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Editor’s Note: Today we are featuring John’s response to a colleague’s question about red flags with their resume.

Q: What are some things that stand out on a resume? What are resume red flags? What information is irrelevant? Mary John, East Texas

Did They Use a Professional Summary?

When I screen management or executive resumes the first thing I look for is whether they have a professional summary that addresses the issues, priorities and performance deliverables identified by the prospective employer. You should **never** send a generic resume to every job you pursue. Use the professional summary to highlight your strengths, skills and successes that the employer would like to have.

Why? When you are among 25, 50, 100 or 250 resumes (the national average for a job opening) why would you want to be like everyone else? If you want to break through the noise you have to differentiate! Customization of your resume is an important FIRST step.

My List of Red Flag Issues

My list of reg flags include: spelling and grammatical or noticeable formatting issues. I once opened a resume from a candidate for a CFO position ($400,000 base salary). Under his last name was a red squiggly line, the kind of line that signals a misspelled word. I stared at the name on my computer screen. Then it hit me, this person must already be in my database. I quickly looked him up and sure enough I had a previous contact record and yes, the candidate misspelled his name. It was probably a typo but that is no excuse. Your name? Really? …

I also look for employment gaps or any other issues that may catch my attention. Most people do not lie on their resumes any more but there ARE those who will inflate the size or impact of their accomplishments. We call that *accomplishment creep* and although it is not always easy to spot, it is something recruiters and employers must scrutinize.

Irrelevant info includes the phrase “reference upon request” or a slew of old, outdated civic associations. You should only keep recent service club listings to about five years unless you served as a president in an earlier year or received some impressive award.  

I hope this helps.

John is happy to answer your questions. Email us at info@JohnGSelf.Com. he also regularly answers questions on the website Quora.