13 Resume Red Flags (+ Fast Fixes)

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June 20, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • Resume red flags are anything that makes hiring professionals hesitate about moving you forward.
  • There are thirteen red flags you should know about—each with simple fixes.
  • Teal's AI Resume Builder can help you avoid red flags on a resume with features created to optimize both formatting and content.

Resume red flags can be deal-breakers. And they might prevent your resume from passing the initial screening. While one or two small oversights may not disqualify you, they can certainly raise questions and doubts.

The good news? Most resume red flags are completely avoidable. Below, you'll learn the top thirteen resume red flags and some ways (and tools) to avoid them, so your resume gets noticed for all the right reasons.

Struggling to land interviews with your resume? Sign up for Teal's AI Resume Builder and avoid resume red flags.

Understanding resume red flags

Red flags on your resume are anything that might make a recruiter or hiring manager hesitate to move you forward What many people think of as red flags, like frequent job hopping or employment gaps, aren't always the biggest issues.

Red flags can be anything from small typos to larger concerns that make someone question a candidate's qualifications or professionalism. For example, listing a current job with no achievements for several years might seem a bit off. Or a resume with complicated formatting or too much personal info could be distracting.

At the end of the day, red flags are warning signs that suggest you may not be the right fit.

Why resume red flags matter

Recruiters and hiring managers use red flags to filter out those job seekers who may not be the best or most qualified for a position. This helps streamline the hiring process to focus on the most promising job candidates.

Impact of resume red flags

When a recruiter or hiring manager spots resume red flags, it can overshadow your actual qualifications and experience.

For example, if you're a job seeker who has a resume with multiple spelling errors, it suggests a lack of attention to detail. A resume with inconsistent formatting can indicate a disorganized approach. These seemingly small issues can make it difficult for recruiters to trust your judgment or reliability.

The major takeaway? Resume red flags can lead to missed opportunities. Even when you're highly qualified for a position, red flags can cause your resume to be overlooked in favor of a candidate who presents their qualifications better.

13 resume red flags

You know why they matter and the impact they can have on your job search; now it's time to learn the most common red flags in a resume and how to fix them.

Resume red flag #1: Lack of results

One of the top resume mistakes made by job seekers is listing responsibilities instead of achievements with results. Employers want to see what you've accomplished, not just what you were asked to do.

Responsibilities are your job duties; accomplishments are the highlights; results and impact are what you achieved.

How to fix it: Focus on quantifiable achievements. Use metrics, percentages, and concrete numbers to showcase your successes.

For example, instead of saying, "Managed a team of sales representatives," say, "Managed a team of 10 sales representatives who exceeded sales targets by 20% each quarter." This highlights your impact and demonstrates tangible outcomes.

Pro Tip: If you're feeling stuck, try Teal’s AI to highlight your accomplishments. With Teal's customizable AI, you can add relevant keywords, write prompts, or attach the job description to align the output with any role—all in the same place you write your resume.

Resume red flag #2: Graphics or heavy design

While creative designs might look impressive, they often can't be parsed by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), meaning your resume might not even be seen by a recruiter.

ATS are used by many companies to file and sort resumes, and they often struggle to scan non-standard formats correctly.

Graphics and heavy designs can also distract from the content of your resume. Recruiters need to quickly find key information, and a cluttered layout can make this difficult. Instead of focusing on aesthetics, prioritize clarity and readability.

How to fix it: Use a clean, simple format. Avoid images and graphics so your resume can be parsed by the ATS. Teal's ATS-friendly templates are simple and come in creative, modern, and traditional formats.

Resume red flag #3: Generic employment history

Vague or generic experience details (this also includes generic AI-generated content) can make it hard for recruiters to understand your unique skills. Phrases like "Responsible for managing projects" don’t give enough information about what you actually did or the impact it made.

The bottom line? The areas of expertise on your resume should be unique and specific.

How to fix it: Provide specific examples of accomplishments and results. And use action verbs and quantify your achievements where possible. Instead of using generic descriptions, provide concrete examples of your accomplishments.

For example, "Led a cross-functional team to deliver a new product line, resulting in a 15% increase in revenue within the first year."

