Resume red flags

May 19, 2024


Five resume red flags to help AEC firm recruiters identify and set apart the best applicants from the rest.

Resumes have always been important tools for recruiters to narrow down a candidate pool for further consideration. Today, the emergence of AI has changed the basic rules of recruiting. AI has raised the bar for resume writing, making typos and grammatical errors all the more unacceptable. But this equalization makes it more challenging to discern the quality of candidates, while adding an additional complexity in rooting out imposters fabricated based on your posted job requisition.

Here are five red flags to look for on applicants' resumes that can help you weed out the bad ones:

  1. AI-generated resumes. Some applicants may use AI tools to create fake resumes that look impressive but are not based on real skills or experience. These resumes may have unrealistic or inconsistent details, such as mismatched dates, locations, or job titles. They may also use generic or vague language that does not reflect the specific requirements of the position. To spot an AI-generated resume, you can use online tools that check for plagiarism or authenticity, or ask the applicant to provide references or samples of their work.
  2. Multiple tenures of one year or less. Another red flag to look for on applicant’s resumes is a history of frequent job changes. If an applicant has multiple tenures of one year or less, it may indicate that they are unreliable, uncommitted, or unable to perform well. Of course, there may be valid reasons for changing jobs, such as layoffs, relocation, or career advancement. However, if the applicant does not provide any explanation for their short stints, or if they have a pattern of leaving jobs after a few months, you may want to think twice before hiring them.
  3. Gaps in service with no explanation. A gap in service is not necessarily a deal-breaker, as long as the applicant can explain what they did during that time and how it relates to their career goals. For example, some applicants may have taken a break to pursue further education, volunteer work, personal projects, or family responsibilities. However, if the applicant has a long or unexplained gap in service, it may raise some questions about their work ethic, motivation, or professionalism. You may want to ask the applicant to clarify what they did during the gap and how it affected their skills and qualifications.
  4. Credentials that look too good to be true. Some applicants may try to impress you with credentials that look too good to be true, such as prestigious degrees, awards, or publications. While these credentials may be genuine, they may also be fabricated, exaggerated, or irrelevant. To verify the credibility of the applicant’s credentials, you can check the official websites of the institutions or organizations that issued them, or contact them directly. You can also ask the applicant to provide proof of their credentials, such as transcripts, certificates, or portfolios.
  5. Poor writing and grammar. A resume is a professional document that should showcase the applicant’s communication skills and attention to detail. If the resume is poorly written, with spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors, it may indicate that the applicant is careless, lazy, or incompetent. It may also suggest that the applicant did not write the resume themselves, or that they used a poor-quality translation service. To avoid hiring someone with poor writing and grammar skills, you can use online tools that check for errors, or ask the applicant to complete a writing test or assignment. 

Kevin Brown is chief people officer at AE Works. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.