Resume Red Flags

keyboard with caution cone

Have you ever stretched the truth? Do you see any harm in a little white lie once in a while? If you’re being honest right now, you likely have told a few half-truths in your life.

But what about your work experience? Have you ever exaggerated, or made your previous position sound a little more glamorous than it actually was. Although most of us wouldn’t dream of lying about work experience, data shows many people lie to get the job. According to and HireRight’s Benchmark Report, 85 percent of employers caught applicants fibbing on their resumes, up from 66 percent from just five years ago. There are a few things you can do to spot the phrases and characteristics that typically go along with misleading resumes.


What kind of employee do you want on your team? A go-getter? How about a team-player? Everyone wants a people-person, right? The answer is a loud, resounding, NO. The only thing these phrases tell you about a candidate is that they are most likely lazy or seriously lacking the ability to pitch themselves. When reviewing resumes and applications, look out for overused and meaningless buzzwords candidates think hiring professionals want to see. These aren’t outright lies per se, but they are often misleading. Yes, it sounds great that an applicant is a strategic thinker, but what does that mean? These phrases rely on your concept of what a strategic thinker is without hearing from the applicant how they think strategically.


Not everyone has a strong grasp on computer skills, and in some positions, it really doesn’t matter. But even with a basic level of computer skills, applicants should be able to format and edit their own resume. There is no excuse for a poorly formatted or illegible resume. Spelling errors, grammatical errors and basic formatting issues have no place on a professional resume. There are plenty of resources to assist an applicant in crafting a resume. Overly designed resumes also create problems for applicants and hiring managers. In fact, an overdesigned resume can be a distraction from the content. Look for resumes with quality, to the point information.

Vague Explanations

Resumes and cover letters need to be specific. The resume should outline how they performed in previous positions and what they achieved. Words like ‘results-driven’ or ‘value add’ don’t tell you anything in terms of what that value is. Look for resumes with specific examples of how they contributed results or numbers to demonstrate growth. Success will depend on the position and industry but a good resume will back up strengths. Specifics not only help you initially vet the applicant, they give you data points and topics to guide future conversations.  

Job Description

Lying on a resume creates big problems for both applicants and hiring managers, and applicants aren’t the only ones to blame. With inaccurate information, hiring managers can’t make the right decision and the applicant inevitably won’t stack up to expectations. The uptick in false resumes is fueled by higher demands from employers, strict experience requirements and applicants trying to make it around applicant tracking systems.

You can slow down the false resumes and cover letters at the first step. Think about the message your job description sends and what it’s asking for from applicants. Don’t write your description as an unattainable list of ‘must haves’ incompatible with the compensation and job title. Make sure the job description explains the necessary experience, but leave room to learn more about applicants. This will contribute to fewer white lies and more conversations about actual strengths.

These are just a few of the things you can do to spot resumes that don’t stack up to the quality, motivated applicants. Be wary of results-driven, hard-working, thought leaders – they might not be your best bet.

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