32+ Red Flags in Your Resume That Make It Harder to Get a Job

32+ Red Flags in Your Resume That Make It Harder to Get a Job

Turns out, recruiters only give resumes a quick 7.4-second glance on average.

Not much time, right?

And here’s a kicker—70% of all resumes are rejected at the initial screening stage.

So, make sure your resume doesn’t have stuff that might rub recruiters the wrong way.

What stuff, you ask?

We got curious and hit up over 200 recruiters to spill the beans.

They told us all about their resume red flags and if they’ve ever nixed a candidate because of them.

Key Takeaways

  • Top three red flags waving high: employment gaps (55%), hopping from job to job (52%), and those pesky typos and grammar mistakes (58%).
  • Got your resume from an AI content generator? That’s gonna raise eyebrows for 10% of the scouting crowd.
  • An unprofessional email address? 35% of recruiters are gonna side-eye that.
  • 20% of talent hunters are more interested in your achievements than in the detailed duties of your previous positions.
  • Found a lie on your resume? 77% of recruiters won’t think twice about tossing it aside.
  • Sending the same ol’ resume to every job posting out there? 22% of recruiters are not fans.

What is Considered a Red Flag by Recruiters?

Our little survey uncovered 32 red flags recruiters watch out for in resumes. And there are four biggies that make half the recruiters go “hmm” when they’re checking out your resume.

A Red Flag How many recruiters consider this a red flag? How many recruiters have turned down applicants due to this reason?
Typos and Grammar Errors 58% 85%
Employment Gaps 55% 69%
Job Hopping 52% 84%
Vague Job Descriptions 50% 36%
Unprofessional Email Address 35% 64%
Resume Formatting & Design 30% 51%
A Career Path That Doesn’t Fit 25% 83%
Lack of Resume Customization 22% 56%
Lack of Career Progression 22% 54%
Focusing on Responsibilities Not Achievements 20% 37%
Too Diverse Job History 14% 65%
Too Much Personal Information 11% 22%
Failure to Follow Directions 10% 69%
AI-Generated Resumes 10% 37%
Lies on Resume 8% 77%
Vague or Unclear Job Titles 8% 49%
Your Resume Doesn’t Match Your Social Profiles 7% 62%
Jargon Overload and Fluff 7% 25%
Currently Unemployed 7% 41%
Your Age 6% 67%
Too Qualified 6% 63%
Unrelated Work Experience 6% 84%
Skillset Mismatch 5% 78%
Missing Information on Resume 5% 37%
Resume Length 5% 26%
Inconsistent Dates 4% 20%
Stuffing Your Resume With Keywords 4% 20%
Only Freelance Experience 3% 49%
Education Mismatch 3% 33%
Type of File 2% 44%
Affiliation Experience 1% 14%
Sending From Your Work Email 1% 12%

Typos and Grammar Errors

Making mistakes? Double-check your resume or have a friend do a once-over before you send it off.

Nothing screams “I’m not the one!” louder than finding another typo in your resume.

Kayla Norflus

Let’s be real, we all make mistakes. But when it comes to your resume, think of it as your first impression; if it’s hard to read, disorganized, or sprinkled with typos, it screams, “I didn’t bother checking my work.” In a job where dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s can make or break a project, overlooking the small stuff can be a big deal.

Kayla Norflus

Senior Recruitment Marketing Specialist, TemPositions

Employment Gaps

Yep, those gaps in your work history? They’re definitely gonna catch a recruiter’s eye.

Over half of them see it as a big red flag waving in your resume.

Got an interview lined up? Have a solid explanation ready for those gaps.

Kraig Kleeman

Life happens, and breaks are normal, but unexplained gaps can be a red flag. If your resume looks like a puzzle with missing pieces, employers might wonder what happened during those gaps. A little explanation can go a long way in avoiding red flags.

Job Hopping

Jumping from job to job a lot?

A resume that looks like a tour through multiple companies in record time gets 52% of recruiters worried, and they’ve admitted to rejecting candidates for it.

Matteo Valles

Whenever hiring someone new, I have to spend a lot of time upfront training the employee and I’ve found that they don’t become a full fledged team member until 6-12 months in. Therefore, if I see a consistent history of jobs only lasting a year or less, I immediately reject the applicant. The few times in the past that I’ve hired people with short-term work history, I regretted hiring them.

Vague Job Descriptions

When listing your work experience, clarity is key.

