10 resume red flags to look out for when you’re hiring

When it’s time to hire a new team member, you or your hiring manager will likely receive a large number of irrelevant applications through recruiters or LinkedIn. Most job applicant resumes are pretty cut and dry. But once in a while, you can spot a red flag that’s best not to ignore. 

1. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues

Failing to get spelling, grammar, and punctuation right sets a poor tone. Yes, these aren’t everyone’s strong suit, and typos happen. But not caring enough to ensure their resume is polished can reflect a lack of dedication, which might be reflected in their work ethic. 

If an applicant doesn’t take the time to get their first impression right, it’s hard to expect them to get things right in the workplace. 

2. Poor formatting

Like spelling, grammar, and punctuation, poor formatting also shows a lack of care on your applicant’s side. While office skills are not necessary for every position on the job market, presenting yourself in the right format is still of tremendous value. 

An applicant’s resume format should at the very least follow a logical structure and contain personal details, education, work experience, and skills. Text should look presentable and be broken up into concise paragraphs or bullet points. 

Should the resume look like a wall of text or a convoluted mess, your applicant is likely to have spent very little time on their own presentation, which shows a lack of care on their part.

3. Lack of attention to detail 

Overlooking other details also yields an impression of carelessness. Errors like this can include: 

  • Missing words
  • Cut-and-paste mistakes
  • Incorrect names of businesses 
  • Wrong employment dates
  • Placemarkers still in text 

These types of errors do happen and are by no means earth-shattering, but again, they highlight an applicant’s lack of care and overall unprofessional appearance. 

4. Failure to follow directions 

Many employers exclude resumes that don’t include requested items like a cover letter or a list of references. Failing to provide what is asked of them often shows laziness on the applicant’s part. 

Don’t waste your time on candidates who can’t take the time to provide what you need. Focus on those who are dedicated to following directions as they will likely do so on the job as well. 

5. Lack of customization 

Failing to tailor a resume — especially a cover letter — to fit your specific business and the open position is a huge red flag. Oftentimes applicants who know they aren’t qualified for positions will spam employers with applications and consider modifying their cover letters or applications a waste of time because they don’t expect to get the job. 

Reviewing an applicant like this is also a waste of your time. If they don’t want to capture your attention by connecting their experience and skills to the open role, there’s no need to give it to them. 

6. Job hopping

If a job seeker’s employment history lists several previous roles at other companies in just the last few months, you should be wary of that candidate. Having multiple full-time jobs in a short period of time is a sign of job-hopping and communicates that the applicant is not dedicated to their work. In the worst case, it’s even possible that they’ve been laid off multiple times in their career path due to a lack of competence. 

7. Unexplained employment gaps

Employment gaps in and of themselves are not necessarily a red flag. Travel, childbirth, establishing your own business, or things like illness and loss of a loved one are all reasonable causes for gaps in your work history. 

The issue arises when there are long gaps with no explanation in your applicant’s resume. A month between jobs may be reasonable, but if there are several unexplained months or even an attempt to hide gaps by only quoting employment history in years, it can be a major red flag.

8. Regression or lack of progression

An applicant who has spent several years in the same kind of role or whose career has even regressed over time is unlikely to fit your company well. A new job should always present a change of job titles and the next step in a career, so someone who has not taken a step forward in years is either not motivated or not qualified enough to do so. 

If previous employers were not able to trust your applicant with responsibility, you should be more than wary of hiring that person. It’s likely that you won’t be able to fully trust them either, and your business might just become another step on their resume. 

9. Multiple career changes

While not too common, career jumps from one industry to another every few months are a major red flag. People can change their career focus when they realize they’re not happy in their current industry, but an applicant doing so multiple times shows a lack of commitment. 

If your applicant doesn’t have a track record in your field, they might take advantage of you by “trying out” your job with no intention of staying or progressing in that career. Instead, look to hire someone who you know has spent a reasonable amount of time doing similar jobs and who is committed to the industry. 

10. Unprofessional social media presence

If you can easily find your applicant online, chances are that your clients and customers can do the same. And while a professional LinkedIn profile can reflect positively on your employees, a Twitter or Facebook account with aggressive or derogatory comments shows their true nature and can even cause major issues for you down the line. 

If one of your employees presents this way online, the values your company represents and your company culture will be brought into question. That’s why you should always make sure that an applicant who does not include a LinkedIn profile or other online presence in their resume or cover letter has nothing to hide on those platforms. 


These resume red flags should definitely give you pause, but remember to also consider them in the context of the candidates’ entire career and experience. In some instances, they could be the result of bad advice or other unknown factors. 

Need help finding great applicants? Homebase Hiring has your back. We’ll post your job description on the leading sites and help you find the perfect candidate. We’ll even streamline the onboarding process by sending your new hires a digital packet with all the required forms. 

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