9 Red Flags You Can Spot on Bad Resumes

How to Tell Which Resumes Belong in the Recycling Bin

Know What to Look For

On average, resumes are received 200 seconds after being submitted. Once a hiring manager lays eyes on it, he/she will spend anywhere from 5 to 7 seconds reading it before making a decision to pass it on or trash it. So what, exactly, earns that resume a trip to the land of no call back?

Look, we know you’re pressed for time. You might seen dozens, or even hundreds, of resumes for a single opening, and since time is of the essence hiring managers have no choice but to quickly weed out the resumes they initially deem unfit. Could you be passing up the perfect person for the job? Perhaps. But then again, if the candidate were that perfect he/she would’ve taken the time to package the resume correctly and correct glaring errors.

So what are the cardinal sins and the mistakes that raise the red flags? Some of them are common sense, yet (as you no doubt already know) hiring managers the world over continue to see the same errors made time and time again. Here they are for you to easily spot.

9. Their Address

Many years ago, job seekers were taught to start their resumes with their name and address at the top. Well, times have changed.

If this is a telecommuting job then it doesn’t matter, but if it’s a job in which you’ll need an employee close to the office, then the address is the first hurdle. Granted, a super qualified candidate might consider relocation which you can bring up, but if it’s not a standout resume and the address signifies a gargantuan commute, you’re probably better off scrapping it at the outset. After all, you’re going through hundreds of resumes in an attempt to find the best one, so the process instinctively begins by looking for reasons to exclude, not include.

Again, if you find the perfect fit then by all means follow up. But savvy job seekers will simply put the state in which they live, or not include an address at all. If you like the rest of their resume and need to know, you can email or call.

8. Their Lies

Does a particular candidate seem too good to be true? Then it’s time to trust, but verify.

There are thousands of horror stories involving hiring managers who thought they had a great candidate — and in fact hired these people — only to find out they were lying about something on their resume. Being a couple of credits shy of graduating college is not the same thing as having a degree, a 3.5 GPA is not the same as a 4.0, and saying they spearheaded a $100 million sale is not at all similar to being a junior member of a team that closed the sale.

We live in the age of the Internet and connectivity, with copious amounts of information at our fingertips. So use the multitude of technological tools at your disposal to do some digging and verify the questionable details. If they’re lying, straight to the trash. You shouldn’t bring in a new hire under a cloud of insincerity and deception.

7. Their Lack of Accomplishments

This is a biggie and it drives the people making hiring decisions nuts.

Too many jobseekers list their job responsibilities on resumes instead of their accomplishments. For instance, if you’re hiring a sales representative, you don’t care the applicant was responsible for all sales in the eastern United States and dealing with customer service from inception to delivery. Job duties are not interesting or useful to hiring managers. However, if they say “Increased sales among existing clients by 75% and brought in $5 million from new clients,” then they’re showing specific results. You want to hire someone who knows all you’re interested in is what kind of positive results you can expect should you decide to invest in that candidate.

In short, find people who don’t just talk about their work, they show their work.

6. Their Questionable Online Reputation

These days, there are paper resumes and online resumes.

According to a recent survey by BeHiring, 68% of hiring managers will look candidates up on Facebook. That means even if the resume submitted is decent, you should also check out their online footprint via a Google search. Or Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you’re interviewing for a writer/editor then it’s good to find candidates quickly online and in many high profile places, because that shows they’re getting published and they’re in demand. But if an image search of their name returns a picture of them doing a keg stand or their Instagram account is nothing but duckface selfies, it might not be a bad idea to remove them from the “yes” pile quickly.

If they won’t clean up their online reputations BEFORE submitting their resumes, there are few reasons to believe they’ll be more careful once hired.

5. Their Lack of Brevity

Brevity is the soul of wit and the heart of a solid resume. So if the resume rambles incoherently and they can’t perfect their elevator pitch, put it in the toss pile.

An elevator pitch is when you’re in an elevator with the person you need to talk to, but you only have a minute. You need to know the most important things to say and cram them into the time you have. You want someone who can cut out the fluff and focus on what really matters, because people are busy and you need to get their attention quickly. Well, the same goes for resumes. Advice varies greatly in this area and the length of the resume will depend somewhat on the job in question, but generally one page for every 10 years of work experience is the standard to which many stick. But whether they do one page or two, they shouldn’t go far beyond that because they should know you have only 5 to 7 seconds to read the resume, so you only need the most important stuff.

4. Their Inclusion of a Selfie

Resumes are no place for a selfie.

Unless you’re hiring an actor or staffing a job that necessitates a headshot, you might want to steer clear of people who use their looks to get ahead. Why? The survey from BeHiring found 76% of hiring managers automatically reject resumes that include pictures of the applicants. It doesn’t specify why, but I imagine it’s because unnecessarily including a picture of yourself on a resume denotes high amounts of narcissism and sends the message you’re all about yourself. Not exactly the type of person you want to introduce to a team environment that depends on cohesion to thrive.

3. Their Inappropriate Email Address

I can’t believe this still has to make the list. But it does.

Make sure their email address is professional. Any job seekers with half a brain will use their name or initials or something that isn’t ridiculous. But for the love of all things holy, be wary of hiring anyone who uses a stupid email address. You know the one I’m talking about. The one they’ve probably had since the AOL days created when they were 16 that says “420AllDay@______.com.” Or “SeXXXyBabe69@______.com.” No. Just…no.

It only takes a few minutes for people to visit Yahoo or Gmail and create a clean, appropriate email address. If the applicant in question can’t even be bothered to take that initiative before landing the job, it’s doubtful he/she will seek to impress if hired.

2. Their Inability to Excite or Be Original

Has the applicant done his/her utmost to stand out and be original? If not, think twice about moving forward.

Qualified candidates know they only have a few moments to make an impression on a resume. So why wouldn’t you give extra consideration to a non-boilerplate resume that engages you and sticks out in your head? Go for the memorable candidate. Find the resume that accentuates what’s unique about that candidate, and highlights his/her strengths and accomplishments right at the top to get noticed.

If you want to hire someone who doesn’t stand out from the crowd, go ahead. But most hiring managers are looking for exceptional, so eliminate the boring until you’re left with the best.

1. Their Lack of Proofreading

One word: typos!

If a resume has a typo, many hiring managers simply throw it out. Why? Because someone who really wants the job is going to labor over a resume and make sure it’s perfect. So if it’s riddled with spelling errors and grammatical problems to the point of distraction, that denotes a lack of attention to detail. Or, in other words, it tells you someone is too lazy to make a good impression.

Also, with Spellcheck and all the other online tools available, there’s no excuse for typos. Zero. So if you have two similar candidates with comparable skills and experience, go with the one who put the effort into making sure his first impression didn’t include easily preventable mistakes.


Hiring, HR, Resumes