Recruiters Share the Top 8 Reasons They Trash Resumes

Your resume has less than 30 seconds to stand out from the hundreds of other applicants. If successful, it has a 2% chance of getting an interview. You need to make it count.

With the vast amount of resumes that recruiters have to sift through, they don’t have the time to give each one the attention it deserves. Employers are looking for any excuse to weed out resumes and get the stack down to a manageable size. You won’t be selected for an interview if they immediately spot any red flags.

So, how can you ensure that your resume stands out from the rest and grabs the attention of the person reading it?

We asked recruiters what makes them say “no” to a resume, and here’s what they said.

1. Typos and Grammatical Errors

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Mistakes like typos and grammatical errors are the first red flags that employers notice. It shows that you don’t pay attention to detail or care about your work. Employers may think that you won’t do your job properly if you can’t even take the time to proofread your resume.

“They make an applicant appear sloppy and careless,” says Kimberley Tyler-Smith of Resume Worded. “I don’t expect perfection, but I expect people to care enough about their professional brand to make sure every word is spelled correctly and formatted correctly.”

Small mistakes are generally forgivable, but a resume full of errors sends the wrong message. Always use a spellchecker and get at least two people to proofread your resume and cover letter before applying.

If you notice multiple typos or major mistakes after you’ve submitted your resume, consider resending it. It may feel awkward, but it’s the best way to ensure that the employer sees your qualifications, not your mistakes.

2. An Unprofessional Email Address

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When reviewing your resume, your email address is one of the first things a recruiter or hiring manager will see.

If you want to be one of the 6-10 candidates interviewed for the job, don’t use that cute or funny email address you created years ago as a teenager. It comes across as unprofessional and gives employers a reason to reject your application.

Create a free email address using your name or a variation of it. It’s an easy way to make a positive and professional first impression and helps to keep your job search organized.

On that same note, don’t use your current work email to apply for another job. It suggests that you are applying for jobs on company time instead of outside of work, plus you run the risk of your current employer finding out you are looking for a new job.

3. Employment Gaps

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It is common to have one or two employment gaps on your resume. Starting a family, traveling, or returning to school are a few valid reasons to take time off from work.

“Increasingly, hiring managers are open to hearing a candidate’s story regarding their work history and education. If you have the exact skills they are looking for, gaps in employment are not a deal breaker,” says William Crawford Stonehouse III of Crawford Thomas.

However, multiple and large gaps are big red flags that recruiters will notice immediately. They imply that you are unreliable, not good at time management, or simply not interested in working. Employers will fear you will also quit this job when faced with pressure or challenges.

Don’t put any doubt in their mind. If your resume has multiple gaps, include a brief but honest explanation in your cover letter. Tell them what you did while you were unemployed.

“I want to see an explanation,” says Stacey Mallory of Altis Recruitment. “I always coach candidates to not leave anything unanswered in their resume.”

If you can, try to spin the gap in a positive light. For example, if you took time off to raise your children, you can talk about how that experience has made you more patient and a better communicator.

Whatever you do, don’t try to hide your employment gap. Potential employers will likely find out about it eventually, which will only make you look dishonest.

4. Job Hopping

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With the rise of the gig economy and the decline of traditional 9-5 employment, more people are finding themselves job hopping. There are all kinds of reasons people look for a new job, such as higher pay, better benefits, and flexible schedules.

“Millennials and Gen Z are switching jobs more often than not,” adds Stonehouse. “For better or for worse, this may be the new normal.”

Be careful, though. Frequent job-hopping on your resume is a red flag for employers. They see this as a sign that you lack commitment or are always looking for something better.

There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of new opportunities, but consider how they look. Employers don’t want to invest in someone who frequently changes jobs without justification.

“Managers understand that people have to leave if the company can’t offer an employee the growth opportunities they need to continue developing and moving forward in their career,” says Mallory. “Whether it’s for professional growth, to change industries, or if it’s a contract role, I don’t see job hopping as a red flag as long as it’s explainable.”

