Top 10 Resume Red Flags!

Candidate resumes tell a story. Are you paying attention to what they are telling you?

Jazmyne Behnke avatar
Written by Jazmyne Behnke
Updated over a week ago

You’ve decided you need to hire a new employee. You begin the process of posting a job ad and then sorting through resumes as they roll in. As you look at each resume to find out their skills and qualifications, you realize one thing: the candidate’s resume tells a story about their career. It is tempting to just briefly scan resumes, but this can lead to overlooked “red flags” and wasted time on interviews.

Although the resume doesn’t tell the whole story, it will help you avoid these potential red flags.

1. Suspicious Work History

Employers should look at the candidate’s work history carefully and find out why they left each position. Do they seem to leave jobs unexpectedly? Have several different career paths?  

2. Job-hopping

A candidate that shows a pattern of going from one job to the next is someone to interview with caution. They may only stay at each position for 6 - 18 months. There can be legitimate reasons for the constant switching, such as the need for a schedule change due to school. However, it may be an indication they tend to bore easily and switch jobs to feel a new “challenge."  

3. Gaps in Employment

Although gaps in employment do not mean the candidate is not qualified, it does mean you need to ask the candidate what happened during those times. Some reasons include layoffs, contract positions, relocation, etc. However, if a candidate is leaving positions for questionable reasons before having a backup plan, this may show a lack of maturity and professionalism on the part of the candidate.

4. Overqualified

Overqualified candidates can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, having someone in your office who has “been there, done that” can bring a new perspective and offer ideas to your business. On the other hand, overqualified candidates may continue looking for a job after being hired that better suits their skills and experience. You have to determine the cost of hiring this candidate and the possibility of losing that new hire and training a new one when making your decision.

5. Spelling Errors

In this day and age of spellcheck, spelling errors on a resume may show a lack of organization and being detail-oriented on the candidate’s part.

6. Beefed-up Resume

The resume is an advertisement of the candidate’s skills and experiences. Resumes filled with a lot of fluff and filler, admittedly, make the candidate look really good on paper. A beefed-up resume could indicate the candidate exaggerated skills and qualifications and is looking for an employer that won’t look too deeply. 

7. Career Has Gone Backwards or Plateaued

Just like the resume is supposed to be the candidate’s advertisement, it should also show their career is moving upwards. Each new position should show additional responsibilities. A career that moves backward may indicate issues under the surface that need to be explored further. A career that has plateaued may indicate the candidate is not motivated and is looking more for a job, rather than a career.

8. Educational Background

It is not unheard of for a candidate to apply to or work in a field that has nothing to do with their college degree. However, it is good to find out why they have chosen to go in another direction. Their answers may surprise you.

9. Outdated or Unprofessional Email Addresses

When a candidate has an outdated email address, it may indicate they are not tech-savvy and may struggle with computer applications. Also, a candidate with an unprofessional email address, such as, may lack the maturity and couth you are looking for in your office.

10. Cover Letter or Objective 

Cover letters or objectives that have nothing to do with the position or company show they have not done their homework and did not pay attention to where they have applied. This means they are sending this resume to everyone and not singling you out as a top prospective employer.

Looking for top talent is hard, but can be made harder when you do not pay attention to the red flags being given to you by the candidate. Remember: the resume tells a story and the candidate is showing you how professional they are. By doing your due diligence, you will avoid wasting time interviewing unqualified candidates.

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