5 resume red flags: how to read between the lines

You’ve written a great job posting, and the applications have started pouring in. Are you ready to narrow the field to find that potential superstar? It can seem daunting if you’re getting a large number of applicants, but if you know what red flags to look out for, you can soon start paring back your list quickly and easily.

Here are five resume red flags to keep an eye out for.

Vague (or overly wordy) job descriptions

Amazingly enough, a lot of candidates still send in resumes that have virtually no information about their previous (and current) positions listed. This is a big red flag; a job title alone really doesn’t tell you anything (apart from the fact that the applicant couldn’t be bothered to provide context for his or her experience).

The flip side is someone who writes a novel—no recruiter wants to read that. A savvy candidate should be able to provide enough information to convince a hiring manager, while still leaving them wanting more.

Formatting issues

This seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. If a resume is not well formatted, you should take it as a warning sign. Harsh? Hardly.

A resume should be error-free and easy to read and digest, with bullet points instead of paragraphs. It should also follow whatever directions or format specifications you requested. If you have specifically asked for things to be submitted in a certain fashion, and a candidate doesn’t follow those precisely, you can assume that working with them will be a battle. Save your energy for the people who proofread and follow instructions.

No achievements or accomplishments

There’s more to creating an impressive resume than just listing a few duties. These days, almost any candidate should be able to show you results. What did they specifically achieve or accomplish that proves them a stellar employee? There should be specific numbers, metrics, and samples included to prove this.

Gap on a resume

We’ve included this one here because it’s one of the classic resume red flags, but in reality, its status in the club is increasingly unwarranted.

After all, the best and most well-rounded employees are the ones that have a life outside of work. You want your people to be well-travelled, with hobbies and families, don’t you? So why does it matter if a resume has a gap? For one thing, more and more young Canadians are taking gap years out of school, which would limit your campus recruitment if you frowned on the practice. And would you really discount a potential star employer because they chose to go back to school (or because they had trouble finding the right job after getting laid off)?

The best candidates will explain that gap in their resume, cover letter, or interview — give them the chance to do so.

Job hopping

This is another tricky one. People who have held multiple positions in a short period of time have traditionally had a bad rep with hiring managers. But is it deserved?

Job hopping is increasingly becoming the norm — it’s now uncommon to see someone stay with a single employer for more than 10 years. And also, there is a lot to be said for someone with varied experience; someone used to being “the new guy.” These candidates can have a lot to offer, and usually learn fast. So when you see this red flag on a resume, don’t simply scrap the candidate from your shortlist — talk to them about it. Ask about their employment history, and what their long-term goals are. The conversation might surprise you.

See also:
5 sneaky things you can learn from a cover letter
8 ways to spot a star performer


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