If you're not sure how much or how little detail you need, Teal's Built-In Resume Guidance provides detailed directives for each section of your resume so you know what you need to talk about and how specific you need to be.

How to avoid resume red flags using Teal's Built-In Guidance
Teal's Built-In Guidance can help you write a unique and detailed resume without guesswork.

Resume red flag #4: Irrelevant information

Including too many irrelevant jobs or details can make your resume seem unfocused. This can look like listing hobbies, personal interests, or jobs that have no relation to the position.

Your resume should be a targeted document that highlights your relevant experience. Irrelevant information can clutter your resume and make it hard for a hiring professional to see your value quickly.

How to fix it: Showcase the top ten percent of your experience that's one hundred percent relevant to the job. Remove details that don't directly support your application or the specific role you're targeting.

Resume red flag #5: Failure to tailor

Sending the same resume for every job application is one of the biggest resume red flags. Why? Well, just like no two jobs are the same, no two resumes should be either.

Employers want to see that you’ve taken the time to tailor your resume to their specific needs. And a generic resume suggests a lack of effort and understanding of the specific role.

Tailoring your resume (and cover letter!) involves customizing it to highlight the skills, experiences, and achievements most relevant to the job. This shows that you have a clear understanding of the job requirements and how your background makes you a strong candidate.

How to fix it: Align your details with the unique job description. Customize each application to highlight your most relevant experience. Use the job description as a guide to identify the key skills and qualifications that you should emphasize on your resume.

If you want to see where you stand quickly, Teal's Matching Mode gives you a Match Score, so you can see how your resume compares to a job.

Resume red flag #6: Missing keywords

Many companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to file resumes. Missing crucial keywords can prevent you from being found by a human recruiter searching the system for specific skills and qualifications.

Keywords are terms relevant to the job you're applying for. And they're usually found in the job description.

Hiring professionals search for these terms to find a candidate's resume that matches the job description. If your resume doesn’t include the right language, it may be automatically filtered out.

How to fix it: Identify important keywords from the job description and incorporate them into your resume.

Follow these steps:

  1. Read the job description carefully
  2. Identify important keywords and phrases (especially frequently used words or phrases)
  3. Match these keywords to your skills and experience
  4. Incorporate the keywords naturally into your resume
  5. Review and make sure the keywords fit the context of your accomplishments

Pro Tip: Want to skip the steps above? Teal's Job Application Tracker and AI Resume Builder pull the top keywords from any job description as hard skills, soft skills, and other important language. Then, easily add them to your resume.

Resume red flag #7: Incorrect length

No resume is the perfect length. But there are some guidelines that can help you decide what works best for your experience.

You don't need to be a resume genius to understand that long resumes can overwhelm recruiters as they're difficult to read with too much detail. On the flip side, resumes that are too short might not provide enough information about your work history and qualifications. At the end of the day, the ideal length for a resume depends on your experience level and industry.

How to fix it: Aim for one to three pages, depending on your experience and industry standards. Balance detail with brevity to keep it concise and comprehensive.

For entry-level positions, a one-page resume is usually enough. For more experienced candidates, a two- to three-page resume may be more appropriate.

The key? Everything on your resume should be relevant to the job, and there should be enough information for a hiring manager to connect what you've done to what they need.

Resume red flag #8: Inconsistent formatting

Inconsistent formatting can make your resume hard to read and give an impression of carelessness. This includes variations in font sizes, styles, and the overall layout.

A consistently formatted resume is easier to read and looks more professional. It shows you pay attention to detail and take pride in your work.

How to fix it: Use a consistent format throughout your resume. Here are some ways to do it:

  • Balance white space
  • Use clear headers, and maintain uniform bullet points. Here are a few tips:
  • Use the same font style and size throughout
  • Align your text
  • Use resume bullet points to list achievements
  • Align bullet points, dates, and job titles

Rather than submitting a poorly formatted resume that takes hours to structure, Teal's customizable formatting does all of the work for you without the need for manual adjustments.

Resume red flag #9: Misleading claims

Lying on your resume (or even heavily exaggerating) has a cost. And it can lead to serious consequences if discovered by employers. Misleading claims can damage your reputation and result in job offers being rescinded.

