Imagine: You’re sorting through a stack of resumes nearly as tall as your desk, trying to figure out which of the dozens or even hundreds of candidates is the right one for you. There’s got to be some quick and easy way to get through each of these resumes, uncovering great candidates along the way.

Many HR specialists and recruiters sort through resumes by looking for “red flags” and using them as a way to eliminate certain candidates. However, as a recent article at points out, you could be doing yourself (and these candidates) a disservice. In order to ensure you’re getting the best candidates for the position, it’s worth knowing which red flags need to be banned and which ones you should definitely use. Today, we’ll take a look at many common red flags and give you the scoop on how effective they are:

Job hopping

One of the first aspects of a resume that many HR folks look at is job tenure. Candidates who are seen as “job hoppers” might get sent to the bottom of the pile. But should job hopping be considered a red flag?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure for employees is 4.6 years – dropping down to just 3.2 years for the average 25 – 34 year old. Gone are the days of lifetime employment with the same company. Today’s employees, in fact, often consider the opposite side of the argument: How long is too long to stay at a job? For many job candidates, especially younger ones, evidence of job hopping on a resume may not be cause to eliminate them from the hiring process – hiring managers should use their discretion to decide how much is too much when it comes to job changes.


In the past, it was thought that people who are overqualified for their jobs may request too much money or might simply be unhappy in a position. But it turns out that this thinking may be outdated. Could it be time to retire this red flag?

The recession changed many of the traditional tenets of hiring, especially when it comes to overqualification. Many job seekers may have years of experience, but have been unemployed for prolonged periods due to the poor economy. Consider giving overqualified employees the benefit of the doubt, especially if they match what you’re looking for in an employee.

Large gaps between jobs

A big gap between jobs can raise some eyebrows (and red flags) in the hiring manager’s office. Questions about what the job candidate was doing during that time can come up. Should long periods of unemployment be an automatic red flag for employers?

There are many reasons for having a gap between jobs. Whether it’s economy-related unemployment or actively choosing to stay out of the workforce, a resume gap can often be legitimate. If the candidate otherwise has the skills you’re looking for, consider giving them an interview – you can use this time to discuss what skills they may have picked up during their period of unemployment. For example, traveling could lead to language skills, or a stay-at-home mom who’s reentering the workforce may be great at prioritizing. Give them a chance to explain before you write them off.

There are plenty of red flags that may come up during the hiring process. Some red flags, such as a history of criminal behavior uncovered by a screening service, may be cause for not offering a job. However, in many cases, red flags are merely yield signs. Before you eliminate somebody from the running for an open position, consider giving them a shot, especially if they’re otherwise a good candidate.

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