Watch Out for These Resume Red Flags

Red Flag Warning Signs of Unqualified History, Employment Gaps and More

As a Recruiting Agency, we look at hundreds of resumes per day where we quickly identify the red flag warning signs of the bad apples. Here, you’ll review the top eight resume red flags that should spark an employer’s concern about the credentials of your job applicants. Hiring Managers that ignore these red flags risk huge problems for their team and company. Resume red flags can be early indicators that your potential employee may not be who you expect them to be—even potentially not qualified for the role you are filling.

1. Gaps in a Resume aka the “Employment Gap”

Why have they been unemployed? Why are they looking for a new role now?

Make sure there are valid and clear reasons and most importantly, honesty about what caused the employment gaps.

Sometimes, hidden gaps can be found in the dates of employment listed by years so that the actual day and month of employment ending are masked. In addition, they can be masked in contract or consulting work timeframes.

An additional red flag, is a “functional resume” that avoids providing dates at all.

Therefore, it is important to probe when you see these employment gap red flags. Ask these critical questions to ask from your Recruiter or in your telephone interview before you invest staff time in the formal interview.

2. Inaccurate Time Lines

Watch out for jobs where there is overlap, part-time vs. full-time roles. Also, pay attention and ask questions if it shows them currently employed. Many applicants leave the “till- present” on the resume, months into them being unemployed.  They intentionally “forget to update it”, in hopes that no one is aware of how long they have been unemployed.

Watch out for job overlaps.  Is that accurate or intentional?  Sometimes a role is part-time and ongoing across other jobs. That can be a good sign of loyalty and a hard-worker. 

Always check time frame accuracy against Linkedin.

3. Artsy Formatting

If Elle Woods can get away with a pink scented resume, everyone can right? Colors, pictures, too many boxes, and flair can distract the reader from the actual experience and qualifications of a candidate.

Candidates need to avoid taking away from the pertinent information and refrain from making information hard to find. Creativity can be used in Creative roles such as Marketing or Design, as long as it stays efficient. Resumes are first read by computers, not humans. The ATS system might not pull in the information correctly with too many graphics.   Hiring managers have to look at hundreds of resumes, don’t make their job harder as they may not look at your resume if it is too hard to read.

If the role is not creative, this resume red flag could be indicating that this is the resume of someone that does not want to comply with rules and will be a challenge to manage. The applicant’s failure to follow directions can give you information about his or her potential success as an employee.

4. Grammatical Errors

This red flag is a clear indicator that the candidate did not pay attention and/or has not proofread the resume before sending it out to the world. This comes across as unprofessional and rushed. After all, attention to detail does provide a clear picture of the candidate’s potential success as an employee.

If an applicant can’t get it right for the most important opportunity for which they will ever have to make a positive impression, take a pass. Based on this evidence, why would you have any faith that he or she would get it right when you employ them?

Candidates need to go over the resume many times, have others proofread, and read it out loud. Attention to detail yields an overall impression of professionalism carefulness.

5. Repetitive Job Descriptions

Cutting corners by using the same descriptions for different jobs and different companies is a big red flag. While positions may be similar experiences and have similar expectations/descriptions, each and every company is unique which makes the work unique and experiences different.  As a Hiring Manager, this red flag shows you how they will approach their job… doing the bare minimum.

6. Not following Application Protocol

Pro tip: have 2-3 simple application steps or questions to answer as the applicant applies to a job.  If they fail this simple test to follow directions, this quickly gives you insight information about his or her potential success as an employee.  For example, if you state that a cover letter is part of the application process, then failing to write a cover letter shows you that the candidate doesn’t want to waste their time—or he or she is just plain lazy.

Candidates need to be deliberate and purposeful in their career search. Hiring managers need to spend their valuable time interviewing only candidates that are serious.

 7. Lack of growth or decline in development or demotions

Is the candidate in a plateau in their career? Or has their career gone backward? Does the opportunity offer the right career direction for the candidate?

Evidence of decreasing responsibility and/or a career that has reached a plateau or gone backward is a red flag for employers during resume review. To be fair, there could be a good explanation. Hiring managers should review the resume with care, however, so you don’t make assumptions and miss out on qualified candidates. Candidates need to be honest about the reason for the trajectory change.

Lack of growth and advancement within a company shows either they are not capable or they have no interest, figure out why? Many roles are ideal for people that do not want upward mobility. 

8. Employed candidates applying to jobs during their work hours

Did the currently employed applicant send their resume at 2 pm on a Wednesday? This red flag shows disrespect to their current employer. Candidates need to know that if you are still getting paid by them to work for them, this should be done on your personal time on your personal platforms. As a Hiring Manager, this is an early warning sign of burnout leading to disrespect and insubordination. 

For you Resume writers out there in your job search, the majority of these tips can be easily fixed in a few steps. Just put yourself in the shoes of who you are sending your resume to. They range from recruiters to HR to CEO’s and all of them will be looking for clear signs of whether or not a person is qualified depending on what they see on the document in front of them. Careless mistakes on a resume mean careless mistakes or overlooking details on important projects and presentations. A resume is a reflection of you as a person and your expertise to highlight what value you bring to the company and team, make sure you show that! Check out more resume tips from our blog.

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2 thoughts on “Watch Out for These Resume Red Flags

  1. In Step 4. Grammatical errors – the last paragraph states “Candidates need to over the resume many times, have others proofread, and read it out loud.” I think you left out a word. Candidates need to look over the resume many times,” A grammatical error in your grammatical error description.

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