position at your company." This tells me that they did not want to take the time to send ME a letter and this is the same letter that the person sent to the other 20 jobs they are applying for. As mentioned, typos and mismatched formatting on the letter and resume really jump out at me; again, it tells me the person did not care enough to make sure they are sending a quality document. The assumption then is that their work product would be of the same low quality.
—Guest Julie

I Sit On The Fence

As someone who has now been out of work for almost 2 years, you would find my resume half Medical and half Security. My career change into Security from the Medical field leaves me without any explanations except that I want to pursue Law Enforcement in some capacity while utilizing the Criminal Justice education I was working on, before becoming unemployed. I believe employers that are looking for a particular "fit" for the position open would be better off asking the potential EE what they would do in certain situations that have arisen at that workplace, for the potential EE to give examples of how they have handled situations previously...these are real clues as to how an EE would perform on the job. I certainly wouldn't put down bad grammar/failure to catch resume mistakes in proofreading as a guide to what is a "red flag." A candidate should be able to explain their abilities on their resumes without having to think it over. A candidate that cannot, would not be worth your time.
—Guest Michele
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