5 resume red flags small businesses should watch out for when hiring

interviewer looking at interviewee with raised eyebrow.

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You should never ignore these issues.


Key points

  • Resumes can contain many clues as to whether a candidate is a good fit for your company.
  • But not all red flags mean you should throw the resume in the trash.
  • If in doubt, you can always question the candidate and state your reservations.

The right employees can take your small business to the next level, but choosing them isn’t always easy when all you need to do is a one-page resume. Every candidate wants to put their best foot forward and that can make it difficult to decide who to invite for an interview.

While choosing the best candidate for the job is ultimately up to you, keeping an eye out for these five red flags could help you rule out the ones that aren’t right for you.

1. Unexplained job gaps

Long unexplained gaps in work history should catch your eye. At the very least, they should encourage you to inquire further if you are otherwise interested in the candidate.

There can be several reasons for an unexplained employment gap. Perhaps the candidate had to quit his job to be able to care for a gravely ill family member. Or maybe they were fired due to poor performance and struggled to find a new position.

If you choose to interview someone with gaps in their work history, be sure to ask them about it and consider asking their last employer before the gap for a recommendation to see if they left on good terms. .

2. Frequent job changes

Frequent job changes can also be a sign of someone not getting along very well with their former employer. Even if they quit instead of being fired, it could be a sign that they might also leave your small business if they find a better paying opportunity.

But it’s not always the case. Sometimes job changes can be due to relocation, downsizing, or other factors that have nothing to do with the employee’s reliability. However, if they only lasted a few weeks to a few months at each job on their list, that should give you pause.

3. Lack of progress

Typically, most people start with entry-level jobs and gradually increase in status as they gain more experience. Someone may start out as a low-level lab technician, for example, but over time is capable of becoming a lab manager.

However, if someone has been more or less at the same level in their career for many years, it could be a sign that their former employer did not give them additional responsibilities. It might be worth bringing up in an interview if the candidate gets that far.

4. Non-compliance with instructions

A job application is one of the first chances a candidate has to prove their worth. They do this not only by the words they put to paper, but also by the way they follow the instructions given to them.

If a job ad asks for a cover letter, for example, and the candidate doesn’t provide one, it could be a sign that they haven’t read the job ad carefully. Depending on the position you’re hiring for, this lack of attention to detail could make them a poor candidate.

5. Bad spelling and grammar

Not all jobs will require candidates to write a lot, but ideally you still want to see polished resumes with good grammar. It shows that the candidate has spent a lot of time on their resume and cares about the little details.

Everyone can make mistakes, however. If you find a single typo, you might forgive it, but it depends on the position you’re hiring for. It might not be a big deal if you’re hiring a cashier, but if you’re looking for an editor, the typo might suggest they’re not very good at their job.

You’re the one who has to live with your hiring choices, so it’s up to you to screen out applicants based on the red flags above. If in doubt, you can always invite them for an interview and go from there. But don’t ignore the concerns their resume has raised. Speak to them head-on so you can decide if the person is a good fit for your small business before adding them to the payroll.

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