As a former corporate recruiter, I’ve seen thousands of resumes. And let me tell it to you honestly from this side of the table: Sometimes as my peers look at the vast pile of applicants in front of them, they make snap judgments based on what they read. Those judgments can blow your chances at a job before you even have a chance to speak.
It’s certainly not right, but it happens.
The following are seven assumptions a recruiter might make based on your resume that would lead to quick disqualification—along with tips on how you can avoid these issues before you apply.
If you work in Chicago and you’re pursuing a job in Boston, an employer may gloss over your stellar experience and instead focus on the fact that you’ll need to move to another state.
Perhaps the person will figure it’s too much time wasted to wait for you to get re-situated in a new state when there are other local candidates to choose from, or will think, “We don’t have a relocation budget. We can’t afford her. Next!”
Solution: Remove your mailing address from your resume. It’s irrelevant to the job you’re pursuing—your candidacy should be evaluated on your skill set, not your zip code. Your cell phone number and email address are the only points of contact the prospective employers need at this point.
Are all your previous jobs obviously in another location? Leverage your cover letter to succinctly state that you’re willing to undergo a cross-country move at your own expense. Yes, you may risk the notion of forfeiting a fully funded relocation, but more often than not, employers wouldn’t have paid for it anyway.
Your email address says more about you than you might think. If in this day and age, you’re using a Hotmail or AOL address, you’re sending the message that your understanding of technology is stuck in 1999.
Another giveaway that you’re old or out of sync: jargon that sounds outdated. If you supported a team and your responsibilities included updating weblogs (hello, 1999), it could be game-over before it began.
Solution: Create a professional-sounding Gmail account for your job search or get your own domain.
Have someone you respect in your field review your resume to make sure your overall tone and phrasing reflect the way people are communicating. Review the job description to make sure you’re using the most appropriate keywords—a better match will help not just with the recruiter, but with the computers that review the resumes first.
Although you shouldn’t reveal your age on your resume, recruiters doing the math can figure it out based on your college graduation year and the dates of your work experience.
While it’s technically illegal for employers to consider age as a factor, managers may be turned off by the fact that someone’s advanced experience usually means they’ll have to be paid more. Often a company would prefer someone younger because that translates to a lower salary.
An advanced degree can also have this effect. I’ve been told by some PhD candidates they deleted their hard-earned degree over concerns of being viewed as overqualified. Unfortunately, most of them were right. “They’ll cost too much,” one hiring manager previously told me. The assumption is that an impressive salary requirement accompanies an impressive degree.
Solution: Take out experience exceeding 20 years. Keep in mind, your resume shouldn’t exceed two pages anyway. Even though it feels cringe-worthy to delete a significant part of your work history, employers will likely put more emphasis and attention to your most recent jobs.
If you’re concerned about appearing “too old,” delete the year of graduation from the education section. It’s not as relevant as the degree itself.
And regarding that advanced degree, it’s all about personal preference. You can either delete the degree for fear of being eliminated, or keep it intact while mentioning it in your cover letter that your salary expectations are at the market rate.
Yes, this is horrible, but I’ve seen certain hiring managers express biases based on the school someone attended.
Solution: There’s not much you can do on this one, except to be aware of the biases that might exist regarding your school.
Attended school or held a job in another country? Employers may make incorrect assumptions like, “This person needs an H-1B”—when perhaps you already have a green card.
Sponsorship is an added expense and hassle that many employers can’t or don’t want to bear.
Solution: Be upfront. Address your work status—whether you are authorized or not—in your paperwork. I’ve found that it’s frustrating for both the job seeker and employer to discover the reality about a visa situation late in the process.
Unusual gaps of time—you lost your job in 2008 and gigged it for a few years, traveled to Thailand, then returned to a full-time role in 2013—could raise the eyebrow of a recruiter, mainly because you may appear to lack focus.
Recruiters may also jump to conclusions that your lack of consistent work may mean your skills have gotten rusty.
Solution: Succinctly insert a two-line explanation regarding your employment situation on your resume. Initially mention what you did during that timeframe, and then indicate how you kept your skills sharp and relevant to the opportunity you’re pursuing. Also make sure your enthusiasm for your field is palpable, despite your respite.
Leaping from one job to another every two or so years doesn’t carry the stigma it once did. But still, if you job hop too frequently (once every six to 12 months), you’ll appear to be a disloyal employee.
Employers interview candidates for the long haul. They’re looking to invest their time and money in new hires to stick around for a while (translation: at least a few years). Plus, they assume it will take you three to six months at minimum to get ramped up at your new job. If they notice your track record of heading to the nearest exit door only a few months after that, they’ll figure it’s not worth bothering.
Solution: Of course, your best bet is to show a track record and stay at a job for at least a year or longer. If you have already left a job or a few jobs within less than a year, prepare a solid story as to why you left—such as imminent layoffs or a horrible commute.
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.