March 13, 2024

Application Red Flags

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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You nervously submit your application for a new job and hope to get an interview. But what if you inadvertently become a red flag to the hiring manager or recruiter?

On today’s episode, I’m sharing application red flags you want to avoid so you can increase your chances of getting the interviews you want.

What you’ll learn:

  • The common well-intentioned mistakes I see women in Pharma/Biotech make when applying for internal and external job
  • 5 application red flags that can prevent you from getting interviews and hold you back when applying for internal roles
  • Advice for what you can do to avoid the 5 red flags I see most so you can advance your career


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Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast for women in Pharma and Biotech with me, Melissa Lawrence. I am a certified career and leadership coach with a master’s in organizational psychology who has worked in talent and learning development in biotech to large pharma, from non clinical to commercial. I help women in pharma and biotech create a career worthy of them. Whether you want to get clear on. What you want, get a new job, get promoted, or be effective as a leader at any level, this is the place for you. Every week you will get practical career strategies and mindset shifts to help you overcome the problems you experience at work so you can reach your goals feeling better than ever. Your up level begins now. 

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast.

I’m so happy to be here with you today. Now, when this episode comes out, I will be officially kicking off this next round of Beyond the Ceiling. I am so excited for the women that joined us. We have women who work in the lab, women who work at clinical sites, who are directors, who work in regulatory, just to name a few. These women work at small companies. Large global pharma companies cannot wait to see how they all come together to grow, support each other, and learn from each other’s experiences. The women that joined have similar but slightly different goals. Some are looking to grow as a leader, some are looking for a new job or promotion, and some are looking to get out of the lab and into a different scope of work. And I’m so excited for that. If you’re thinking, what the heck is Beyond the Ceiling? What the heck are you talking about? Or maybe you heard what I was talking about. You saw all the Beyond the Ceiling, but you didn’t join this time and are interested in the future. Then get on my waitlist. This is going to be your place to be the first to know when I enroll for the next cohort later this year.

So you can join the waitlist at my website We’ll put that in the show notes for you. Now, as I was having conversations with the women that were interested in the group, I was having a lot of conversations in a short period of time and I was talking to a lot of job seekers and I noticed a theme. And so something that I wanted to share with you today is something that came out of those conversations. I noticed that there are some things that you might be doing that are red flags to the companies that you want to work for. So let’s go ahead and put those red flags on the podcast so you can see if you’re doing any of these things. And of course, stop if you are. Now, if you’re looking for a new job actively in the job search, whether it’s internal or external, there are some red flags that you could be doing that might seem logical to you or innocent, but could actually, from the perspective of the hiring manager or HR, make you look less desirable or even get you a lower offer. So we wanted to talk about those.

So you cannot do those, so you can avoid them. So let’s dig into these red flags. The first one is applying to a lot of different jobs at the same company. If you’re trying to get into a certain company and applying for everything you’re qualified for, this could get you flagged and not taken seriously. If the position is the same or similar level and role responsibilities, department area, than what you have experience in, that is totally okay. Sometimes companies can post for many of the same or similar positions, and if you apply to all of those because they’re all generally the same, that isn’t really a problem. But if you’re applying to everything that you’re willing to accept because you really want to work at this company, or you really want to work in this therapy area, or you really want to get out of where you are, let’s say you’re looking at low to high ranges of associate director to senior director, and you’re applying to roles that are just maybe somewhere an exact fit for you. And some of them are in a different space or a different department that you have experience in with your potential employer, if you’re external and management in HR, if you’re internal, they could raise an eyebrow.

It sends a message that you don’t know exactly what you want because you’re applying to many different roles, or you’re not strong and confident in yourself and what you bring or contribute to the company, and maybe you’re just trying to get into the company. And those things might be true, but you don’t have to present yourself that way. Because if you do end up getting an interview, you could get a lower offer. Because companies are looking to get talent at the fairest and lowest price. So if they know you’re willing to take lower, they could offer you lower. I’ve actually seen in the application process where someone was interviewing for, say, a director role, and then in the interview process, they change it to associate director role. So if they think that you are willing to accept that, why wouldn’t they offer you that? Right? So you want to be careful in how you’re presenting yourself and not start with the application or even before, if it’s your meeting people before you apply. I’ve actually even been part of internal conversations where candidates were applying to internal roles they felt qualified for, but the roles they were applying to were too varied and they were applying too many times.

