Recruiters & Employers Beware: 5 Resume Red Flags

Recruiters & Employers Beware: 5 Resume Red Flags

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Resume and analysis of the resume

The main goal of every recruiter is to find the correct person for an available job, and this process starts with resumes. For a single corporate job posting, recruiters will receive an average of 250 applications from job seekers. Given the limited time and resources that every recruiter must deal with, it is impossible to spend a long amount of time on every application. Recruiters should learn 5 resume red flags that will immediately separate a qualified candidate from less serious job seekers. 

1. Spelling/Grammar 

Attention to detail is a vital skill in any job or industry. A resume is the first opportunity for a recruiter to see if an applicant will pay attention to the smaller – but still important – details. A properly written resume should have no typos, spelling mistakes or grammar errors. This shows that they have put the proper time and care into the resume writing process, a commitment to detail and organization that should extend to their job performance.

A majority of recruiters say that they throw out applications that contain a typo, and it’s widely considered a resume red flag. Despite this fact, 58% of resumes still contain typos. Recruiters looking to separate qualified candidates should look to the presence of typos as an obvious indicator of an applicant’s serious.

2. Long Gap in Employment

An obvious resume red flag is a long gap in employment. It is not uncommon to find a gap of a few weeks or even a month between when one job ended and another began, but anything longer than that should catch the attention of recruiters. A long employment gap could be a sign that a job candidate has significant issues related to their qualifications for the jobs they were seeking, that they have a bad track record that is following them through references or that they were possibly applying to job roles for which they simply weren’t qualified.

A long gap in employment should not necessarily doom a candidate’s chance of landing a job. There are plenty of good reasons to take some time away from work. Continuing their education, addressing health matters and family commitments are common and perfectly understandable. It’s important to remember that every job seeker is a real person with a life outside of work, and commitments and obligations that can take them out of the office. If a job applicant is still qualified and capable, a good recruiter will bring them in for an interview and ask them to elaborate on their employment gap as part of the process. Job seekers who are returning to the workplace after an employment gap should be prepared to address any concerns of a recruiter, and demonstrate the skills and qualifications they still possess.

3. Non-Current References

When applicants write their resumes and arrive at the References section, they are of course going to select references that will speak about them in the most flattering light possible. An issue that may appear would be if all the provided references are from further back in an applicant’s work history, even though they have held multiple job roles in the interim. It is important for a recruiter to contact a recent reference in order to gain valuable firsthand knowledge about an applicant’s work style and personality.

If an applicant has recently worked in several temporary positions, they may feel that their managers won’t paint an accurate picture, or even cast them as a job hopper. If there are no further resume red flags, a recruiter should take the extra step of asking for more recent references and avoid letting an otherwise qualified candidate slip through cracks in the hiring process. 

4. Generic Content

Experienced recruiters have a great eye. They know exactly what they are looking for and can spot it from a kilometer away. They are looking for specific skills, experiences, and qualifications, all of which should be present in a resume. Generic content is anything that seems non-specific or information that isn’t pertinent to the job being offered. This is an easy warning sign that an applicant didn’t even take the time to fully read a job posting before hitting send on their resume.

A lack of keywords is a major resume red flag that every recruiter should notice. Each job has specific requirements, and recruiters want to be sure that a candidate meets these qualifications before bringing them in for an interview. Furthermore, generic content gives a recruiter absolutely no insight into an applicant’s working style or personality, which should always be taken into consideration during the hiring process. Doing anything less would not only waste company resources but increases the chances that an unqualified person could be hired for a job role.

5. Lack of Achievements

No recruiter wants to read a boring resume. Unfortunately, resumes that are simply long lists of duties and responsibilities can be difficult to get excited about. While it is important for recruiters to be able to understand what applicants did in previous roles, what they should really be looking for are unique achievements. This is what will make an applicant stand out, and provide tangible proof that they have the abilities and ambition to succeed in a job.

There can be many different types of achievements that recruiters should look for on a resume. An uptick in sales, an increase in the number of client accounts, more positive reports from customers, projects that have been successfully completed – anything that demonstrates how an applicant went beyond the basic requirements of their previous job role. 

Fraudulent Candidates

There is no reason that a job applicant should lie on their resume. It is meant to be an accurate reflection of their experiences, skills, and abilities and anything else is a waste of recruiter’s time. This can be making up job titles, phony degree and educational certifications, exaggerating past experiences, and other tactics that have become far too common. An experienced recruiter will be able to spot obvious lies, but this becomes more difficult with experienced fraudulent candidates.

It may be necessary to contact schools, licensing institutions, and past references in order to back sure a job seeker has provided an accurate background. A good recruiter should not hesitate to ask for more information or additional qualifications if they think that something is off with an application.

Honesty is a character trait that every recruiter should hold in high regard, and expect it from job seekers. Businesses depend on workers freely exchanging information and learning from each other to improve. A fraudulent candidate displays a lack of integrity, and it’s unlikely that they will realize the importance of being honest while they are on the job.

Finding the right person for a job starts with the resume. Given the sheer amount of applicants and CVs that a recruiter must sort through, it is important that they learn to spot some of the most common resume red flags. This knowledge will help a recruiter make quick and accurate decisions, and find the right candidate for the job.

About the Author

Matt Dodge is the Marketing Content Specialist at, the largest Canadian job board. Employers and job seekers can visit their blog for the latest news and trends related to HR, recruiting, and the labor market.

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