CV Red Flags – have you spotted them?

CV Red Flags by Adrian Cheesman, MD Demob Job Ltd

If you are in a position where you are considering CVs in order to draw up an interview shortlist you will have developed a good eye for potential ‘Red Flags’.

Having worked in the ex-military recruitment sector for close to ten years I am a keen advocate that a CV does not always reflect the candidate in question.  Sitting behind a poor CV could be a potential excellent candidate and likewise an excellent CV could turn out to be a poor candidate.

As an employer this risk is reduced significantly if you are using a reputable professional recruitment agency as candidates being introduced will have been interviewed and should be accompanied by written/verbal summary notes indicating their suitability.

Some of the ‘Red Flags’ we look out for are listed below.

  • Employment Gaps.  This is a classic ‘Red Flag’, the CV indicates breaks in employment, sometimes lengthy breaks.  This is an area that needs to be explored in detail at the interview stage and normally there is good reason for the break i.e. career break, family carer, job seeking activities etc.  As a passing note employment gaps can be hard to spot on a functional CV.


  • Poor Spelling/Grammar.  A CV which contains spelling and/or grammatical mistakes gives a poor initial impression.  This is especially true if the candidate has listed ‘Eye for detail’ on his CV or the job being applied for requires report writing etc.


  • Incorrect Personal Contact Details.  It is always frustrating when a candidate submits their CV for consideration and when you go to call them their contact numbers are incorrect.


  • Failure to Follow Instructions.  Some application processes require the candidate to follow set instructions such as completing an application form or an accompanying covering letter.


  • Too many job changes.  Reading a candidate’s CV with a large history of jobs held can cause concerns. If I offered this candidate a job is he/she going to leave after a short period of time?  Be careful as the candidate may have been employed in a temporary/contract position or, as with a candidate Joanne recently interviewed, he had worked for the same company for a large number of years but had been TUPED across three times.

Inconsistencies between CV and LinkedIn profile.  The interest by employers and recruitment agencies to use LinkedIn as a tool both for candidate searching and establishing additional information is increasing.

In summary the majority of the above fall into the candidate category ‘poor eye for detail’.

Candidates are continuously being educated on the need to present their CV in a good clean format containing relevant key information that will grab the reader’s attention.  Failure to achieve this may run the risk of being overlooked for an interview.