Did you ever wonder what external and internal recruiters check when they decide within 5-10 seconds if your resume is of interest to them or not? Which are the red flags in your resume that might contribute to you not being in the interview? Although resume red flags are not necessarily grounds for instantly disqualifying candidates, they can give the hiring manager insight into the candidate and whether they would be a good fit for the company.
We are in a competitive market right now and the rate of unemployment is through the roof and available jobs are attracting top talent. With this, even landing an interview can be a challenge. This can even be harder if your resume has one of these red flags that employers watch out for.
Once you are done writing your resume, check it out for any of these red flags and fix them or explain them in the cover letter. This might be the difference between landing the interview and your resume ending up in the trash bin. Here are the common red flags on resumes.
- Spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues
Failing to get spelling, grammar, and punctuation right sets a poor tone. Yes, these aren’t everyone’s strong suit, and typos happen. But not caring enough to ensure that your resume is polished can reflect a lack of dedication, which might be reflected in your work ethic. It also shows that you do not pay attention to detail.
Your resume should showcase your best work but if it is full of mistakes you are sending the wrong message to the recruiter. Most recruiters believe that if an applicant cannot get their first impression right, it’s hard to expect them to get things right in the workplace. Get at least two people to proofread your resume and point out any errors you might have not noticed.
- Poor formatting
Like spelling, grammar, and punctuation, poor formatting also shows a lack of care on the applicant’s side. While office skills are not necessary for every position on the job market, presenting yourself in the right format is still of tremendous value.
An applicant’s resume format should at the very least follow a logical structure and contain personal details, education, work experience, and skills. Text should look presentable and be broken up into concise paragraphs or bullet points.
In case the resume looks like a wall of text or a convoluted mess, it makes the content hard for the recruiter or headhunter to follow. It also shows that you spent very little time on your resume which shows a lack of care on your part. A poorly written resume can also show that the candidate is not serious enough for the position.
- Lack of attention to detail
Overlooking other details also yields an impression of carelessness. Such errors include:
- Missing words
- Cut-and-paste mistakes
- Incorrect names of businesses
- Wrong employment dates
- Place markers still in the text
These types of errors do happen and are by no means earth-shattering, but again, they highlight an applicant’s lack of care and overall unprofessional appearance.
- Failure to follow directions
Many employers do not go through resumes that don’t include requested items like a cover letter or a list of references. Failing to provide what is asked of them often shows laziness on the applicant’s part or inability to follow instructions.
Most recruiters will not waste time on candidates who can’t take the time to provide what has been requested. They will focus on those who are dedicated to following directions as they will likely do so on the job as well. Thus, always read instructions carefully before and after writing your resume to ensure you include everything as per the instructions or an explanation for what has not been provided.
- Lack of customization
Failing to tailor a resume — especially a cover letter — to fit your specific business and the open position is a huge red flag. In most cases, applicants who know they aren’t qualified for positions will spam employers with applications and consider modifying their cover letters or applications a waste of time because they don’t expect to get the job.
Reviewing an applicant like this is also a waste of your time. If they don’t want to capture your attention by connecting their experience and skills to the open role, there’s no need to give it to them. As an applicant, make sure you create a resume that matches your skills and also the job description if you really want to be invited for the job or if you really think you are the best candidate for that position. Always submit a document that convinces the recruiter that you are the perfect match for the vacant position.
- Job hopping
Job hopping can be a sign of ambition but too many employers in a short time can indicate an uncommitted worker. If a job seeker’s employment history lists several previous roles at other companies in just the last few months, you should be wary of that candidate. Having multiple full-time jobs in a short period of time is a sign of job-hopping and communicates that the applicant is not dedicated to their work. In the worst case, it’s even possible that they’ve been laid off multiple times in their career path due to a lack of competence.
- Unexplained employment gaps
You should always explain your employment gaps in your CV or Cover letter. One of the most common resume red flags is an unexplained lengthy employment gap between previous roles. Not giving explanations can lead to the hiring managers assuming that you have struggled to land a job in the past which might be an indicator of your performance or other shortcomings.
While the interviewer might assume the worst, there are a number of perfectly valid reasons for a gap in employment. Travel, childbirth, education, reskilling, establishing your own business, or things like illness and loss of a loved one are all reasonable causes for gaps in your work history. If you are not yet back into the job market, think about ways to fill your time with professionally relevant activities that can later fit into a consistent narrative.
The issue arises when there are long gaps with no explanation in your applicant’s resume. A month between jobs may be reasonable, but if there are several unexplained months or even an attempt to hide gaps by only quoting employment history in years, it can be a major red flag.
- Multiple career changes
While not too common, career jumps from one industry to another every few months are a major red flag. People can change their career focus when they realize they’re not happy in their current industry, but an applicant doing so multiple times shows a lack of commitment.
If your applicant doesn’t have a track record in your field, they might take advantage of you by “trying out” your job with no intention of staying or progressing in that career. Instead, look to hire someone who you know has spent a reasonable amount of time doing similar jobs and who is committed to the industry.
- Unprofessional social media presence
If you online profile can be found easily, chances are that the hiring manager can find you easily. While a professional LinkedIn profile can reflect positively on the eyes of the employer, a Twitter or Facebook account with aggressive or derogatory comments shows your true nature and can even cause major issues for you down the line.
For employers, if one of your employees presents this way online, the values your company represents and your company culture will be brought into question. That’s why you should always make sure that an applicant who does not include a LinkedIn profile or other online presence in their resume or cover letter has nothing to hide on those platforms. As a job applicant, ensure your social media profiles are clean and acceptable to everyone.
- Failure to identify achievements
A true standout candidate uses his or her resume to show the recruiter how well they did in their current and previous roles. A resume that fails to identify work experience achievements but only shows bullet point job duties is a red flag. Most recruiters look at resumes for less than 10 seconds before deciding whether to keep reading or throw them in the trash can.
If a candidate cannot make their accomplishments clear in a resume that they have spent a lot of time crafting and editing, that means they might not be able to provide meaningful on-the-spot answers during the interview phase. Recruiters will look for resumes that are clear, results-oriented accomplishments for each role.
There are many reasons why a job applicant can decide to do things differently than outlined in this blog post. Whether you agree with us or not, always remember that an average reader will spend less than 10 seconds on your resume before they decide whether to spend more time reading or through it away. Being a valid candidate, help the recruiter understand what is contained in your resume and ensure they call you for an interview.