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Does Your Resume Contain Red Flags?

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Job searching during a pandemic is challenging. Given how competitive the job market is right now, you might have employment gaps on your resume. Or to avoid gaps, perhaps you've had to take on multiple short-term roles just to make ends meet. Either way, you've been trying to survive.

Unfortunately, resumes containing gaps or multiple short-term roles can be concerning to potential employers.

Due to a gap, you might be perceived as difficult to employ. And if you’ve been leaping from one short gig to the next, employers might worry that you’ll jump ship as soon as something better comes along.

None of these perceptions is likely true of you, but you still need to address these perceptions so that employers will want to hire you.

Thankfully, Patricia Carl offers some great advice on this topic. I’ll mention just three of the points she makes in her wonderful article, "How to Overcome Red Flags on Your Resume" published in the Harvard Business Review, March 31st, 2021.


First, when it comes to employment gaps, Carl suggests that you proactively address the reason for them. Did you need to stop working to care for someone in your family, to go back to school, or to engage in professional development? Were you laid off due to pandemic restrictions, a recession, or company restructuring? If so, be clear about those reasons and explain why it was not your intention to be away from work. This will reassure employers that external factors, not your willingness to work, were at play.

Second, consider engaging in professional development activities while job seeking. This will allay any fears that potential employers might have that you have become stagnant.

For example, you might try volunteering for an organization related to your field, joining a professional board, enrolling in an online course, or registering in a continuing education program. You could even mention that you are working on a personal project like a home renovation! Basically, any evidence that shows you are keeping busy, developing yourself, and continuing to gain skills is worth mentioning.

To be clear, professional development activities don’t have to be time consuming. Even if you are only dedicating 1-hour a week to them, you can put them on your resume and explain in interviews how you’ve been bettering yourself!

Third, if you’ve been working in multiple short-term roles to survive the pandemic, explain to employers why this is a benefit, not a liability. Tell them how this has strengthened your ability to managing change, adapt to new challenges, meet time-sensitive deadlines, and learning quickly. Inform them that short-term roles were not your original intention, but that you have learned a lot nonetheless, and are actively seeking long-term opportunities.


So to summarize, Patricia Carl suggests the following:

  • Explain any employment gaps in terms of external factors (wherever possible) so that your willingness and ability to work are not in question

  • Engage in professional development activities while job seeking so reassure employers that you haven’t become stagnant

  • Emphasize the unique skills and accomplishments you achieved as a result of working multiple short-term roles, so that employers are not focused on the duration of those roles

Of course, there is much more you can do to optimize your resume. So if you'd like more information, feel free to read Carl's full article or visit my blog for additional tips.


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