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5 Warning Signs to Save Time When Screening Resumes

The resume provides a first snapshot of your potential new employee. It won’t tell you if someone’s right for the job. But it’s a good way to screen the applicants that clearly aren’t. As a hiring manager, use this to your advantage to save time in the initial screening. Look out for warning signs rather than applicants’ strengths, to get through that pile of resumes faster.

Here are 5 warning signs to help with an initial screening:

Warning signs when screening resumes

1. Excessive length. A great resume can condense everything into one page. While the single-page resume is more common in the US, in Australia most hiring managers are used to 2 pages. But beware anything longer than 3 pages. If a candidate can’t write concisely on one of their most important documents, what hope do they have in business communications?

2. Poor presentation. There’s nothing wrong with using a template to present a resume. But depending on the role, watch out for signs of unoriginality and even laziness. If creativity or attention-to-detail are important requirements, a boring or poorly presented resume is a good warning sign. The web is full of inspiration for truly creative resumes. While not everyone’s a designer, it’s easier than ever to achieve a professional polish.

3. Lack of customisation. We’ve all seen the application that looks like it was written for another role. Did they even read the ad? This is a surefire sign that your applicant is a little careless with details. You’ll know if they took time to tailor their resume to fit your requirements. If it looks like an applicant has sent a generic resume to numerous jobs without considering the specifics of your role, they probably have.

4. Cheesy fonts and sizes. Being creative with a resume is different from being sloppy. A resume that tries to impress with the use of non-standard or ‘artsy’ fonts rarely achieves that objective. It’s more likely a sign of inexperience or unprofessionalism. Forget comic sans. In most business environments you’re looking for sleek, professional formatting that adheres to the standard fonts.

5. The grade10 email address. Plenty of us had one. But then we wised up and upgraded to something mildly more serious. Do you really want your employees logging into webmail at This applicant is either not ready to go of their old ways, or is too lazy to create a more a professional email address. Either way, best not to waste time with someone who is not willing to put in the extra hours to come up with a professional looking resume.

The truth is, going through hundreds of applications is never easy. Filtering out your pile with the help of these warning signs will help you finish your work faster.

What other red flags have you seen?


Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. Previously with McKinsey. Passionate about startups, health and technology. Surf when I can; ride a bike most days. Follow me @mboverell.