In an ideal world, every resume that comes across your desk will perfectly describe someone you want to hire for a position your company currently needs to fill. In the real world, however, resumes aren’t this reliable. They can be an effective screening tool, but they can also raise concerns. Why did the candidate stay at Company X only six months? What does “degree expected” mean? Who would apply for a job posting with no (apparent) experience in the field?
While “red flags” like these should catch your attention, they aren’t a reason to reject a candidate outright if the rest of the resume is promising. Here are some top “red flags” that merit a hiring manager’s attention during the interview:
- Several jobs held for six months or less. One “short tenure” on a resume, or even two, need not be a cause for concern, especially if a second glance makes it clear that the short stay occurred because the candidate went back to school, was performing contract work, or moved on to a stable, long-term position. But when a candidate lists many short time periods with no indication of having “moved on” or “moved up,” hiring managers may wish to ask about these during the interview. Maybe the candidate has a great explanation – or maybe he or she is an inveterate “job-hopper.”
- Vagueness or “buzz words.” The best resumes describe the candidate’s accomplishments in past positions, using quantifiable terms. Any solid resume will describe the candidate’s job requirements specifically and concretely. But a resume that discusses work in vague terms like “familiar with” or “participated in” may be masking a lack of actual experience or skill. Likewise, resumes stuffed with buzzwords like “great with people,” “good communication skills,” or “unique” may be hiding a lack of ability – or at least a lack of confidence.
- A resume that makes no sense. Some resumes take more work to parse than others, especially if the candidate is coming to the company with no experience in this particular field. But a resume that is confusing, hard to read, badly formatted, or filled with typographical mistakes implies a candidate who is insufficiently organized to learn even the basics of resume editing. With so much free advice on resume building available on the Internet and in the local library, a sloppy resume is a definite “red flag.”
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