Even if you have employment gaps or what feels like excessive job hopping, honesty is the best policy when it comes to your career history.

Recruiters and hiring managers can verify your employment and most additional claims through background checks and references, so it’s important to be truthful about your qualifications and experience.

How to fix it: Highlight your genuine achievements in a way that makes sense for the job you're applying to. Focus on presenting your real strengths and accomplishments in a positive light. Remember, you actually want to be able to do the job.

Resume red flag #10: Incorrect or missing contact information

Missing or incorrect contact details can prevent people from reaching you. This includes your phone number, email address, and even your LinkedIn profile.

Making sure your contact information is accurate and up-to-date is crucial for communication. Even a simple mistake like an incorrect digit in your cell number can mean missed opportunities.

How to fix it: Regularly update your resume and double-check your contact information to ensure accuracy. Make sure your email address and phone number are correct, and include a link to your LinkedIn profile URL if applicable.

Resume red flag #11: Unprofessional email address

Using an unprofessional email address can make you seem less serious about a job application (or about your career as a whole). TLDR? It's definitely time to say goodbye to deltachifratparty0770@aol.com.

Email addresses that include nicknames, slang, or other unprofessional elements can create a negative impression and are a major resume red flag.

How to fix it: Create a professional email address using a format like firstname.lastname@example.com. If your preferred email address is already taken, consider adding a middle initial or your industry to make it unique.

Resume red flag #12: Personal information

Including personal information like your political stance, marital status, or other unrelated details isn't just irrelevant but can also lead to unconscious bias and distract from your key accomplishments..

How to fix it: Personal information that isn't directly related to your qualifications or job performance should be omitted from your resume. Stick to professional details only. Keep your resume focused on your relevant skills, experience, and achievements.

Resume red flag #13: Spelling and grammar mistakes

Typos and grammatical errors can make you appear unprofessional and inattentive to detail.

Proofreading your resume is essential to ensure it's free of errors. Even a single typo can detract from the professionalism of your resume and reduce your chances of landing an interview.

How to fix it: Use a spell-check tool or have someone proofread your resume. Watch out for common errors and ensure your resume is polished and professional.

Here are a few tips:

  • Read your resume out loud
  • Use a spell-check tool
  • Ask a friend or colleague to review your resume

Avoid resume red flags with Teal

Resume red flags can derail your job applications, but avoiding them can easily boost your chances of landing an interview for your dream job. A polished and professional resume is key to making a great impression.

Teal's AI Resume Builder makes it easy to optimize your resume for maximum impact. Matching Mode quickly compares your content to a job description and offers insights (and a Match Score) for how well your skills align with the position. Job Description Keywords help you use details from a JD to tailor your resume, and Flexible Resume Design ensures your content is formatted for a personalized, clear, and scannable approach.

Ready to create a resume that gets noticed for the right reasons?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a red flag on a resume?

A red flag on a resume is any detail that might make a recruiter or hiring manager hesitate to move a candidate forward in the hiring process. Examples include spelling errors, lack of quantifiable achievements, inconsistent formatting, and irrelevant information.

What are the red flags for resumes?

Resume red flags include spelling and grammar mistakes, lack of specific achievements, inconsistent formatting, irrelevant job experience, and use of unprofessional email addresses. These issues can overshadow your qualifications and reduce your chances of landing an interview.

Is my resume the problem?

Your resume might be the problem if you're not getting interview calls despite having relevant qualifications. Common issues—also known as red flags—include spelling errors, lack of tailored content to specific job descriptions, and missing achievements. Reviewing and refining these areas can significantly improve your resume's effectiveness.

Kayte Grady

Kayte, Senior Copywriter at Teal and Champion of ADHD professionals, is a seasoned writer passionate about storytelling and career growth. With a data-driven approach to content marketing and a word-nerd knack for resume builder analysis, Kayte’s on a mission to empower job seekers to land a job they love. Constantly pivoting and reinventing herself, this social-worker-turned-marketer found growth and camaraderie in tech—a genuine surprise given her never-ending devotion to the paper calendar.

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