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Resume Red Flags Employers Need to look out for when hiring.

When employers start to receive applications for a job position, the most natural to do is to skim through applicants’ resumes to see if they meet up the stated requirements. However, that is not the only thing you need to do. There are some red flags you need to look out for as well in the resume, to be sure that your potential employee is not fraudulent, unqualified, or would be a liability rather than an asset to the team. This article will be sharing those red flags. Thankfully, employers don’t need to run a background check on the applicant to look out for them (imagine having to do that for over 50 applicants!) they are easily recognizable from the resume.

1. Unexplained Employment Gaps.

Honestly, we can all agree that it is difficult to get a job in the same week/month that you lost one. So employment gaps of 1 year and above need to be explained as part of the cover letter. As a recruiter, if you did not request a cover letter, make sure to ask for an explanation during the interview. An applicant who lists his experience only in years, and does not include day and month in the date of his past employment may be trying to hide something. This is one of the resume red flags that should not be overlooked.

2. Short duration of past employment

A resume that leads you to believe that a candidate only worked at his past job for 3 months or less, should be questioned. Why was the applicant only at the company for 3 months? Was he sacked? If he was sacked, why was he sacked? An employee that has worked 6 jobs in one year may likely have issues staying committed to a role or subjecting to constituted authority. It could also be that he has a bad work attitude that cannot be managed. Whatever it is, an applicant whose resume gives the impression that he has been job-hopping is bad news; skip his application, please.

3. An Extra-large CV

If a candidate applies for a job with a CV that is about 7-pages long and supersaturated with too much unnecessary information, he might have poor communication skills and may not be able to express himself properly if hired. Also, this could imply that the applicant will not be able to deliver summary reports and brief presentations. However, it is one of the resume red flags that is the least threatening.

4. Grammatical Errors

A neatly written resume free of grammatical and typographical errors indicates that the applicant is organized and committed to excellence. However, the presence of these errors may propose that the applicant has a challenge communicating efficiently in written English or doesn’t pay enough attention to details and that’s why he did not notice the errors when proofreading. Whatever the case, if the rest of the resume and your deductions from his interview affirm that he is indeed qualified for the role, you may need to put measures in place to help him improve his written communication skills.

5. Indication of a Backward Trend in Career Growth

Everyone plans to grow in any career path they have chosen and make progress up the ladder ranks. However, if the experiences outlined by the applicant in his resume indicated that he moved from a position to a role with lesser responsibilities, it is a source of concern, and you should address it in the interview. For example, if an employee worked as a manager in a previous company, but worked as a front desk officer in the next, or is even applying for the post of a personal assistant in your company, you may want to ask why. A good candidate with legit reasons will give a detailed explanation as soon as you ask. Most times, it could be that she just had a baby and needs a job with fewer responsibilities so she can have enough time to take good care of the child or needed a job urgently and the lesser offer was the only one available at the time after she was retrenched from the previous one. However, if the reason you receive sounds far-fetched or unreasonable you should probably end the hiring process. It could mean that her job as a manager was terminated because she was not meeting up to the demands of the office, or the experience listed as a manager was fabricated. You don’t want to hire an employee that starts by deliberately lying to you.

6. A Resume or Cover Letter that is not Customized

One of the features of an impressive resume is that it is tailored to suit the job requirements of the particular company, offering the job position. A customized resume gives you the impression that the applicant took the time to research your company for a better understanding of how they can add value to your company. Although a resume that is not customized may still show that the applicant is qualified for the role, it gives the impression that the applicant has no particular interest in your company. A generic cover letter, on the other hand, is simply a tell-tale sign of the use of templates. If the applicant was not even able to draw a connection between their skills and qualifications and the company’s needs using their own words, do they even know how they can contribute to its success? Nine times out of ten, that applicant just sent their resume and cover letter to the latest posting that appeared on their favorite job search site, they may not even resonate with the company’s values.

7. The application was sent from the Candidate’s Current Official E-mail Address

As funny as this sounds, it does happen. Some employees take advantage of free Wi-Fi at their current workplace to surf for better job opportunities. The problem with this is that it means that they were carrying out their job search during work hours, wasting valuable time they could use to be productive. Now, if they can comfortably search for a job during work hours and even send the application using their office’s email address, they do not take the job seriously. What is the guarantee that they would take the job you are offering in your company seriously when they get employed?

8. Too Many Qualifications or Skill Sets.

There is a saying that “the hunter learned to shoot without missing, so the birds have learned to fly without perching”. Job seekers have discovered that there are certain keywords specific to different roles and have proceeded to flood their resumes with them. The only problem with this is that some of these applicants do not possess the proposed qualities or skills and only state them so they can be hired. Unfortunately, this means that it is very possible to hire a candidate severely unqualified for the job, regardless of how compelling their CV looked. Remember, a jack-of-all-trades is very commonly a master of none.

9. Relevant Skills are not Highlighted

An applicant that sends in a poorly written resume during his application process might as well have just stopped at adding the “open to working” banner to his LinkedIn profile. When a candidate’s resume has a list of amazing skill sets but not the ones that are relevant to the job position in view, it becomes tasking to determine if they can truly deliver efficiently in that role. If an applicant cannot highlight the skills necessary to work efficiently in their dream role, they may not even know what is required and are therefore not suitable for the job.

10. Disregard for Instructions

If the job listing clearly stated that the resume be accompanied by a cover letter and yet the applicant sent it in by itself, this indicates that the candidate does not pay attention to details. It will also give the impression that the candidate may not be able to follow directions if hired.


Every employer wants to be assured that they hired the right person for the job. Critically examining the applicant’s resume will help you detect that before you decide to hire him for the vacant role. These are the red flags to look out for in any resume.

These tips are also helpful for job seekers, they will guide you in your application process, so you can leave a good impression on the recruiter. Go through your resume critically, and if any of these red flags are present, effect the necessary changes.

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Oputa Okwanuzor is a freelance writer skilled in the art of weaving words into stories for brand boost through copywriting, or make a soothing read using creative writing. In her free time, she loves to share personal development talks, fashion inspos and writing tricks on her blog.

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