4 Red Flags That Make Me Instantly Throw Away a Resume, According to a Recruiter

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Allie Hofer32
April 18, 2024 at 11:39AM UTC

Q: What red flags make you throw out a resume?

It was only a handful of years ago that candidates didn’t need to worry about finding a way around the technology of Applicant Tracking Systems to get noticed. And while the built-in efficiency in this type of software has been game-changing for people in my profession, it has not come without transferring much of the burden from talent managers to job seekers. 

Whether it’s investing time on an often-overlooked question on the job application, or going to great lengths to get your LinkedIn profile optimized, one thing is certain: applying for a job that you are serious about landing takes time. So if you don’t want all the time you’ve already invested on the application and your LinkedIn profile to go to waste, heed the following advice. Because if you don’t, your resume will be deleted before those other things are even reviewed.

1. Your resume is not results-focused.

Often times, individuals are so proud of the projects they’ve had the opportunity to work on and the unique work experiences they’ve had in their career that they fail to illustrate the measurable impact of them. If you created an Excel spreadsheet that talks to another spreadsheet and can produce insights for your company in just a few seconds, tell me why those insights are meaningful for the company. I understand that, at times, not all of us are lucky enough to see a project through from start to finish, but I’ll still need to be aware how the work input was instrumental in the desired outcome.

2. You uploaded a .txt file of your resume.

This one bothers me quite a bit. It takes too much work to read that horrifying font that defaults in a .txt document. It takes way too much of my time to work on discerning where a paragraph break is supposed to be or how the dates that aren’t right or left aligned correspond with which position. Even if I did choose to spend the time trying to figure out a linear story of your work history, I do not want to spend even more time asking you for a cleaner file of your resume for the hiring manager.

3. You’re misrepresenting your education.

Especially with my clients, we are having a lot of conversations around starting to consider non-degreed job seeker candidates who have achieved non-traditional training from either their own experience or from pursuing education on modern, self-starter platforms like Coursera. There’s been a proliferation in the ways people learn since the Internet, but hiring practices haven’t shifted. So while talent managers across industries are starting to loosen up on the bachelor’s degree requirement, it is still important to be clear about whether or not you have earned a degree.

I see too many resumes that list a college or university and specify a field of study, but do not specify a graduation date or a degree type. In the event a degree is required and we are not able to flex on that requirement, it takes too much work for me to email you and ask you whether a degree is earned, if it is still in progress, or if what is listed is meant to indicate that you once attended but did not end up earning a degree. Be specific.

4. Your resume has spelling errors.

I’m a stickler about this one. And it’s not just me. A client of mine has been known to send “Company-All” emails regarding the appropriate use of commas, the lack of proper sentence structure they’ve been noticing in email communications, and the importance of not relying on spell check to correct all errors. And if they’re taking internal email communications this seriously, imagine how much more is expected of a resume, which is supposed to be a final, perfectly-formatted, living document. Spell check, then check it yourself, then have someone else check it. It matters.

Before you think you’ve perfected your resume because it has all of the right keywords and your job application is equally as flawless because you’ve got an “in” with the company, double check to make sure your resume doesn’t have any of the qualities above. Happy searching!


Hi, there! I’m Allie Hofer, an HR professional and work-life balance enthusiast. More officially, I’m a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Society of Human Resource Management – Certified Professional (SHRM-CP). After having my first child, I opted out of the traditional office setting to work from home. Since then, I have been consulting with organizations in the public and private sectors to support the Human Resources function in recruiting, compensation, training and development, and performance management. I started Office Hours to offer a boutique HR solution for small and medium-sized businesses and to help candidates navigate and completely own their career paths

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