Whatever your reason, be honest and explain how job-hopping has helped you grow and become a better employee.

5. Too Much Personal Information

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It’s smart to show a little personality on your resume, but too much personal information is a big red flag.

You only have a few seconds to show employers you can do the job. Don’t waste them by including details that aren’t relevant.

Highlight your experience, skills, and accomplishments, but don’t tell your life story. Employers don’t want to read about how you like to go camping or that you won a tennis tournament in high school. You will have the opportunity to let your personality shine through at the interview.

It is also illegal for employers to ask you about specific personal details, such as your marital status and religious beliefs, so don’t bother adding them.

6. Obvious A.I.

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Using A.I. tools like ChatGPT during your job search can be useful. But even though this technology is new, it is very obvious to recruiters who have used A.I. to write their resume and cover letter and those who customize it.

“I look for clues about a candidate’s communication skills and writing styles on their resume,” says hiring manager Sarah Miller. “A vague, robotic-sounding application doesn’t tell me anything and can actually work against you.”

You are being judged at every stage of the hiring process. If a recruiter suspects that you simply asked A.I. to throw together a resume and cover letter for you, they will just throw it out. They may assume that you are lazy and will take shortcuts on the job, too.

So, use A.I. as an assistant when applying for a job, not as a replacement.

7. Too Much Design

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The overall look of your resume is the first thing a recruiter sees, and it’s hard to look past bad formatting.

For example, a wall of text with no white space is incredibly hard to read, so a busy recruiter might not even bother trying. The same can be said for resumes with bad font choices. And things like graphics, pictures, and emojis look childish.

“A little design is a good way to not have a resume that looks like everyone else’s,” Miller adds, “but if I have to search for the applicant’s job titles and skills, it becomes frustrating, and there’s a good chance that I’ll miss their top qualifications.”

8. Ranking Your Own Skills

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Employers want to know what you are skilled at, but there is a right way – and a wrong way – to include your skills on your resume.

Adding a list of skills with zero context isn’t helpful, but ranking your skills is worse. What exactly does being “4 out of 5 stars” at MS Office mean? Or “half a circle” fluent in Spanish?

A hiring manager will not understand this, and neither will ATS screening software. It’s just taking up space on your resume and leaves more questions than it answers.

Instead, incorporate your skills throughout your resume. Use the bullet points to describe your work responsibilities and how your skills led to your various accomplishments. For example:

  1. Efficiently managed office operations by coordinating schedules, organizing meetings, and handling communications; demonstrated proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), excellent time management, strong interpersonal skills, and attention to detail
  2. Operated and maintained heavy machinery, including forklifts and excavators, ensuring compliance with safety regulations; demonstrated skills in equipment repair, workplace safety, manual labor, and team collaboration to consistently meet project deadlines

Don’t Let Red Flags Ruin Your Career Path

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Resumes aren’t always fun to prepare, but they are necessary if you want a successful career. It’s all about avoiding these red flags and making it easy for the reader to know exactly why they need to interview you for the job.

The Resume-Worthy Skills Employers Can’t Ignore

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With hundreds of people applying for coveted positions, standing out in a competitive job market can feel impossible. So how can you ensure your resume doesn’t get lost in the shuffle?

The answer lies in one word: skills.

From in-demand technical proficiencies to sought-after soft skills, we’ve curated the definitive list of the top 25 skills that employers simply can’t resist.

Free Resume Help

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There are endless amounts of resume tips and tricks out there – no wonder people are intimidated to write one on their own. But it’s really not that difficult. If you are a good match for the role, making a strong resume will be a snap.

Developing a strong resume takes time, as it’s unique to you and your experiences. That’s why getting help with your resume is essential, especially if you’ve been looking for a job for a while.

The good news is that there are plenty of free ways to get resume help, whether you want to do it yourself with a little support or want more hands-on assistance.

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