Recruiters often spend just about 10 seconds scanning a resume, so don’t make it a puzzle for them.

Spell out what you did at your last job—after all, you know it best!

Laia Quintana

A resume filled with unnecessary details can be distracting and may bury the truly important information. It’s essential to keep the resume concise and focused on the key qualifications for the job. Oversharing or including irrelevant information might indicate a lack of understanding of the role or industry.

Laia Quintana

Head of Marketing and Sales, TeamUp

Unprofessional Email Address

burgerlover1990@gmail.com

Got an email like this? Congrats, you’ve caught the recruiter’s attention!

Sadly, not for the right reasons. 35% of recruiters see it as a big no-no on your resume.

An email that’s not your name might just show you’re not all that serious. And yep, 64% of recruiters admit they’ve tossed resumes for this reason alone.

Andrew Fennell

I often see candidates with unprofessional email addresses, likely the one they picked for their first email address as a teenager. Although it’s not a complete red flag, it does show a lack of care and professionalism, so I’d suggest people set up a new email address for professional use. Ideally, first name and last name is the easiest email address to go for and is easier to remember, but it doesn’t matter too much as long as it’s simple and office-appropriate.

Andrew Fennell

Former Recruiter and Director, StandOut CV

Resume Formatting & Design

There’s a ton of resume builders out there.

Why not use one?

If your resume looks like a hot mess and recruiters can’t find what they need, you’re basically waving a red flag at them.

Most jobs need you to sweat the details, and a sloppy resume says you might not.

Fallon Chase

The number of resumes I receive that are formatted horribly, with paragraphs jumping around left, right, and center, spelling errors across the board, or the document opening up to an editable Word version, scream unprofessional. For almost any open position out there, basic skills such as attention to detail or organization are key. 

Fallon Chase

Founder & Principal HR Consultant, Chase & Co.

A Career Path That Doesn’t Fit

Applying to be a Project Manager but your resume doesn’t show any related experience?

If it looks like you don’t have the chops for the role, recruiters notice. And 83% have said nope to candidates for this very reason.

Gabrielle Marie Yap

While I understand that every candidate starts somewhere, if a candidate’s resume doesn’t demonstrate a sufficient level of expertise or knowledge in the areas crucial for the position they’re applying for, it suggests that they may not be the best fit.

Gabrielle Marie Yap

Senior Editor & Culinary Entrepreneur, Carnivore Style

Lack of Resume Customization

“One Resume to rule them all”

Paraphrasing a famous quote from Lord of the Rings, one might wonder if it’s worth tailoring your resume for each job?

Recruiters say yes.

Not customizing your resume tells 22% of them you’re not really into the job, and more than half have rejected candidates for it.

Kayla Norflus

Ever get the feeling that you’re just one in a million? That’s exactly how it feels when I see a resume that’s clearly been blasted to every job opening under the sun. We’re on the lookout for folks who get what makes us tick, who show they’re genuinely interested in joining us for all the right reasons. A little effort in tailoring your resume goes a long way in showing us you’re serious about wanting to be part of our team.

Kayla Norflus

Senior Recruitment Marketing Specialist, TemPositions

Lack of Career Progression

Your career feels like it’s on pause?

Sadly, not growing or moving up can look to recruiters like you’re not aiming high.

22% of them take it as a bad sign.

Even if you can’t climb the ladder right now, show off how you’re growing in your current role. Don’t forget to mention it in your resume!

Benedict Ang

Whenever we are hiring for something, I always look for candidates who have a sense of direction and purpose in their career journey, whether it’s through increasing responsibilities, acquiring new skills, or pursuing specific goals. If a candidate’s resume shows a stagnant or aimless trajectory, it suggests a lack of ambition or strategic thinking. 

Benedict Ang

Writer & Coach, Total Shape

Focusing on Responsibilities Not Achievements

20% of recruiters wanna know what you’ve done, not just what your job was.

Boosted the company’s profits by 15% last year?

Awesome! Make sure that’s in your resume.

That’s the kind of stuff recruiters love to see, not just a laundry list of duties.

Jeff Altman

I’m all about seeing what you’ve actually done. If a resume just lists job duties but doesn’t show off any achievements or real impact, it makes me wonder. Are you the kind of person who dives in and makes things happen, or do you just go through the motions? In our world, where every second counts, we’re looking for people who can prove they’ve got what it takes to move the needle.

