10 Resume Red Flags Every Employer Should Look Out For

As Uncle Ben from Spiderman puts it, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. You’d be kicking yourself if you made a bad hire by overlooking resume red flags.

Some may say that hiring unqualified employees is inevitable. It’s just part of growing the company, ‘you win some battles, you lose some battles’. However, the pandemic has shifted regular hiring strategies. We used to be able to screen candidates face-to-face. Now, we conduct such hiring steps virtually.

But with automation, you may end up overlooking red flags in resumes that aren’t so obvious yet detrimental to your company’s working dynamics. In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the most common resume red flags that you could spot and be wary of.

1. Grammatical Errors and Typos

Grammatical errors and typos are often overlooked by the candidate or even hiring managers who may just not notice them at first glance. Mind you, the accidental extra space between two words or the misuse of verbs (is, are, was, were, etc) is a red flag. If a job role requires candidates to have a good command of English and you could spot grammatical errors in resumes, perhaps it’s safe to assume that the candidate may have bad English proficiency.

There are plenty of grammar and typo correcting tools online such as Grammarly. With such tools being readily available, resumes with such errors give off the impression that the candidate doesn’t pay attention to details or perhaps may not care enough to use such tools to improve.

2. Employment Gap

Some candidates may have a gap in between their employment. Sometimes, their gap could be from a year to even five years. While employment gaps are regarded as a resume red flag, do remember to ask the candidate why they took a break in between employment.

Candidates may have an employment gap due to unfortunate circumstances such as the death of a family member or mental health conditions. Such gaps are not bad and as an employer, remember to be mindful and empathetic towards the candidate. An alternative that you could use is to ask how the candidate has grown past these difficulties. You could also ask how this growth could be beneficial throughout their employment in your company.

3. The candidate’s career has plateaued or gone backwards

If you notice that a candidate hasn’t been able to stick to a job for more than a year, this is a huge resume red flag. Their resumes and experience may show that they could be a great prospect for your company. However, you will need to question their loyalty or dedication to their past roles. In order to understand better, you could ask them what prompted their short term careers. While it’s a lot easier to cast aside resume red flags, it’s always better to understand the candidate in the first place.

4. Lack of resume customization

There are many resume templates that you could get on the internet. With that knowledge in hand, you would still expect candidates to avoid copy-pasting their resumes online. It clearly shows that the candidate is unwilling to create something of their own. They are lazy enough to even attempt writing a resume, you can’t possibly expect them to take the initiative to contribute ideas to your company.

5. Unprofessional Email Address

Gone are the days when we use movies, anime or cartoon characters as email names. Every adult, working or not, needs a proper email that they could use for employment or other “adulting” needs (psst, you can’t sign up for a KWSP account with your Harry Potter email address). If you do come across a candidate with a childish email such as [email protected], it’s a huge resume red flag. Such candidates can’t be expected to be taken seriously in the hiring process.

6. Vague Job Description

As a hiring manager, one of the ways to gauge if a candidate is suitable for the job role is to look through their past job descriptions and experiences. The job description for both employers posting the job vacancy and the candidates applying for that vacancy needs to be precise. A common example of a vague job description is:

Intern at XYZ Advocates and Solicitors

  • Drafted legal documents
  • Assisted Partners of the firm with cases
  • Handled filing requirements of the Firm

Upon reading the example above, you wouldn’t really know what kind of legal documents the candidate has experience drafting. Such experience is crucial in one’s legal career. If the job descriptions are vague, it defeats the purpose of describing the candidate’s past roles and experiences.

7. Random Careers or Jumping Fields

We have previously mentioned that job-hopping is a definitive resume red flag. As an employer, you also need to be wary of candidates who constantly jump fields or industries. A career change is common these days. Yet,these resume red flags may indicate that the candidate has commitment issues and isn’t dependable. Hiring a candidate with these red flags could become an issue once they’re employed.

8. Resumes that are too long

Most employers have to screen through hundreds of resumes for one vacancy alone. When a resume is over two pages long, it’s a red flag. It might sound rather petty to eliminate candidates with such resumes.

However, resumes that are too long give off the impression that the candidate doesn’t know how to be concise and accurate. Moreover, screening through a three to four-page long resume will take up way too much time. While it’s a definite requirement to accurately explain their past experience, being concise is also a great trait to look for in candidates.

9. Discrepancies within details

A reference check is a must in the hiring process. You should also contact the references that they’ve given you to get a better idea of the candidate. However, if you notice that there are discrepancies or inaccuracies between their resume and what their references say or what is shown on their LinkedIn profile, it’s definitely a warning sign.

If you plan to interview the candidate, remember to note these discrepancies down and ask them during the interview. Whilst it’s good to be wary of the discrepancies, it’s always better to seek clarification from the candidate themselves. However, it’s recommended to not hire such candidates. There may be a risk that the candidate uses fraudulent information for their resumes.

10. Candidates that don’t follow instructions

Some companies require candidates to follow specific resume instructions such as:

  • Provide more than one reference
  • Present a maximum of three education levels
  • List down any relevant industry certificates

You could tell it’s a resume red flag if the candidate doesn’t follow instructions that are clearly given to them. However, this could also be something that has been overlooked by the candidate. As an employer, the choice is yours in determining whether the instruction they have overlooked is truly important in your hiring process. It’s always better to be cautious of such candidates as it gives off the impression that they are rather nonchalant about the specificities of the application.

All in all,

With everything being automated and job searches are now conducted online, screening candidates only get harder. As long as you keep a lookout for the resume red flags that we’ve mentioned above, you could avoid hiring unqualified employees.

Might we suggest a better option for you? To avoid hiring irrelevant candidates, receive high quality, pre-screened candidates from Recruitopia. You could skip screening through hundreds of resumes as Recruitopia will do that for you! Sign up with Recruitopia to post your job for free!

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