Bridge Insights

Ask A Recruiter: What Makes you Pass on an Applicant when Reviewing Resumes?

Nov 15, 2021

If you’re job hunting, your resume is the first impression an employer, hiring manager, or recruiter has of you. This single sheet of paper must be carefully and thoughtfully constructed and be aesthetically appealing to the eye, because if it’s not, well, that could cost you the job.

As a recruiter, I know being a resume writing expert and being a great candidate is not always the same thing, but there are certain aspects of your resume that make hiring managers place your resume in the “pass” pile. While that list differs from recruiter to recruiter (see the big debate on typos and spelling errors), there are certain resume “red flags” that you’ll want to avoid because they are universal dealbreakers:

1. Lack of Structure

If a resume just has information thrown on the page, and I can’t clearly distinguish one job from the next, recruiters most likely will move on.

Resumes should have a structure so it is easy for the recruiter to identify each of your positions and what you did at them. If you’re not able to communicate your past experiences on paper, there’s a good chance that lack of clarity impacts other areas of your professional persona. As a recruiter, it would then be irresponsible of me to place you in a position where clear communication is needed to be successful.

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2. Organization

This goes hand in hand with structure. Your work history should be listed in chronological order (whether you have your most recent job at the top descending to your oldest, or vice versa). Education, skills, additional experience, etc. should all have their own sections as well.

Again, a large part of your resume is “show don’t tell” and your layout tells a recruiter a lot about how you process data, organize it and communicate it to others. If you struggle to organize your past experiences on paper, it raises a red flag about how organized you are in other facets of your professional wheelhouse (like time management, multitasking, taking notes, etc.).

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3. Missing Dates

For me, this one won’t win you an automatic thumbs down, but I know I am the exception to the rule. Including the start and end dates of your previous jobs helps tell the story of you! Recruiters like to see these dates on your resume because it gives us a better idea of what jobs kept you engaged and which ones didn’t. It also speaks to longevity and helps us identify any gaps in employment. This is helpful specifically to staffing agency recruiters because it helps us when we go to bat for you with our clients.

It also helps streamline any processes where we’d need that information –like a reference check or employment verification– and we’re all about getting you hired as fast as possible.

4. Extensive Typos and Grammar Mistakes

As I mentioned earlier, every recruiter is different and each of us has a different tolerance level for typos before we decide to pass on an applicant. For me, my threshold is usually 3, but this can vary depending on the job you’re applying to. For others, it’s 10, but for a lot of recruiters, it’s 0.

The reason grammar is next to godliness on your resume is that it speaks to a candidate’s attention to detail and written communication skills, which is important for some opportunities.
Additionally, whether this is your intention or not, it gives us insight into how much care was put into writing your resume. The correlation then is if you care about your resume, you’re serious about your job search and/or want to be seen as a serious contender for the jobs you’re applying to.

That’s not to say mistakes can’t happen, but chances are a person who is applying to jobs simply to apply to jobs isn’t going to go the extra mile in making sure their resume is free from errors.

Sloppily throwing together your resume and not proofreading it (or having someone else look it over for you) will only hurt you in the long run. Yes, you may get your resume out there faster and in front of more people, but more people will pass on your resume, too. Cutting corners means more work, more time job searching and fewer opportunities in the long run.


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Getting the Green Light

In the same way you wouldn’t show up to an interview looking like you just rolled out of bed, don’t let your resume look like it did. Remember, cutting corners only hurts you in the long run!

If you’re not sure where to start, check out some reputable resume samples and templates to get the ball rolling. (We even made some templates you can download to get you started!)
Resume writing is very much about planning and preparation. Take your time and write your resume so that it:

  • Reads clearly
  • Is organized and well thought out
  • Has start and end dates in their proper places
  • Is free from any grammar and spelling errors (Tip: It never hurts to use spell check and have fresh eyes proofread it)

Taking your time and checking for all of these things makes your resume more appealing and you more likely to move from the resume inbox into the interview room!