What are Red Flags in a Resume? (What to Avoid)

What are Red Flags in a Resume?
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Have you ever wondered what might be red flags in a resume? Are there certain things that could automatically disqualify you from a job opportunity?

We’ve all heard the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But when it comes to resumes, sometimes first impressions are everything.

In today’s competitive job market, ensuring your resume stands out from the crowd is essential. So what are some red flags to watch out for? Read on to find out.

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Resume red flags that employers need to heed

Many things make up a good candidate for a particular job opening. A well-written resume is one of those things. But some things shouldn’t even show up on a resume. Here are the top resume red flag items that employers take heed of.

1. Job hopping

If you’ve been bouncing around different companies and organizations, you might consider how that could affect your chances of getting hired.

While job hopping isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, it does give potential employers pause. They’re concerned about whether you’ll be able to commit to one position for long enough to see real growth.

The problem with job hopping raises some obvious questions: How well do you know your previous employers? Do they recommend you? And what happens if you don’t perform well in your new role? You may find yourself under scrutiny if you’ve worked in several places within a relatively short timeframe.

2. Unexplained career gaps

Not listing the exact dates and years of your work experience could prove detrimental to your chances. Why? Because recruiters and hiring managers tend to look out for those candidates who don’t make up stories about their work history. They know that people who lie about their work history usually get hired anyway.

So what can you do to avoid this red flag? You must be honest. Tell employers everything about your work history. Don’t try to cover anything up. If you’re asked why you left a particular position, tell them the truth. For example, if you worked for three years in one organization and suddenly quit, explain why you did it.

3. Unplanned departures

While most people want to avoid having to give a reason for why they left their current position, there are times when doing so will help you land a better opportunity down the road.

However, even though it might seem like a good idea to talk about your recent exit, keep in mind that you don’t want to paint too negative a picture of your former employer. After all, you never know when you might need references later on.

Instead, focus on highlighting your experience’s positives while avoiding discussing the negatives.

4. Signs of career decline or stagnation

The best way to spot a candidate who hasn’t progressed throughout her career is to look for gaps in experience.

If the applicant has moved around too much, however, it could indicate a lack of commitment to finding the correct position. This could mean they aren’t interested in working for anyone else.

Another sign of a stagnant career is a lack of growth in job titles. An applicant whose most recent promotion was to a vice president level might not seem like someone moving up the ladder.

5. Resumes with Major Issues in Terms of Grammar & Spelling

A recent study found that resumes with typos, grammatical errors, and poor formatting are among the least likely to land an interview. In fact, according to CareerBuilder, candidates with resumes riddled with spelling mistakes, incorrect use of language, and poor formatting got half as many callbacks as those without these issues.

This isn’t just about looking professional. Employers want to see that you know how to communicate effectively and clearly. If you don’t, it could cost you the job.

6. Failure to follow directions

The applicant’s failure to follow instructions gives you information about their potential success as an employee.

Employers who ask for a resume and cover letter or request a salary history automatically exclude any candidate whose application fails to meet those requirements. In addition, many employers, who ask for local candidates only, mean just that. They do not want to consider—and pay for—the candidacies of out-of-state applicants.

Not writing a cover letter usually means the applicant isn’t qualified. They know this and aren’t lazy. Hiring managers identify applicants who don’t follow instructions. Especially if the job description is clear.

8. Your CV is too long

According to Alison Green, author of Ask A Manager, “the longer your resume is, especially if it includes dates, the less likely an interviewer is to see the parts she wants to see.” She recommends keeping your resume to two pages, even though some put up three or four. “employers aren’t looking for a book report,” says Green. They’re looking for someone who can do the job.

9. Using an unprofessional email address

Consider changing your email address if you’re trying to make a good impression on potential employers. A recent study found that people tend to trust emails sent from someone they know, so having a personal email address on your resume could help you stand out from the competition.

10. Failure to explain red flags

Unemployment can be out of your hands, and short tenures may be the only way to progress in specific careers. Neither of these things has anything to do with being a good fit for a role, but it can seem like something is wrong with your application because of how many of these problems you have.

A failure to address these issues in your cover letter can signal that you aren’t fully aware of what’s happening with your resume, which could lead to a poor impression. If you want to stand out, you need to take notice of the red flags on your resume and explain them in the cover letter. You might even consider doing a little research into each problem to see whether you can fix them.

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Avoiding disqualification due to your resume

Red flags on your resume can be discouraging, but don’t let them get in the way of your career goals. You can do a few things to overcome potential red flags and give yourself the best chance at landing the job you want.

First, look closely at your resume and identify any areas that may raise red flags. If you have gaps in your employment history, for instance, or have had several short-term positions, address these issues directly. Be honest about gaps in your work experience, and emphasize what you’ve been doing to stay active and engaged. If you’ve held several short-term jobs, highlight your flexibility and adaptability as strengths.

Second, research the company or organization you’re applying to and make sure your skills and qualifications align with their needs. If there’s a particular skill they’re looking for that you can offer, make sure to highlight that on your resume and in your cover letter.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact your professional network for help. Ask for advice from mentors or colleagues who have been through the hiring process before. Taking these steps will improve your chances of getting past any red flags on your resume and landing the job you want.


Red flags in a resume can be the kiss of death for your job application. But don’t worry. Our expert team is here to help you ensure your resume doesn’t have any red flags that could cost you the opportunity to interview for your dream job.

We’ll give you tips on making a resume free from these pesky little mistakes so that you can put your best foot forward and land that interview!

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