Jeff Altman

Job Search Coach, The Big Game Hunter

Too Diverse Job History

First, you were in customer service, then a lifeguard, and now in marketing?

Here’s how recruiters see it: 14% think you can’t make up your mind about what you want.

Unfortunately, a resume that’s all over the map can be a roadblock in landing a new job.

Too Much Personal Information

Did your resume shout about your high school badminton championship?

Trust me, recruiters won’t care, and for 10% of them, this means they’re dealing with someone not quite ready for prime time.

A resume’s job is to showcase your professional skills and experience.

So, keep the personal tidbits to a minimum.

Precious Abacan

Recruiters typically scan resumes for 10–30 seconds and don’t want to spend that time reading about your interest in rock-climbing. As much as it pains me to say, hobbies like star-gazing aren’t what recruiters are looking for.

Precious Abacan

HR Director, Softlist.io

Failure to Follow Directions

If the job ad asked for resumes only in PDF format, you’d do well to follow that simple request.

Not following instructions? 

It’s a red flag for 10% of recruiters, and 69% have said they’ve axed applicants just for this.

Before you hit send on your application, double-check the ad for any specific asks and make sure you’re in line with them!

If there are, adjust to them!

AI-Generated Resumes

Thinking smart, not hard, right?

Decided to let chatGPT whip up your resume?

Believe it or not, recruiters, sifting through hundreds of resumes daily, can sniff out AI-generated content from miles away.

At best, you’ll come off as lazy; at worst, your resume could end up in the bin, as confirmed by 37% of recruiters.

If you’re gonna use AI, make sure to double-check its work to ensure all the info is legit and makes sense.

Lies on Resume

Just don’t.

Tempted to add a few embellishments to your resume?

Bad idea.

Finding even a single lie can make recruiters distrust everything else you’ve claimed. A whopping 77% have turned down applicants when they smelled something fishy.

Joe Bowab

Personally, I find incorrect information inconsistencies and small embellishments the most distracting, while we understand that errors can occur and mistakes can happen if your resume has one lie in it, I automatically feel that one untruth is enough to make me question the rest of it.

Joe Bowab

Founder & CEO, Lobster Anywhere

Vague or Unclear Job Titles

“SEO Specialist” turned into “Search Engine Ninja” on your resume?

Unclear job titles are a red flag for many recruiters, signaling that maybe you’re not all that you claim to be.

Andrew Fennell

The first major red flag I see is wild claims like someone calling themselves the ‘best salesperson in the industry’ or ‘most successful marketer in the U.S.’. Claims like this don’t look credible and are impossible to prove. Candidates should stick to factual statements and real examples.

Andrew Fennell

Former Recruiter and Director, StandOut CV

Your Resume Doesn’t Match Your Social Profiles

No secrets here—recruiters do check out your LinkedIn and other profiles.

Make sure what you show off online matches up with your resume.

Mismatch? That’s a red flag that could have recruiters questioning your honesty.

Scott White

When a candidate’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t match their resume – inconsistency in dates of employment, mismatched job titles, a position that appears on one and not on the other. It can be a simple mistake, but it could also signal dishonest or sloppiness.

Scott White

EVP, Principal Recruiter, HireMinds

Jargon Overload and Fluff

Your resume should hit the highlights of your experience without making someone need a decoder ring.

What’s that mean?

Keep it clean and straightforward. Ditch the long-winded explanations and buzzword overload. Recruiters want the gist of you, not a novel.

Andrew Fennell

Long paragraphs of messy text are also a no-no for a resume. If I’m reviewing a lot of resumes, I need to be able to skim through the key information easily, rather than wading through a large chunk of text.

Andrew Fennell

Former Recruiter and Director, StandOut CV

Currently Unemployed

Looking for work means you might not have a job right this second.

Seems obvious, right?

But for some recruiters, not having a job at the moment can be a bit of a red flag.

They might wonder why you’re not snapped up yet. Luckily, only 7% think this is a red flag.

Your Age

Age shouldn’t be a thing, but sometimes recruiters make guesses based on your work timeline.

Started your first job in ‘95? They’ll do the math.

For many, your vast experience is golden, but others might hesitate if they’re aiming for a younger vibe.

Too Qualified?

Yep, it’s a thing.

Being super experienced can sometimes make finding a job harder, not easier.

Plenty of recruiters admit to passing on candidates because they were just too much for the role in question.

Matthew O’Grady

This may seem counterintuitive but we have found that candidates significantly overqualified for a position often become quickly disinterested or leave for better opportunities.

