A couple of years ago, I read an article in The New York Times that said Google receives 20,000 resumes each week — the equivalent of one every two minutes. With such an abundance of talent knocking at the door, I’m assuming Google has to rely on technology and a team of recruiters to sift through the volume of resumes in order to identify the most qualified candidates to interview in the shortest period of time.

Let’s face it; collection agency help-wanted ads don’t generate that type of interest.

In our industry, hiring managers often seem relieved to receive one to two dozen resumes per ad. And with such a small candidate pool, it can be difficult to think about screening resumes for red flags. After all, a screening process with too high of standards very well could leave you with no candidates to interview and in need of placing another help-wanted ad. But screening resumes doesn’t have to be a pass or shred process.

While some resumes generate instant rejection letters, others contain red flags that need further exploration. Screening for red flags paves the path for a more meaningful interview, and the sooner you learn to weed out bad candidates before you hire them, the sooner you will start building an organization that holds the talent that properly represents your company.

When screening resumes these ten items may be of interest:

1. No achievements listed. Debt collection is a business centered around achievements and results. Candidates who talk about achievements stand out above those who merely talk about duties and responsibilities. Candidates who list achievements often have a deeper understanding of the big picture.

Take a peek at the two bullet points below and ask yourself which is more meaningful:

  • I collected past-due accounts.
  • I averaged 96% of collection goal over a two-year period.

2. Providing an unprofessional email address. Candidates who list an unprofessional email address on their resume standout for two reasons:

  1. Each employee’s personal brand rolls up to create the company brand. How seriously do candidates take their personal brand when they list “bonghitter123” or “hottykaren” as their email address?
  2. There is an abundance of websites that provide free email and many can be set up in less than two minutes. What type of work ethic will a candidate bring to the job if he or she is too lazy to invest two minutes setting up a Gmail account?

3. Spelling and grammatical errors. I don’t expect candidates applying for a collections position to be English majors. However, I do expect candidates to spend some time performing quality assurance on their resumes. Grammatical errors are understandable. After all, I know plenty of hiring managers who still confuse “affect” and “effect.” But, given the ease of hitting the spell check button, I have a hard time stomaching simple spelling errors. If candidates rush through something as important as their resumes, how much time will they spend ensuring files are worked correctly?

4. Gaps in employment. Large gaps in employment might indicate a stay-at-home parent, someone who went back to school, missionary work, a period of extended unemployment, or something similar. But, it also might be a sign of time served in jail or time spent living off unemployment. It might also be a previous job that the candidate is trying to hide. Either way, it’s a good idea to explore these gaps further to get a better understanding of a candidate’s background.

5. Gimmicks. I once had someone list, “Freestyle walking, stealing, and being cool” as their hobbies. He didn’t get called in for an interview. Neither did the girl who doused her resume in perfume and attached a picture of herself. Stunts such as these indicate a lack of professionalism.

6. Job-hopping. Changing employers every 10 to 12 months could be the result of several factors. Unfortunately, at this point in my career, my mind is inclined to drift toward attendance issues and other disciplinary actions. But, it could be that the candidate becomes disengaged in the organization once the honeymoon period is over. On a positive note, the candidate isn’t leaving the profession, he or she is leaving the company. That means the candidate is aware of the duties of the job and doesn’t mind the work. Hiring managers must be confident in their engagement strategies if they think the candidate is hopping once the honeymoon stimuli wear off.

7. Industry-hopping. At least when a candidate hops from agency to agency, he or she isn’t leaving the industry. They could just be looking for new stimuli, albeit more regularly than a hiring manager would like. However, someone who goes from retail to food service to vet clinic to Starbucks to your doorstep is likely only one stop away from the real estate office next door.

8. Incomplete dates of employment. Candidates who omit job dates may do so unknowingly or because they are trying to inflate their time on a job in order to pass screening standards. For instance, does 1996–1998 get more or less gas mileage than 12/1996 to 01/1998?

9. Abundance of extracurricular activities. A good balance of life interests is healthy for employee and employer alike. However, if the candidate belongs to several causes, understand that those duties may take time and attention from the job. Sort of like one of my past employees who used company time and supplies to make 5,000 flyers for his band’s upcoming concert.

10. Inaccurate or missing contact information. A resume should list a candidate’s most up-to-date phone, address, and email address. Outdated information is a sign that the candidate didn’t take the time to update the information or doesn’t pay attention to details. Both are bad for business. And besides, we have enough skiptracing to do.

During my first job as a supervisor, I was told by my human resource manager that, “Sometimes good people write bad resumes, and sometimes bad people write good resumes. Your job as a supervisor, Gary, is to distinguish between the two and hire the right one.” His bit of advice has come in handy over the years, and so have these red flags.

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