I’m writing this article as a manager / business owner with several years of experience in which I’ve meticulously reviewed thousands of resumes. I’m also one of the applicants who’s had a significant gap in employment or one that was very short term. Here is the list of some of the most common resume “turn-offs” and how to address them before or during an interview.
1. Unprofessional Email Address
Let’s start easy. Unprofessional email addresses are a big employer turn off because it might indicate that you don’t know professionalism or work etiquette in other areas if you can’t simply present a professional email address. Your name at email provider dot com takes less than 5 minutes to register on any free email provider’s website.
2. Resumes Longer Than 1 Page
Very few professions require a resume longer than one page. It’s a big turn off for a few reasons. Like I previously stated, it shows a lack of knowledge about professional etiquette. It may come off disrespectful or rude to not summarize your abilities and personality in 1 page and waste the reader’s valuable time, risking your consideration for the position. The last reason is that a long resume will read like fabrication, or like you may be trying to overcompensate for something you lack. Google templates and follow the recommendations for the profession you are applying for and you’ll ace your first impression.
3. Blatant Fabrication or Over-exaggeration About Achievements
Do not fabricate what position you held in a company or make up awards you achieved. If you are hired based on any one of these two things you’ve lied about, you may get hired for a position you are hardly qualified for. Lying about these two things is a very serious offense. It can result in immediate release from your position, and tarnish your reputation and future resume.
4. Employment Gaps
If the reason you have an employment gap is honorable, such as having been a stay at home parent or studying abroad for a semester, you’ve no need to explain your gap in great detail or go out of your way to explain it at all unless asked in an interview. If there is a space on the application that asks, you can provide it. To be honest, the gap will probably go unnoticed, unless the hiring manager was looking for a stain (possibly after finding another, like the unprofessional email address). If your gap is dishonorable, such as having served time in jail, if your record is free of the incident and you can stretch the last employment’s date to make up for some of the gap, you might consider it. I only suggest this if the previous employer is unreachable due to the business closing or something of that nature. If there’s any chance of you being found out or repeating the mistake that left you with an employment gap in the first place, do not pick this fight with karma.
In an interview, when asked about the employment gap (whether an honorable or dishonorable reason), be honest, but brief and end it on a positive note. For an example, “I was in jail for disorderly conduct, but that was before I got sober. I’ve been blessed by AA’s 12 step program and I’ve changed my life.”
Do the best you can. Don’t be discouraged. Plenty of employers love to give “second chances”.
5. Short Term Positions
Acceptable reasons for having a short term position is if you were offered a significantly higher paying job, if the position just wasn’t a good fit for you, or if you felt like you were somehow in danger at the workplace. If the reason isn’t something like these, I’d consider telling a potential employer something like this. I’m not fond of anyone telling big lies, but for the sake of making money and surviving in this sometimes harsh workforce, you gotta do what you gotta do. As long as you are otherwise, an upstanding person who plans to give the company your loyalty and hard work, I think that’s mostly what matters to them, too.
Know Your Rights
It is illegal in most or many states to disclose any negative opinions or information about your employment other than your factual dates of employment.