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5 Obvious Resume Red Flags You Shouldn't Overlook

Posted by Patrick Ball on 5 Jan 2015

Nobody sets out to hire the wrong person, but finding the right candidate can be a challenge.Overlook these obvious resume red flags at your own risk

In 2015, the talent pool is deeper than ever and the digital age has afforded job-seekers countless ways to connect with prospective employers, from company websites to online job boards to social media. 

As an employer, properly reviewing resumes is your first line of defense against hiring candidates who are wrong for the job.

With that in mind, here are five resume red flags you should never ignore.

  1. Ancient Work History
    Resumes should reflect the most current work experience, ideally within the past few years, as an indicator the candidate is up to date with his or her skills, training and any applicable certifications. Work history approaching ancient history doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, but what the candidate has been doing within this time gap should be your first phone-screening question.

    Taking time away from work to start a family or care for aging relatives, for example, should not disqualify a candidate  straight away. But, whatever the role, you’ll want to make sure there’s a satisfactory explanation for any experience gaps.

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  2. No Relevant Experience
    Whether you’re looking for an executive or an entry-level associate, the hope is that your new hire will be passionate about and competent in the work he or she is doing. One good indicator of an interest in the field beyond simply collecting a paycheck is experience along a path building toward the role for which they're applying, such as internships, job experience, professional associations or even volunteer work. 

    If in the recruiting process you're screening candidates for cultural fit at the resume level, past experience -- including volunteering and time spent on associations or boards -- could be a good indicator of whether the candidate will fit your company culture.  

  3. Apparent Over-qualification
    A couple of concerns with this one. Firstly, it’s common for job-seekers to trump up past job titles or responsibilities. If a candidate is coming in hot with qualifications far beyond what your job description or position requires, it’s possible he or she is compensating for something, like a bad break-up with a former employer.

    It’s important as a hiring manager to avoid being charmed by qualifications and overlooking personality concerns. A candidate may have stellar experience and skills, but without the right outlook and demeanor, those qualifications alone won’t make them right for the job.

    Learn more about Focusing on Workplace Diversity in the Hiring Process

  4. Job Hopping, or Drastic Career Moves
    As a a recruiter or hiring manager, you’re deeply invested in finding the right people for the job. You want to hire people who feel a connection and commitment to the role, who will make lasting contributions to your organization. With that in mind, keep an eye out for candidates who seem to jump from job to job every year or who have made drastic career changes.

    As with resume gaps, these actions in and of themselves shouldn’t be deal-breakers, but a candidate whose career path moved from financial analyst to SCUBA instructor to marketing associate should expect to answer a few questions. 

  5. Spelling and Grammar
    Spelling mistakes, typos and other grammatical errors are a deal-breaker for most, if not all, hiring managers. A resume riddled with sloppy copy indicates a candidate isn’t serious enough about the position to take the time to copyedit his or her resume. If you can’t trust them to dot their I’s and cross their T’s, how can you trust them with the day-to-day responsibilities of the job? 

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Finding the right people for your company doesn't begin and end with resumes -- the interview process and reference checks are vital -- but the resume is a candidate's first impression, so a thorough review is a good place to start if you want to  start hiring for cultural fit. 

Culture Guide

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