Imagine that you’ve found a small group of qualified candidates to bring in for an interview. They’ve met all of your requirements in terms of education and experience, so you’re ready to give them a call to conduct a phone screen.
It seems easy enough, but then you begin to look closer at a few of the resumes and some things just seem a bit off. For example, there’s a large employment gap between two jobs and the person appears to be currently unemployed.
Suddenly you begin to doubt whether you’re scanning the resumes correctly. Are you missing key information? What should you be looking for when you sort through piles of resumes?
Here are five red flags that you should look for that can weed out candidates that really aren’t the best fit:
1. Lengthy gap between jobs
Lengthy gaps between jobs is one of the most common things you’ll see in resumes: There’s a big gap in employment between jobs and no explanation as to why.
Is this enough for you to toss the resume into the trash? We’d hope not – at least if everything else on the resume checks out. But it is something you should you should probe further during the phone screen.
It’s often difficult for candidates to put everything onto their resume because there’s simply not enough space. Also, not all of their work may be completely relevant to the job they’re applying to. It might make more sense to create a couple of sections in the resume to keep it better organized and highlight jobs of interest. Finally, it might be difficult for candidates to relate some jobs to the position they’re applying to, so it makes more sense to push them further down the resume.
2. The resume is formatted functionally
Most hiring managers want to see resumes that are listed chronologically for a couple of reasons:
It makes it easier for them to trace the candidate’s footsteps. This helps them better understand how the person came about applying for the job.
These resumes make it simpler for employers to see gaps between jobs.
Hiring managers have less work to do with chronological resumes, especially if jobs overlap in time.
Managers are better able to organize their thoughts and direct the flow of conversation.
A functional resume should never be the sole reason you toss a resume to the side, but it is something you can absolutely talk about with the candidate. A functional resume focuses on a candidate’s skills rather than their job timelines. Chances are they have a good, understandable reason for organizing the resume the way they did.
It’s important to know what red flags to look for in resumes.
3. Unemployed for a long time
If the most recent job on a person’s resume ended months before you picked up the document, this is a red flag. However, don’t assume they were fired at his or her last job for some sort of malicious crime. The candidate may have had to take a leave of absence for personal reasons, such as the birth of a child or an illness.
“First impressions matter, and resumes are that first impression.”
4. Spelling and grammar mistakes
Spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes are unacceptable on resumes. Instantly the candidate loses credibility and appears untrustworthy.
First impressions matter, and resumes are that first impression. Resume mistakes may indicate what you can expect from the person in the future, and if they’re careless before they even interview for the job, there’s a good chance they’ll act the same way on site.
5. Career may have stalled
If candidate used to hold numerous managerial positions, but has since taken more low-level positions this could be a red flag. However, you need to talk with the candidate to better understand his or her reasoning. If this candidate isn’t applying to be a manager, the explanation could be simple: They just didn’t feel like being a manager was right for them. If the candidate is reapplying for a managerial position, he or she will need to explain why the high-stress role is right for them. The person might be taking a different career trajectory, for example, which requires them to climb the corporate ladder once again.
These are only a few of the red flags that you’ll see pop up on a resume. Take the time to carefully scan a candidate’s application and look for anomalies that don’t fit with the rest of the picture. If you feel like the candidate is still – despite these red flags – worthy enough to have a phone screen with, make sure to bring up question marks to them. Your goal is to hire the best candidate, and the only way you can do that is to delve deep into their background.