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How Do You Address Possible Red Flags On Your Resume?

February 1st, 2011 · Leave A Comment

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resume red flagsAt a recent workshop, an attendee asked about what to do about her low GPA and her resume. For recent graduates and current students, the GPA is standard on a typical resume so it’s a question worth answering. But even for more experienced hires, where GPA matters less if at all, this question is still relevant because it speaks to what to do if you have any potential red flag on your resume that you feel obligated to disclosed (e.g., a gap in employment). How do you address possible red flags on the resume?

Determine if you even need to disclose it.

GPA is very important to certain industries, such as financial services and consulting, but less important for others, such as media and retail. It also becomes less important as you move away from school. Another typical red flag is a gap in employment. Anything over six months will probably be asked about in an interview but there is no hard and fast rule as to what to put in a resume. So you can use your judgment about what to include.

Share the information in its best possible light.

Use your Major GPA instead of your Cumulative GPA, if it is significantly higher. Employers may ask for the Cumulative, so you have to disclose it ultimately if asked, but for the resume screen, the higher GPA may suffice. Another tactic: list special awards in lieu of a GPA if your academic career was highlighted by community service or other areas. For the employment gap, highlight any special projects, travel or volunteer service you did during the gap.

Network to reach the decision-maker before your resume does.

Some candidates have a non-traditional background that just isn’t served by a traditional resume. I myself am an extreme career changer with stints in the performing arts and in business, so my resume is either a mess or “eclectic” (that’s the term I prefer!). Either way, if I were a jobseeker I would probably not get selected in a typical resume drop. So I would spend my time networking to get referred and introduced to key decision-makers, rather than spend time responding to postings. Red flags make you a non-traditional candidate, and this requires non-traditional search tactics.

This is a guest post. About the author:

Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people find fulfilling jobs and careers, as the co-founder of SixFigureStart®, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline has recruited for leading companies in financial services, consulting, media, pharmaceutical/ healthcare, and technology. She is the co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the best-selling“How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” 2010; Two Harbors Press. Visit to see how you can get free coaching advice and access to coaching workshops for your job search and career success.

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Tags: Resumes