7 resume red flags to watch out for when hiring candidates

7 resume red flags to watch out for when hiring candidates

If you're to the point in the hiring process where you're ready to start perusing resumes, you want to ensure that each one has included the information you requested or the details listed in the job description. But there are other things you want to look for in a candidate's resume that can help you determine whether or not they'll be a good fit for your team. 

What you want to watch out for are resume red flags that can indicate you might have problems if you hire an applicant. Here are seven resume red flags your HR department should note to avoid hiring the wrong people for your team.

Gaps in employment history

If the job seeker has a single short gap in their employment, it may be something inconsequential. However, a candidate who has several short gaps in employment on a resume can be for a range of reasons, but regardless of what the reasons are, it's important to take note of them. If a candidate's history or any long gaps could point to problems. 

Someone who can't hold a job may have a lot of different jobs listed on their resume, with gaps between roles, while someone with a large gap may be reentering the workforce after a long time away, such as caring for a family member or serving jail time. This could mean they need training or classes to get their skills up to date. You may not be looking for this type of commitment if you want someone who can start performing the role more rapidly.

Major or frequent grammar and punctuation mistakes

A resume with typos and grammatical errors is sloppy and demonstrates a lack of effort or attention to detail. If a job candidate is willing to turn in a resume that has punctuation mistakes or inconsistencies, they may not be the best choice for your organization. You want an employee who is capable of doing exceptional work, and submitting a resume with major or frequent errors doesn't provide you with confidence in an applicant's abilities to perform tasks well. If a resume is full of obvious errors, it may be a good idea to set it aside.

On the other hand, if it's a small typo or two or a misplaced comma, you can assess their abilities in the interview to determine if it was an honest mistake or a true lack of an eye for detail.

"Many hiring managers won't even look at a resume if it's missing something specifically asked for, such as salary data or references."

Failure to follow directions

Failure to follow directions on a resume indicates a candidate may not take directions well or they may not pay attention to instructions. For example, if you specifically asked a candidate to provide a cover letter and they fail to do so, this is a red flag. While it might just be something they've overlooked, it's more likely that they didn't look closely enough at your directions. A candidate who can overlook something important during the hiring process may be prone to mistakes on the job as well. 

Many hiring managers won't even look at a resume if it's missing something specifically asked for, such as salary data or references. Your company can choose to disqualify any resume that doesn't meet its job requirements.

Lack of growth or development

As you look through a candidate's resume, you should notice a progression of roles, starting with lower-level jobs and advancing to higher-level positions over time. The growth and development you see on a candidate's resume can tell you about their ambition and ability to achieve goals. Depending on the work history of the job seeker, you may see that they currently hold a management or leadership position or recently completed training of some kind to improve their skills.

However, if you notice that the resume doesn't demonstrate growth and development in a candidate's work history, it could be a resume red flag. An employee who has stagnated in their job may be feeling burnout or lack the ambition and drive to advance. Your company likely wants employees who feel motivated to work hard and achieve company goals, and someone who has held a similar role for decades is not going to be your best bet.

Stock format and content

When you get a resume that comes from a stock format and looks like the majority of other resumes on your desk, you might not need to look twice. Additionally, if a resume contains stock content that is generic and could be for a job anywhere, you may want to pass on that candidate. Every person is unique and the job you're offering is one-of-a-kind as well, so the resumes you receive should be varied and tailored to your company, the role, and the individual turning in the resume.

The resume should demonstrate that the candidate did some research on your company and that they know your industry well. Their document will explain to you how they're qualified for the role and how they might fit in with your company's culture. You may also be able to determine their career goals and why they have an interest in the role. If you can't, then they may not be the right person for the job.

Unusual job history or qualifications

An unusual job history that doesn't relate to the role you're hiring for or one that has many jobs that seem unrelated may be a red flag. Most professionals tend to stay in the same role or transition into similar roles in the same field. A person who has worked many seemingly random jobs could be someone who is unstable or unsure of where their skill sets lie. This can make them someone who is difficult to train, meaning you may need to spend a lot of money to onboard them properly.

Someone who has unusual or unrelated job qualifications on their resume could also be someone you simply don't want to hire. They may list qualifications they have that aren't related to the role because they aren't sure of the qualifications they need or because they lack those skills. Listing unusual skills may make them feel like they're making up for not having some skills, or they may be trying to hide the fact that they don't have the skills you require.

Not filling in all information

Another resume red flag to take note of is when all information isn't filled in on the document when a candidate submits it. For example, perhaps the applicant has what appears to be some robust experience, but they left the dates off of their resume. Perhaps they're afraid that potential employers would discriminate against them for their age, or perhaps they are trying to hide gaps in employment or frequent job-hopping. Regardless of why they don't fill in the information, this could be another red flag.

You can also check to see if they filled in their location and other personal information completely. If they leave any pertinent information off of their resume, it could mean they're hiding something. Not providing references when asked can also alert you to the fact that the candidate doesn't want you to speak to previous employers without letting them know you're planning to.

Knowing these resume red flags can help you determine whether you want to pursue hiring a candidate. Learning how to spot signs a candidate may not be the best option based on warning signs in their resumes can help you weed out potential employees before you hold interviews. Make sure you constantly update your hiring strategy so that you always have a pool of potential employees who can work for you.

Check out what else to look for when finding the right people for your team:

Using keywords in your job postings can ensure you get more applicants for your open position.

Consider conducting stay interviews with your top talent if you want them to stay.

Learn how to spot a lie on a candidate's resume so you don't end up with the wrong people working at your company.

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