Some Common CV Red Flags & How to Fix Them Fast

The problem with CVs is that they don’t say everything. They’re read by the hiring manager without you in the room to give context – which means there’s potential for them to be put off by red flags that you can’t explain.

You can pre-empt this by highlighting and explaining any red flags that an employer might read into negatively, rather than hoping they won’t be noticed.

This article is going to cover the two most common red flags: employment gaps, job-hopping and show you how to make sure they don’t scupper your chances of getting an interview.

Think About Your Reasons

Start by identifying the red flags on your CV. Have you had a short stint at an employer or do you have a gap between any of your jobs?

Then be clear with yourself about the reason for these. There are plenty of understandable reasons for leaving a job, or being out of work for a period. These include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Family reasons
  • Redundancy
  • Employer cashflow problems or job instability
  • Relocation
  • Illness
  • Having and looking after children
  • Travelling
  • Returning to education

Many people I speak to who’ve had instances of the above are worried about their future job prospects. I want to make it clear that sound, honest reasons won’t cause you problems with good employers.

Be Transparent, Don’t Cover Them Up.

Much of the online advice about these red flags suggests doing some careful doctoring on your CV. These include only giving years (not months) for dates worked, and omitting jobs altogether.

I don’t like this advice, because many recruiters and employers will ask for months worked, and if you’re seen to be trying to cover anything up, it reflects worse on you than having been upfront.

Give An Explanation

Next you need to be able to explain the situation in a clear, concise way. You’re showing that you’re transparent and trustworthy. You don’t have to give details of personal issues unless you feel comfortable to, but be as open as you can.

For example:

After joining the business as Finance Manager, I discovered they had significant cashflow problems, and I was concerned about job stability.

Shortly after being employed by the firm, they were bought out by another company, and made several redundancies – including me, since I was a recent hire.

I took time out after leaving this position to look after my two children full time, and returned to work once they were both at primary school.

Reassure Them It’s Completely Resolved

You also need to tie up the situation, so that it’s clear it won’t be a problem again.

For example:

After a bereavement, I took time out of work to care for a close family member, who’s now coping well.

I had a health issue that prevented me working, and needed regular hospital appointments. I’m fully recovered, though, and it’s not a condition I have to worry about anymore.

Put A Positive Spin On It

Once you’ve explained the reason you left a job, or were out of work, and reassured the interviewer that it isn’t an ongoing problem, you can go a step further and put a positive spin on the experience.

If you had a short stint in a job, for example, you could mention things you learned while you were there.

If you were out of work for a period, mention any achievements, personal or professional, in this time, and mention any skills you gained – particularly if they’re related to the job you’re applying for.

For example:

In addition to job hunting, I achieved several personal goals. I trained for a marathon (having never been a runner), built a house, and did the accounts work for a friend’s small start-up business.

It had been a long-time dream of mine to go travelling, and I was keen to achieve it early on in my career. I gained self-confidence, honed my organisation skills, and it made me much better at thinking on my feet.

Give References

If a previous employer is willing to provide you with a written reference, say so. This is a great way to reassure prospective employers.

Sam Nicholson
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