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6 Resume Red Flags for the Modern Age

As we all know times are changing and the recruitment and candidate market place is changing with it. Candidates no longer submit hand-written, hard copy resumes; they don’t always interview face-to-face. No-one expects a job for life these days; candidates have a wealth of job search information resources available to them on the Internet and they can apply for jobs at the click of a button.

These changes to the recruiting and job seeking landscape are beginning to filter through to the resume short-listing process, which must adapt to suit the modern marketplace. For example, where once a candidate who changed jobs twice in a decade might have seemed unstable, in the modern age this might be the norm and could even constitute a long tenure. So, I thought it would be a good time to take stock five of the key resume red flags and update them to ensure they are in line with the modern age.

1. Changing jobs too often. This is still a red flag as changing jobs too often can still be seen as a sign of instability in an applicant, but the parameter’s have changed dramatically.

The job for life paradigm is dead and buried, so recruiters should expect multiple job changes in a lifetime. But, the question is, how many? Recent reports from Jobvite suggest that the average worker will change jobs between 11 and 15 times in a lifetime. Research suggests that the usage of temporary workers has increased from 1.47 percent to 1.88 percent in the last year and redundancies have been on the rise. All this points to increasing volatility in the job market. This suggests the average employee might be changing jobs every two to four years or so. And, arguably, red flagging shouldn’t start until a candidate starts showing an average tenure of two years or less, perhaps.

2. Lack of bullet points and too many paragraphs. Goal-orientated applicants will know that the best way to present their actions and achievements is in concise and precise bullet points, rather then paragraphs.  Failure to use bullet point format suggests they have few worthwhile achievements to be proud of or do not know how to clearly explain their achievements/sell themselves, the latter of which is unacceptable in today’s climate when there is so much high quality, free resume preparation advice online or in social media groups.

3. Lack of numbers. Resumes that contain achievements that lack supporting numbers―dollar values, numbers of people, etc.―lack credibility and mean that those achievements should be called into question, especially in today’s competitive climate where employers are more achievement orientated than ever.

4. Lack of specificity. Achievements, duties or responsibilities that are generic, hackneyed statements which are lacking in specificity, e.g they fail to specify direct reports, budgets held, products managed, and/or revenues, lack credibility and should set the alarm bells ringing.

5. Multiple layoffs. Even in the current climate of increasing redundancies, this can still be a red flag. This is because the very process of selecting people for redundancy is very much like a reverse recruitment process where the least equipped employees are let go. So, yes, being laid off is still a potential red flag in the current climate.

6. Failure to explain any resume red flags in the cover letter. There is no such thing as a perfect applicant and many applications may have issues or red flags on their resumes, much of it as a result of the volatile economic times we live in and changing patterns of work and lifestyle. But, the best applicants should be aware of these red flags and will make an attempt to explain these in the cover letter. A failure to do this is a clear red flag.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but to take a critical look at some of the traditional resume red flags and check their relativity in the modern age. Of course, as we know, red flags are just indicators of what may be, they aren’t fact and I would urge resume reviewers wherever possible to try and clarify the concerns with the applicant before discarding what could be a good applicant.




Kazim Ladimeji

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.




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