Managing Red Flags in Your Career

John Krautzel
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Due to stiff competition for many jobs, hiring managers are quick to filter out candidates with certain red flags on their resumes. A career that follows a non-traditional trajectory or a history of layoffs is a possible sign that you might not be the right candidate for the job. Here are a few tips to manage these red flags and minimize their impact on your job hunt.

Moving Around Too Much

An occasional short-term position is fine, but a long history of short-term jobs is a red flag that signifies a problem. The hiring manager is likely to think that you aren't willing to commit or that you have a lot of issues on the job. Make sure to specify reasons for leaving jobs on your resume, and be prepared to give more details during job interviews.

If you have quit jobs, be prepared to provide logical reasons for your decision. Tell how leaving the position benefited your whole career trajectory. Be as honest as possible about the reasons you left without belittling your previous employer. Open up about how you made the decision and how you helped the company transition a new worker to prepare for your absence.

If you were laid off, share details about this as well. Although downsizing is common, hiring managers realize that it is also a time when companies dispose of their poorest workers. If possible, give specific reasons about why you were let go. Did you have the least seniority? Was your whole department laid off? Providing these details during your job hunt gives the hiring manager more data to make a good decision about hiring you.

Long Periods of Unemployment

Another red flag is a long period of unemployment. Although jobs are hard to come by, a hiring manager is still going to be suspicious if it has been a year and you have not found a position. When possible, give specific reasons why your period of unemployment is longer than is typical. Have you been busy taking care of a sick child? Are you pursuing more education or busy with volunteer work? Showing that you have kept busy improving your career skills and networking, even if it hasn't led to a job, communicates to the hiring manager that you still have determination and really want to get back into the workforce.

Poor-Quality References

When a hiring manager sees mostly personal references or co-worker references accompanied by home phone numbers, it is a red flag that your previous employers did not have a good opinion of you. Even if you are worried about their response, it is important to provide at least one reference from a previous boss, especially if you are an older applicant with a long job history. Your previous employer may give a perfectly adequate reference, so go ahead and give the information. If you don't, the hiring manager might seek out the information anyway and not be as forgiving if it is less than ideal.

Red flags are warning signs to the hiring manager that you may not be a good candidate. Manage your job search by providing adequate information on your resume, in your cover letter and at interviews to show the hiring manager that your career trajectory was the right track for you.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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