10 Resume Red Flags That Could Cost You the Job in 2023

Worried about potential red flags on your resume? Here are the top 10 dealbreakers to avoid — plus tips on how to overcome red flags on a resume.

10 days ago   •   5 min read

By Resume Worded Editorial Team
Table of contents

Every hiring manager has their own preferences, but there are some things that all recruiters agree are red flags when it comes to resumes. Anything that raises doubts about your professionalism, integrity, or attention to detail at the early stages of a job application can be an immediate dealbreaker — regardless of how perfect your skills, experience, or qualifications may be otherwise.

In short: Employers want to see resumes that are clear, concise, and easy to read, targeted at the job you’re applying for, and free of obvious mistakes. Before you let hours (or even days or weeks) of effort go to waste over a simple mistake, scroll through our top 10 tips for how to overcome red flags on your resume.

10 Red Flags on a Resume

According to recruiters, here are the 10 most common red flags on a resume that could lead to you missing out on a job.

1. Lack of attention to detail

Why it’s a red flag: The first thing hiring managers want to see is that you actually care about getting the job. Even small mistakes can send a message that you couldn’t be bothered to proofread your resume — even if you did.

How to fix it: Make sure your resume is free from spelling and grammatical mistakes, missing words, incorrect dates or business names, obvious cut and paste errors, and placeholder text. Don’t just rely on the automated spellcheck function — reading it aloud, uploading it to a free resume checker, or getting a friend or family member to help can all flag any mistakes you may have missed the first time around.

2. Poor formatting

Why it’s a red flag: It’s not just a matter of aesthetics — poorly formatted resumes are harder to read, impossible to skim, and make it difficult for recruiters to notice key information. Bad formatting may even cause issues with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which can lead to your resume getting rejected even if you’re a good fit.

How to fix it: Run your resume through our Score My Resume tool to pick up any formatting issues that may be messing with ATS.

3. Too much (or too little) personal information

Why it’s a red flag: Including too many personal details looks unprofessional and — in the worst case scenario — can put you at risk of discrimination. On the other hand, not including essential information (like your contact details) looks like carelessness and makes it more difficult for recruiters to contact you.

How to fix it: Make sure your resume header and contact information contain the standard details — no more and no less.

Always include your:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Location

Never include your:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Political affiliation

4. Unprofessional email addresses

Why it’s a red flag: It only takes a few minutes to sign up for a free email address, which means that holding on to an old, inappropriate email address sends the message that you couldn’t be bothered to put in even the bare minimum effort to appear professional.

How to fix it: You don’t need your own domain to look professional. Any standard free email provider (like Gmail) is fine. Ideally, your address should be some combination of your first, last, and middle names — play around with it until you find one that isn’t taken.

5. Social media presence

Why it’s a red flag: In 2023, you’d better believe that the majority of employers will do a social media check as part of their vetting process. While having no social media presence isn’t likely to be a red flag (except in certain industries, like online marketing), showing poor judgment on social media definitely is.

How to fix it: Maintain an active LinkedIn profile so it’s the first thing recruiters see when they search for you online. If you have personal social media accounts, keep them employer-friendly (or lock them down completely).

6. Employment gaps, short stays, and unexpected departures

Why it’s a red flag: In 2023, why do employers still care about resume gaps? The truth is, some don’t — and that number is only getting larger — but many still do, especially in more old-fashioned or conservative industries. An unexplained gap in employment, history of job hopping, or leaving your current job after only a short time can sometimes indicate that you were fired, left on bad terms, or are likely to leave this job early or without warning.

How to fix it: Address any resume gaps simply and directly. If you left a job after a short time for a good reason — for example, if it was always intended as a short-term contract — it’s also okay to indicate that on your resume.

7. Multiple career changes

Why it’s a red flag: Changing careers is more common in 2023 than it was even five or ten years ago — but that doesn’t mean everyone understands it. If your overall career trajectory is hard to follow or you’ve bounced around to multiple unrelated jobs or industries without a clear goal, recruiters may wonder if you’ll be unable to commit to this one, too.

How to fix it: If you’re changing careers, address your reasoning upfront with a brief resume summary. If you’re worried about not having the right background, focus on relevant accomplishments and transferable skills instead.

8. Lack of career progression

Why it’s a red flag: Hiring managers want to see motivation, drive, and a willingness to learn new things. While you may just be happy in your current role, most recruiters see flat career progression as a lack of ambition — or as a sign that you’ve been knocked back from positions with more responsibility.

How to fix it: If you’ve ever been promoted, highlight that on your resume. If not, include examples of accomplishments where you’ve taken on additional responsibilities, learned something new, or otherwise stepped out of your comfort zone.

9. Outdated skills

Why it’s a red flag: Listing common skills like “email” or “Microsoft Word” implies one of two things — that you don’t have any better skills to list, or that you don’t realize those skills have become standard in 2023. The first means that you’re probably not a great fit, while the second risks age-related discrimination.

How to fix it: Scan the job description for must-have skills and use our hard skills and keywords finder for a list of common (and up to date) skills by industry or job title.

10. Generic resumes

Why it’s a red flag: Your resume should tell a story about why you’re a good fit for the job you’re applying for. What it shouldn’t do is look like you’ve sent the exact same document to every single job you’ve ever applied for. That implies either a lack of suitability or a lack of effort — either of which can cost you the job.

How to fix it: Tailor your resume to the specific job you’re applying for by emphasizing the most essential parts of your background, qualifications, and experience, and leaving out any information that isn’t relevant — including past jobs. You can also use our Targeted Resume tool to check your resume against the job description and get feedback on how to make your resume an even better match.

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