Here’s How to Avoid 6 Common Resume ‘Red Flags’

Here’s How to Avoid 6 Common Resume ‘Red Flags’
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Given that hiring managers only spend seconds scanning your résumé, it must be sufficiently eye-catching to prompt the reader – whether a hiring manager, HR professional, or recruiter – to continue reading and to invite you in for an interview.


But you need to catch the reader’s attention in the right way – there are a number of résumé “red flags” you must avoid if you want to keep your candidacy alive. Keep reading as MOAA Career Transition illustrates how to overcome them.


[DEC. 7 MOAA WEBINAR: How to Make Your Résumé Resonate]


A well-constructed résumé is such an important tool to have in your transition toolkit. It’s where you showcase how your skills, talent, and experience are a match to a particular job or industry. While you get to decide how you want your résumé to look and to feel, you will want to adhere to résumé best practices ... and dodge common problems.


Here are six of those red flags, and how you can avoid them:

  1. Errors. This is an easy one: Have someone else proofread your résumé. Want to give it another look yourself? Consider reading it backward, from Page 2, word for word.

  2. Too General. Definitely go for the targeted and tailored résumé. Remember, employers have a specific job need in mind. Anytime you apply for a job, tailor your résumé to that position.

  3. Dense Text. Keep your message simple and straightforward with impactful bullets. Your résumé should showcase your specific skills, which are independent of your previous jobs held. Use 1-inch margins, making good use of white space. Readability is key: Make it quick and easy for the reader to find what they are looking for.

  4. Too Long. Readers have neither the time nor inclination to read long, drawn-out résumés. Keep yours to two pages, going back 10 to 12 years in your work experience.

  5. Jazzy Graphics. Your résumé may look fancy with its shaded boxes, special symbols, borders, and other design elements, but these items can negatively interfere with résumés that are scanned into Applicant Tracking Systems. Avoid all these treatments.

  6. Missing the ‘So What?’ Be sure to include metrics – in other words, point out why the reader should care about what’s being said. Highlight your specific, quantifiable accomplishments, results, and outcomes. Doing so will help you explain why you are the best person for their particular job need.


Always remember, a crisp and clear résumé makes the reader think: “I’d like to know more, and I want to bring this person in for an interview.”


For additional, personalized assistance, MOAA’s career transition services include advising transitioning military members, veterans, spouses, and survivors on networking, résumés, interview preparation, and salary negotiation, among other career counseling benefits. Join today at to take advantage of these and other member benefits!


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About the Author

Capt. Pat L. Williams, USN (Ret), PhD, PHR®
Capt. Pat L. Williams, USN (Ret), PhD, PHR®

Williams serves as MOAA's Program Director, Engagement and Transition Services. She served 35 years in the Navy in multiple high visibility leadership positions. She is a Certified Professional in Human Resources.