What Recruiters Hate on Resumes: 12 Must-Know Tips + (Video & Slides)

What recruiters hate on resumes - shows resume in trash can

Do you want to know some of recruiters biggest pet peeves when it comes to resume? Do you know what recruiters hate on resumes and more than likely will guarantee your resume on the discard pile?

In today’s article, you’re going to learn some resume faux pas to watch out for so you can make sure your resume has its best chance of getting seen, and then you get called in for an interview.

Let’s go ahead and dive into the first one.




Not Currently Local

In many situations, companies want local/residents to apply, and this is for a number of reasons. Locals will not have to pick up and move to a new place, they can normally start earlier, and they are more likely to accept the job. The last item you might not agree with and that is fine, but many times, when it comes down to signing the contract and moving to a new place, you’d be surprised at the number of people that get cold feet and turn down the position.

Not currently local

International candidates present their own difficulties to companies. First off, recruiting an international candidate takes a lot of time. Processing work papers takes time, it’s cumbersome, and it is costly. In many cases, if you do not have the legal right to work in the country, your resume won’t get selected. More than likely, it won’t even be considered by the applicant tracking system.

As a side note for international candidates, if you are highly qualified or have an experience that other individuals do not have, this may be the exception. In many cases, recruiters know what jobs are hard to fill, so they may be willing to recruit internationally.

If you are not in that last bucket, and not a local, you are probably in the group of what recruiters hate on resumes.


Have The Legal Right To Work In The Country?

This one was mentioned in the last paragraph, but it deserves its own paragraph. So, what do recruiters hate on resumes here? Well, to start with, normally when you are submitting your resume, there are fields for you to fill in with extra information. This could be your address, contact information, specific interview questions e.g. “Why do you want to work here?” and sometimes a question that comes written in multiple ways but means the same thing – “Are you authorized to work in the USA?”

If you are not legally able to work in the USA and you have submitted your resume, this can many times send your resume straight to the bin. One thing to look out for is, some companies are willing to sponsor individuals – this means they can hire foreign nationals who don’t have work papers in the USA. Normally, this is stated in the job description. Other times and typically you will see, “Sponsorship Not Available.”

What recruiters hate on resumes - legal right to work in USA

Always make sure you look for this information on the job description. It’s not that the company is necessarily against international candidates, it is more because of the big hassle, cost, and time it takes to hire them and get them started.


Minimum Qualifications Were Not Met

What do recruiters hate on resumes? Not having the proper experience, whether it be in education, professional experience, or skill-wise, this will more than likely be a turn off for the recruiter and will land your resume in the not relevant file.

Remember, when you apply to positions, take a good look at the job description. Carefully read the education section, the job requirements, and the minimum qualifications and preferred qualifications. If your profile is not a good fit i.e. your skills don’t really match the description, it is probably not worth taking the time to apply. You need to make a good judgment every time you apply for a role. Ask yourself, do my skills, experience, and education at least tick 7 out of 10 of the requirements?

If your profile is a good match and you feel like you have the skills for the job, then, by all means, you should definitely apply if it is a job of interest.


Employment Gaps

Another flag raiser for recruiters is employment gaps. Imagine a candidate has worked from say 2012 – 2013 and then the next employment listed on the resume is 2017 – Present. What happened to the candidate in those 4 years? That is a massive amount of time to be out of a job.

Obviously, there could have been health issues or another plausible reason for the gap, but many recruiters are hesitant on interviewing candidates with big gaps.

What to do if you have gaps on your resume? The best thing you can do in this situation is, if you are out of work for an extended period, make sure you are still taking online courses, honing your skills, and keeping active. Always try to show other things you have done during time away from work.


Didn’t Name Resume

Although this may seem like a no-brainer, I have received literally thousands of resumes in the past and I can’t emphasize enough the number of resumes that were labeled with the positions name or some random title. If you are not using an applicant tracking system, it can be very hard to know which resume came from which person. This is a major pet peeve and it works against you.

Name your resume

Tip: Make sure to always name your resume. It can be something as simple as: Philip Chesney Resume. It doesn’t have to be anything special; it just needs to be searchable and easy to find.


Short Stays At Previous Jobs

One major red flag raiser for recruiters is when a candidate spends very little time at jobs. Although time over the years has decreased and employees no longer complete a career at a company, it is still “expected” by many recruiters that you at least spend a year or two. Obviously, the time you spend is highly debatable and will vary from recruiter to recruiter, professional to professional. The one thing you can be assured of is that spending only 4 months at a job is going to raise some eyebrows. If you spent less time, well, even worse. Now this doesn’t go without saying that there are some jobs that are short-term or temporary positions.

Short stays at jobs are things recruiters don't like

Tips: If you have had very short stays at jobs, think about whether it’s worth adding the experience. However, if you have done temporary jobs or assignments, make sure to add these experiences and clearly label them as temp projects. Clearly distinguishing one from the other will help you when the recruiter looks over your resume.


