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For Employers: 5 Red Flags to Spot on Resumes

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

For many employers, red flags on a job applicant's resume are the only thing they'll look for. After all, spotting red flags is an easy way to weed out lackluster candidates -- especially when your help wanted ad results in a glut of responses.

Knowing what to look for on a resume not only cuts down on your time, it can also help you avoid potential liability or other issues that can affect your business.

So what are red flags should you be looking for on resumes? Here are five that should stand out:

  1. Inability to follow directions. If you asked for a cover letter, salary requirements, or for the candidate to include references, and they didn't, what does this tell you? Sometimes it's an honest mistake, but other times, an applicant just assumes her resume is impressive enough on its own. That's a whole 'nother problem: You don't want an arrogant employee, and you especially don't want one who can't follow simple directions before they're even hired. An inability to do so could potentially lead to many other liability issues.
  2. Spelling and grammar mistakes. It may seem harsh, because many spelling and grammar errors are accidents or oversights. While some spelling errors may seem apparent, others are trickier. Still, if your candidate can't even bother to take the extra time to spell-check, or ask someone else to proofread, then why waste your time by considering her resume?
  3. Unexplained gaps in employment. Gaps in one's work history can be cause for concern. Candidates may explain these gaps in their cover letters, but long, unexplained gaps (of more than a year, for example) may say something about a candidate's attitude toward work. Keep in mind, however, that in a few jurisdictions, it's unlawful to discriminate based on a person's unemployed status; considering the state of the economy, long gaps of unemployment shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.
  4. Lack of professionalism. While different businesses vary in terms of how professional they require their workers to be, there is still a standard level that should be maintained in the job application process. Signs like the use of casual language, slang, or (even worse) slurs on one's resume are never good.
  5. Resume padding. Resume padding is hard to confirm just by looking at the resume itself, but some factors may be easy to spot. For example, if their credentials seem a bit too impressive and aren't backed up by much explanation or believable-sounding descriptions, they may be puffing up their resume. Embellished credentials are never a good idea, and can be good cause for firing, if discovered later.

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