And HR’s reaction was, let’s get this manager to have a conversation with this employee. Let’s try to figure out what they want for their future. They seem really confused. The reaction wasn’t, wow, look at this really talented employee who can do all of these things right, which is what we’re often thinking if you’re in that situation. So if you’re applying to several different roles at, let’s say, your company where you work and you feel that you’re qualified or could do any of them, you may be thinking, look at all of the things that I can do for this company, but your company could be thinking, why doesn’t this person have a more clear direction? Think of it this way. Let’s say that your site is hiring for a new senior leadership position, and they see a candidate that applied for the senior leadership role. But they also applied for three other positions that were not a senior leadership role. They were other varied types of leadership. Chances are the hiring team isn’t going to find that candidate as desirable. They want someone that knows they are a senior leader and not accepting something less than that.

With more junior positions, you definitely can have some more leeway in applying for roles you’re qualified for and maybe those that you want to get into and have transferable skills. But my advice would be to be strategic and selective. Imagine that one person is seeing all of those applications that you’re submitting because sometimes they are right. What is that story telling them? Same thing with, like, if you are applying and you’re shifting your resume for all of those different positions, that also could be a red flag, which is why you want to be more strategic in knowing what you want and applying only to those roles that are aligned with that. Now, number two, the second red flag is applying for roles that you’re clearly not qualified for. Now, let me explain this. There are a couple of ways that I see this come up. First is some people tell me that they apply to roles that are clearly outside of their comfort zone, clearly at another level, say, a more senior position that they don’t have experience for, or maybe in a project management space, and they’re in the lab space because they want to signal to their management in HR that they’re interested in growing with the company and wanting to advance.

So they’re not necessarily expecting to get the role. They’re like raising their hand and saying, this is something I could want for my future. Now when promotions or new jobs are limited, I have heard of leaders telling people internally to do this because I believe there are limited opportunities and they don’t want people to leave, so they’re kind of throwing them a bone. They’re giving employees some hope, something to do that feels like progress for their development by saying, apply to these jobs because that tells us that you’re interested. Okay. And that’s not wrong. It’s just I’ve not seen internally where leaders get that application and think, oh, now we’re going to put them in that role, or now they’re suddenly on this succession plan. I’ve had the reaction where I’ve seen leaders think, oh, I didn’t know this person was actually interested in this type of role. Let’s have a conversation with them. But it doesn’t tend to lead to a new job or promotion. Instead, I would suggest having a conversation with your manager about the growth you’re interested in. You could even bring up the job you see posted internally and say that that is something that you’re interested in.

You want to have a conversation about it to create a development plan to get there. But generally I wouldn’t suggest applying because a lot of times it can backfire and work against you. The other way I see this come up is when people apply to jobs they actually do have transferable skills for they’re actually qualified, but they don’t make it clear on their application and resume that they’re qualified. People will incorrectly assume someone with a technical background or the hiring manager is going to be reviewing your resume or application and going to be able to connect those dots. They may also assume that someone with a technical background will be able to clearly see the transferable skills. But often it’s not apparent, it’s not clear. And if you’re working with any sort of organization that uses technology to weed through resumes, then you have even a lesser chance of advancing your resume to get an interview or conversation. Transferable skills can get you the job even over someone with direct experience. If you are presenting and positioning yourself in a compelling and confident way, but you have to do the work to tell that story.

Don’t expect someone else to figure out that you’re qualified. Make it easy for them to see that you are. Someone asked me once, well, then, do I have to have ten different resumes? So they are specific to the role, and the answer is no. If you know what you want, then you won’t be applying to several different roles with different requirements. So you shouldn’t need several different resumes. So if that’s not clicking, then go listen to the first red flag I shared. Now, number three, resume and LinkedIn do not match. This is a red flag. Resumes and LinkedIn. Think of LinkedIn like your storefront. It is your digital presence. Someone is going by and seeing who you are and what you’re about. Most recruiters and hiring managers, and I say most because I don’t know every person in the world, obviously, but I also don’t know anyone who doesn’t do this. They’re going to look at your LinkedIn. If your LinkedIn tells a different story than your resume, this is a red flag. This is like the story in the news recently. I don’t know if you heard about this, about the Wonka immersive experience in Scotland.