10-30 Second Quick Review Of Resume

If you didn’t know this, well, now you will, but most recruiters spend anywhere between 10-30 seconds skimming over a resume. Some even say the time can be as low as 6 seconds on the first look. This makes it very difficult to really sell yourself, but there are some tricks. What recruiters hate on resumes – poorly formatted resumes. If your resume is just a sea of text and looks closer to a book that you get out of the library, it is not going to make it past the 10-30 second review.

Consider different resume formats where the recruiter can quickly read over your resume and get a gist of your professional experience, education, and skills. You can find many templates online, or even on Microsoft Word templates. See what works best for you.

lack of formatting on a resume

Tips: Don’t just rely on your own perspective, involve others. Get a friend, teacher, or parent to read over your resume and see how they like the formatting. Ask them the following questions:

  • What did you think of the formatting? How easy was it to read? How easy was it to find information?
  • Did you have any questions or suggestions?

Next, have them read the job description and then glance over your resume for 30 seconds. Does the position seem like a good fit? Remember, the recruiter is going to do the same thing. You should try to emulate your own professional experience to the job you are applying for. Doing this will help recruiters pick you out of the line up and call you in for an interview because they believe you are a good fit.

One thing I forgot to mention. While recruiters take 10-30 seconds to review your resume, that is just to put you in the Yes or No pile. Obviously, they would then review the Yes pile and dive into your resume, thus spending more time on it.

Need a resume template? Check out this one


Bad Grammar and Poor Spelling

What irritates recruiters? Most definitely bad grammar and poor spelling are major contenders and WILL tarnish your profile and more than likely eliminate your chances of getting called in for an interview. One thing that can be asserted is, if you have many spelling or grammar mistakes, you lack attention to detail, and this works against you. Also, one fact is, there is no excuse to have these types of mistakes. With tools like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or Grammarly, you have a whole suite of tools at your disposal that can help you clean up any text, especially your resume.

spelling mistakes on a resume

Take advantage of these tools. Don’t leave your resume to chance. It is important to create a great first impression when the recruiter reads over your resume.


10-page Resumes

Yes, I know, it seems a bit dramatic. What I want to focus on here is you need to know how to present your professional experience and skills in a concise manner. Your resume shouldn’t be more than 2-pages long, if not only 1-page. Obviously, if you have had years of experience, you can add a second page, but don’t go adding 6 pages. The fact is recruiters will not review it. This ends up turning off the recruiters and your likelihood of getting called in for an interview is much lower.

avoid having a ten page resume

Tips: be concise and write a maximum of two-pages.


Your Work Experience Doesn’t Match The Current Position

A real eyebrow-raiser is when a very qualified individual or one with very specific experience sends his resume to a job. For instance, let’s take an anesthesiologist sending his resume for a technical product manager role at a telecom company. First off, what is the connection? Second, how does the professional experience match the job description. In all likelihood, it doesn’t. This will be a tough sell for recruiters and more than likely your resume won’t be shortlisted.

your work experience on your resume should match the job description

Tip: if your previous positions don’t match or are not similar to the role you are applying for, but you deem it is a good fit, you’ll need to do some resume tweaking. You will need to mirror your resume to the job description. If you have the specific skills the role requests, adjust your resume to match the description. This really helps when recruiters read your resume. They more than likely will see it and say, “wow, this is what we’re looking for”.

Tips for high school resumes

Tips for college student resumes


Overselling Yourself In Your Resume

A resume is a great place to sell yourself, but it can also work against you. Some people try to oversell themselves and the great things they have done, and it reaches a point where it is just not believable. Make sure to keep your resume realistic. Always have someone else read your resume so they can provide you with feedback.


Your Salary Request Is Out Of Budget

For our last item that recruiters hate on resumes – super-high salaries. Sometimes you believe your self-worth is X, but the company is only willing to pay Y. In many cases, when there is a big difference between them, the recruiter more than likely won’t bother contacting you as they know they can’t afford you or are unwilling to pay that price.

More information on Salary Requirements in this article.

The main tip here is, when you are applying for a job, make sure you have a salary range in mind that is acceptable to you, but also within the range expected for that particular role. Nowadays it is a bit easier as you have more sources to check about salary. Sites like Payscale and Glassdoor can give you more information about companies and has a section for different salaries. It is worthwhile to check these sites out and compare what your own salary expectations are. Also, try to find out what your city or region pays. Sometimes different regions have a very different salary due to the cost of life. One example of this is San Francisco VS Dallas. The first is much more expensive than the second.

salary requirement is too high for the job


Slide Deck


Wrap up

What recruiters hate on resumes – the fact is, many things, and every recruiter is slightly different. The above-mentioned items are only some of the main pet peeves or turn-offs, but there are always others. Whenever you submit a resume, keep these in mind. Always try to maximize your chances of getting called into an interview. Following these tips can help give you that edge.

For more job-hunting and interviewing tips, check out the other articles on the Careerprep blog and the CareerPrep Youtube channel.


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