If you Google “resume red flags,” you will find yourself drowned in articles that describe the same red flags that any junior recruiter in their first month of working could have mastered already.
These common red flags include:
- Juvenile email addresses
- General grammar/spelling errors
- Long, unexplained employment gaps
- Multiple jobs in under a year.
But there are red flags that are universally applicable, yet less obvious initially.
Your candidate cannot meet self-imposed deadlines
If you’ve found a candidate that seems to fit the role, you’re probably excited for the next steps. Perhaps you need a specific document/proof of certification to move forward with the client. You ask your candidate to get you the necessary documents by the end of the week. Your seemingly eager candidate promises to get you these documents by Wednesday, instead. You think, great, he’s on top of things. However, Friday comes along and you have to follow-up with your candidate. If they can’t hit the deadlines they set for themselves, that’s a big problem. It does not mean that they are incompetent, but rather, they just don’t take their commitments seriously. I find people who say they’ll get back to you by “xyz” and actually get back to you by “xyz” are generally more successful.
Your candidate offers peer references instead of managerial references
You ask your candidate to provide references and nowhere to be found is a supervisor or managerial reference. Your client will not care if your candidate was popular amongst their peers. While being collaborative and likeable is important, having zero references from previous managers indicate either trouble with authority, lack of coachability, or lack of performance altogether.
Your candidate's resume lacks measurable results in previous roles
The biggest red flag of all is the lack of measurable results in a resume. Or, worse, a candidate who puts down the roles and objectives of the job taken straight from the original job description. As an example, a mediocre candidate writes: “conducted outbound calls and screened applicants on a daily basis.” A top candidate might sound more like: “conducted, on average, 45 outbound calls with a connect rate of 35% resulting in a submit-to-screen ratio of 1:3 which was 200% of quota.”
Perhaps your candidate wasn’t aware of this, and you are now presented with a chance to coach your candidate, taking on the role of an advisor and not just a recruiter. In doing so, after asking a few exploratory questions regarding the candidate’s resume, you will get a feel if these results were left out intentionally.
If it seems like you need to be a Private Investigator when screening candidates, don’t fret. As Oscar Wilde famously noted, “Experience… was merely the name men (and women!) gave to their mistakes.” I’ll leave you with the Candidate Hall of Shame below.