Resume Red Flags

The resume has sprouted a new pair of wings. Since the dawn of digital documents, companies are accessing resumes at record volumes and speeds. Because of this, the task of screening resumes is not getting any easier. Recruiters and hiring managers need to find the good ones, fast, while maintaining high standards of screening and selection. Effectively spotting red flags on a resume is an integral part of this process.

Screening Out, or In?
After determining that a resume contains the minimum requirements for the job, checking for problems is the logical next step. These can be interpreted in one of two ways. The red flags often serve as a “screen-out” tool: Certain details about a candidate’s background simply do not show the proven track record that you are looking for. Conversely, they can be seen as a “screen-in” tool. When a candidate meets the major requirements for the position, any red flags on their resume serve as points for further exploration.
Below are some of the most commonly cited resume red flags, followed by a brief explanation of how to use these red flags in assessing a candidate’s background:

1. Obvious Content Errors
Errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar are often considered proof of poor written communication skills, or a lack of attention to detail. Even if the position does not directly require strength in these areas, questions are raised about a candidate’s overall standards. After all, recruiters assume that candidates are putting their best foot forward when sending their resumes. The resume is your shot at marketing yourself into the interview. If candidates are ignoring spelling and grammatical errors, companies may think twice about how their standards measure up.

2. Short Tenures
The word “job hopper” comes to mind. But are short tenures necessarily a negative? Not always. More often than not, a candidate will explain short stays at each company with reasons that appear valid. The recruiter’s job is to dig deeper. Due to dizzying trends in our global economy (dubbed by some as the “e-commerce Armageddon”), it is possible that the candidate was a victim of layoffs, company closures, or sweeping cutbacks. Perhaps they have a family member whose job requires constant relocation. Good resume reviewers think beyond the job moves and wonder how candidates arrived at their decisions.

3. Employment Gaps
Are they hiding something? Did they take that long to find another job? If so, is something wrong with them? The truth is, employment gaps are not uncommon. we hear these questions all the time. “People have gaps, and they’re easy to catch. Although spotting employment gaps may prompt companies to raise a red flag immediately, they usually just want to know more about the candidate’s thought process. Maybe the candidate quit their last job to start a small side business that failed. Or maybe they simply wanted take a long-deserved break. Whatever the reason, there’s always a decision-making process involved that may provide useful information.

4. Incorrect Degree/Certification Data
Someone “MCSE-certified” should not claim to be “MCES-certified.” An extreme explanation for this red flag is that the candidate has provided false information. On the other hand, there’s a good possibility that this is simply a typographical error. Either way, these errors make on wonder whether a candidate is honest or detail-oriented enough for the job.

5. Inflated Titles
People can fudge [titles] or claim that they worked at a place longer than they did. An inflated title is sometimes obvious: It elevates the candidate unrealistically from one job to the next in their career trajectory.
But inflated titles are not always due to a candidate’s lack of honesty. Once again, consider the recent “e-commerce Armageddon.” Start-up companies admit to having inflated titles in order to boost morale. Also, smaller companies will tend to have people such as VP’s and CFO’s who were formerly managers or directors in larger organizations. The key in interpreting an inflated title, real or false, is to clearly understand what the role of the person was in that job.

6. Lack of Credible References
Although not all resumes will readily contain a list of references, those that do are worth a second glance. Always looks beyond the appearance of good references on a resume: “First, check out the names and titles of their references. If they give you their former supervisor’s name, then that’s a good sign. But the converse is also true. If a candidate does not list any former supervisors on the resume, then it could be a signal that he or she did not leave a company on good terms.

To clarify, recruiters will ask for additional references. If they prove unsatisfactory, a final red flag goes up–and the candidate doesn’t get the job.

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