There were all of these promotional advertisements of this beautiful and extravagant experience, and it was very compelling. And many children, I think, like thousands, bought tickets. Families were excited to go to attend this chocolate wonderland. The theme was based on the movie, and they showed up and it was pretty much an empty warehouse with a few decorations. And I’m not even kidding. I read this in Time magazine. Children were offered a single jelly bean and lemonade. Now, if you haven’t heard of this, you can google this news story. The article I was looking at was in Time magazine. You can look it up. So anyway, this is a very dramatic example, but it gives you the picture. It’s like your resume is this beautiful advertisement for the Willy Wonka experience. And the recruiter or hiring manager is excited about you. They’re envisioning you working with them. They think you might be this perfect fit that they’ve been looking for. And then they go to your LinkedIn, and it tells a completely different story. Maybe your LinkedIn is only partially completed. Maybe the information on your LinkedIn profile does not match what’s on your resume. It has different skills, a different story, different background, and different talents are highlighted.

This could give the impression that you submitted a resume with false information, or that you elaborated your resume to get an interview, or you manipulated it to make it seem like you were more qualified than what you are, when that likely is not true. So at a minimum, I would suggest making sure your LinkedIn and resume are aligned, even if your LinkedIn isn’t perfect. I would just make sure that it’s aligned with your resume. Number four, generic resumes with buzzwords. Now I get it. Writing a resume can be tedious and you aren’t sure exactly what to put on it. That captures everything you’re qualified and talented in. I’ve seen all levels of people struggle to write their resumes. They can just list job responsibilities without any impact. They use buzzwords like collaborative leader of high performing teams without any qualifiers or just regurgitate the job description. Now, with my clients, I actually provide you a resume template that follows the guidance I suggest and have seen be successful in getting interviews, just to simplify this process for you. It isn’t that complicated when you know what to do. But imagine you’re a hiring manager and the resume is clearly just a copy of the job posting.

Or it just has a bunch of fluffy, nice sounding words where someone clearly got creative with this thesaurus, but there isn’t anything to back it up. It’s most likely not going to go anywhere. Now, if this is you, don’t worry. I didn’t know how to create a resume with impact, and thesaurus is also my friend. Instead of generic resumes or ones that are clearly written by AI, because I know there are AI tools out there. Now doing this, I suggest balancing your qualifications for the job and your unique talents and impact so you stand out. Now, as a side note, people spend a lot of time tweaking their resumes, and they don’t have to be perfect if you aren’t only relying on your resume to get the job. There are many ways to get a job in this industry where the resume isn’t your first impression. Now, number five, the fifth red flag. Inaccurate information. Okay, I’m going to make this my last red flag for your application, although I feel like I could do several episodes on just this topic, so maybe there will be several parts coming in the future. But inaccurate information can look like grammar or spelling issues.

It can also be false information or information that appears to be hiding something. For example, let’s say you have a gap on your resume. That is not a problem, assuming there’s a reason for the gap. But if you only reflect years and not months to try to hide the gaps in employment, then this could be an issue. So if you’re having your jobs, go 2019 to 2022. 2022 to 2024. Right. If you are reflecting your experience in full years and you’re not including the months, the hiring manager or recruiter could look at that and think, what are they hiding? Why are they not putting months on there? Okay, if you inflate your title because you think your job was more senior than the title you were given, or because you want it to match the job posting, this can also backfire on you. Instead, one thing you could do is to put your accurate title. But let’s say that that title was lead because that’s really common in the industry where leadership roles will be called lead, but then lead is also a more junior role. It just depends. And let’s say you’re applying for a director role and at your company a lead position is a director.

Then I would suggest putting a line on there that states that. Or put ‘director’ in parentheses after your title. Because you have to remember that this resume may be getting you the conversation, but if you get the job, they’re going to confirm these things and you don’t want to get as far as an offer and then have something like them thinking that you lied or anything is inaccurate. And then they don’t trust you over something so simple that you could just resolve by being accurate and honest. Your resume is sometimes also just your hiring manager or company’s first example of your work, right? So you’re very talented, you’re very qualified. You know what you’re doing, right? You can’t rely on them having multiple conversations with you and seeing you in practice to prove that your resume can sometimes be that first example of your work product. It tells them how you present yourself, how detail oriented you are, how well you communicate, how verbose you are, your ability to prioritize. You can glean so much from how someone puts together their resume. So I suggest being thoughtful about what you choose to say on it and how you do it.

All right, those are my five application red flags for today. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Share it with someone who needs to hear it and I will talk to you next week. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Your Worthy Career. Visit for full show notes and additional resources to help you on your career journey. Speaking of resources, if you enjoyed today’s show, you will love being an email VIP insider where I share trainings, tools and behind the scenes content exclusive to my vip list. Become a VIP and join us See you next week.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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