Resume Warning Signs To Watch For

Resume Warning Signs To Watch For

There’s been debate about the usefulness of resumes, especially in a world where you can jump on a Zoom call with candidates very quickly. But for the time being, they are here to stay as a staple of the recruiting process. We’ve all seen resumes that make us roll our eyes and ones that wow the team. For hiring managers, the trick is to gain a sense of who the candidate is behind the page which isn’t always easy. To help identify those stand-out candidates in a crowd, let’s explore some resume warning signs to watch out for as your recruit. 

5 resume red flags

What should you look for with traditional resumes that send a warning sign about a candidate or how they’ve applied for a role?

1) Formatting and typos: There’s been much debate over how many typos are acceptable in a resume. One might be allowable but a repeat offender runs the risk of having their resume tossed out of the pile. First impressions matter and a resume is often a hiring manager or recruiter’s first experience of a candidate. Ideally, resumes should be formatted for easy reading with clear sections marked out for education, experience, hobbies, etc. Resumes that are simply a wall of text don’t work when recruiters can only spend seconds on each candidate. If it can’t get through the initial screen quickly, it doesn’t matter how great the resume’s content is. Odds are, no one is going to see it.

2) Employment gaps: A gap on a resume is still going to raise questions but we’re living in the days where there are many logical reasons for a gap in employment so this shouldn’t be the red flag it once was. Perhaps the candidate had personal reasons for taking a break, such as starting a family or managing eldercare. Or maybe they had a successful side hustle they were focused on or were employed in a non-traditional way. Hell, maybe they won the lottery. You should make notes of any gaps on a resume to probe later with the candidate but don’t see employment gaps as an automatic discard. 

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3) Resume size: Sometimes candidates get excited about their skills and experience and create long resumes. Most recruiters will say a one page resume should be the rule, two at the absolute max. No one has the time to read more than that with stacks of other applicants waiting. Now, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. If you’re recruiting in the higher level of more technical fields you’ll probably run into a different sort of resume. But for the major of recruiting, look for resumes that are concise. They show that the candidates know how to control and use information effectively and how to make the most of limited space. 

4) Email addresses: What email address a candidate uses can also impact their odds of being called in for an interview. Professional email addresses are always best and are a sign to recruiters that the candidate is currently employed. In the absence of a professional email, the best bet to look for is This keeps things easy for HR to track and match to resumes. If candidates apply with old high school emails or addresses with misspelled names or numbers for letters there’s a far higher chance of things falling through the cracks or emails being typed in incorrectly when trying to communicate with a candidate. When in doubt, keep things simple. 

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5) General or vague information: There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that job searching can be a nightmare. Candidates are probably applying to multiple positions at once and trying to find a way to stand out in the competition. Because candidates are applying at such a frantic pace, HR and hiring managers are seeing an increasingly common problem. Resumes are growing vaguer in order for candidates to use them to apply to multiple positions. Sometimes this can lead to candidates forgetting to change company names on resumes or failing to provide more specific examples of how they meet the necessary job requirements. Resumes like this aren’t inspiring and probably won’t catch the attention of the hiring manager. Instead, look for candidates who built their resumes to respond to the job description and you’re more likely to find a candidate with some vested interest in your company. 

Resumes can make all the difference

A professional resume is something most adults have on hand but they’re not all created equal. For hiring managers wading through endless job applications, how a resume is set up can be the difference between earning a passing glance or an interview invitation. There are many things to look for when analyzing a resume from the work experience provided to the resume format itself. Job seekers will all try to put their best foot forward and it’s HR’s job to find the best candidates in a crowd. Applicant tracking systems can help sort more effectively, especially when working with high-volume applications, but it’s also good to know what to look for in-person. Effective resumes provide the most salient information needed quickly and they think about their audience. Next time the applications start rolling in, pay attention to some of these resume warning signs to help you find the right candidate for a role even sooner.

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