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You’ve got a ton of applicants and need to narrow the field down quickly. While it’s only at the interview stage that you can really assess whether your candidate is right for the job, a CV can tell you a lot about a prospective employee if you know how to read between the lines.
CV red flags, though not a reason to reject an application outright, warn you that something is amiss, and an efficient screening process should filter out the worst of the troublemakers. Here, then, are 7 CV red flags to keep an eye out for:
1. The Wording Is Vague
Vague qualifiers such as “familiar with”, “participated in”, “assisted with” and so on tend to be used when a candidate does not have the required work experience, knowledge, or skills.
Familiarity with an area of work doesn’t tell you that they are at all competent in that area. Participation in a team doesn’t tell you that they made any meaningful contribution. “Assisted with” is often code for ‘observed’.
If you decide to bring this candidate to interview, make sure to question them closely on their past experience.
2. Lack of Objectivity
Someone who describes themselves as a “visionary thinker” or “creative innovator” is either hopelessly naïve, arrogant, or both. These are labels you can aspire to, or be given by others, but never claim for yourself.
Genuine creative innovators will simply provide clear evidence of their innovation and leave you to draw the conclusion. Grandiose titles, especially without the backing of a list of impressive accomplishments, are simply a load of hot air.
3. Suspect References
A candidate’s choice of references can be very telling. Have they listed their immediate supervisor as a reference or someone who did not supervise them directly?
If the latter, it may be the case that they have something to hide.
4. Attempting to Hide Employment Gaps
Employment gaps are a classic CV red flag, but this status seems a little unwarranted. After all, what’s wrong with occasionally taking some time out from employment to travel, study, spend time with family, recover from illness, or indeed simply relax? Some of the most efficient employees are those who appreciate there is more to life than work.
It is a little worrying, however, if a candidate attempts to hide their employment gaps. Multiple unexplained gaps in an applicant’s employment history casts doubt over their commitment to work and suggests they may view this job merely as a stop-gap measure to tide them over until their next break.
A candidate may also try to hide employment gaps in order to give the impression that they held their previous position for longer than they actually did. This can be done, for example, by giving the dates of previous employment only in years, omitting months and days.
5. Duties over Achievements
Anyone with any work experience at all can list a few duties, while only someone who worked well in their previous position can list their achievements.
The absence of such a list suggests that the applicant only did the bare minimum, failed to take initiative, and didn’t take all that much pride in their work.
6. Evidence That a Career Has Gone Backwards
A successful career path is typically one of increasing responsibility. Evidence of decreasing responsibility suggests that previous employment has gone badly and that the candidate generally isn’t up to the tasks set for them.
Of course, there can be legitimate reasons for a candidate to have accepted a less responsible role in the past. They may, for instance, have had childcare responsibilities, a period of illness, bereavement, or other caring duties.
If you decide to call the candidate for interview, it is important to ascertain why their career path has dipped without crossing the boundary from professional to personal.
7. Poor Writing
You may or may not require employees with excellent writing skills, but either way, a candidate who does not take the time to ensure that a document as important as their job application is clear, concise, and free from basic grammar and spelling mistakes is unlikely to be the dedicated worker with an eye for detail that you need.