Unrelated Work Experience

Are you applying for a Project Manager position, but your experience includes customer service in a fast-food chain?

If it’s not relevant, it might not help your cause.

Focus on the parts of your career that align with the job you want. Keep it relevant and to the point.

Skillset Mismatch

Not every skill you have will match up perfectly with the job ad.

Recruiters first look for people whose skills and experience tick all the boxes for the role.

So, if you’re all about PHP but they want Python, it might signal you’re not the right fit.

Missing Information on Resume

Before you send off that resume, make sure it’s complete.

Missing key info? 

5% of recruiters say that’s enough for them to question your attention to detail.

Resume Length

Both too long and too short resumes can be a red flag for recruiters.

If you’ve got a lot of experience, focus on the highlights that matter most to the recruiter.

That way, you’ll make it easier for them to see why you’re the one they’ve been looking for.

Jennifer Morehead

I often see 4-5 page resumes explaining every role, every task completed, every detail, often repeating from role to role.  I even recently saw a 10-page resume!  Resumes should be brief, but full bodied, one-pagers accompanied by a Cover Letter highlighting the key, relevant points that differentiate a candidate from another.

Inconsistent Dates

Getting the dates right on your resume matters—a lot.

First off, the way you format them counts. You should be mentioning not just the years but also the months you started and ended roles.

And if there’s a mismatch or gaps? 

Expect recruiters to get curious and possibly question you about them during an interview.

Dr. Kyle Elliott

A potential resume red flag is inconsistent details. Recruiters are not only looking for reasons to invite you for an interview, but also reasons to put your resume in the ‘no’ pile, and discrepancies are a quick way to get your resume passed over. This means taking a fine-tooth comb to your document to ensure you’re being consistent.

Dr. Kyle Elliott

Founder and Tech Career Coach, CaffeinatedKyle.com

Stuffing Your Resume With Keywords

We get it, you want to pass those automated tracking systems (ATS) checks with flying colors. 

But cramming your resume with every keyword under the sun?

Recruiters can tell. While it might get you past the bots, a human recruiter wants to read a resume that actually sounds like a person wrote it.

So, go easy on the keyword stuffing.

Only Freelance Experience

Only got freelance gigs or side hustles like Upwork or Fiverr on your resume?

Some recruiters might not be all that impressed—actually, 3% see it as a bit of a red flag.

Education Mismatch

Turns out, where you went to school or what you studied doesn’t always line up with what you end up doing.

And for about 3% of recruiters, a mismatch between your education and your job aspirations might give them pause.

Type of File

Believe it or not, the file type of your resume can be a deal-breaker.

So, if you’ve worked hard on your resume in Canva but finally downloaded it as a .png file instead of .pdf, you might have jeopardized your chances of getting hired.

44% of recruiters admitted that they rejected a candidate simply because they sent their resume in a format other than the recommended one.

Affiliation Experience

Got a background in affiliate marketing?

It’s not necessarily a game-changer, but for a tiny 1% of recruiters, it’s something they’d rather not see.

Sending From Your Work Email

Job hunting on your current company’s time? And worse, using your work email to send out applications?

That’s a definite no for about 1% of recruiters. It sends a message about your loyalty and discretion—or lack thereof.

Wrap Up

So, we’ve covered the big no-nos and subtle oopsies that might make recruiters think twice about your resume.

From glaring typos to the sneaky habit of job hopping, and the peculiar choice of using an AI to write your resume—these are the red flags you want to avoid.

The bottom line? 

Keep your resume tight, bright, and right. It’s your personal ad, your chance to shine and show off what makes you, well, you. 

Tailor it to the job, keep it real, and make sure it reflects your true self and achievements.

Methodology

We conducted an online survey among 200 recruiters and headhunters in March 2024.

The respondents were 44% male, 55% female, and 1% identified as other.

This survey has a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 3%. Given the gender and age composition of our sample, the study’s findings are statistically significant for the general population.

This study was developed through multiple research stages, crowdsourcing, and surveying. Data scientists reviewed all survey participants’ responses for quality assurance. The survey also included an attention-check question.

Martin Potocki

Martin is the CEO and Co-founder of Jobera.com, a global remote career advice platform. As a Career and Job Search Expert, he is dedicated to helping job seekers worldwide develop skills, find career opportunities, and land jobs efficiently. Martin shares his expertise by guiding individuals toward professional success and fulfillment.

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