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Ask HN: What do you consider resume red flags?
78 points by throwaway919222 on May 3, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 134 comments

1. Some links on the resume (github, portfolio, linkedIn) return 404 or access denied. This is suprisingly common.

2. Little facts / actual performance data, and over use of words such as "passionate", "strong", "self-motivated", "success", "thrive", etc when describing themselves in the resume.

3. Changing jobs very frequently and no consistent theme in jobs, say 5 jobs in 5 years, one in A.I., one in e-commerce, one in gaming, without specific pursuit of interest.

4. Have a big, long "technology used" for a project. For example, "technology used" in a project includes "Python, Java, Javascript, HTML, CSS, jQuery, SQL, C#, Django, Messaging, C, Bash.."

5. Too specific on trivial details in a large project, such as "work on JSON network request and return error codes to frontend".

6. When sending your document, try sending a PDF but not a .docx

> Have a big, long "technology used" for a project. For example, "technology used" in a project includes "Python, Java, Javascript, HTML, CSS, jQuery, SQL, C#, Django, Messaging, C, Bash.."

I've also seen this recommended as a way to get past recruiters in big companies.

I feel we should have two separate resumes. One for the recruiter crapshoot (where we play buzzword bingo) and another for engineers.

yeah that's difficult. Recruiters who know their stuff will be equally annoyed by buzzword bingo. My advice; read the job ads carefully and tune for their style...

> 2. Changing jobs very frequently and no consistent theme in jobs, say 5 jobs in 5 years, one in A.I., one in e-commerce, one in gaming, without specific pursuit of interest.

If my resume contains many short stints, what's the best way to paint this in a positive light? I've already removed the months of my job history so that only years are on there, which makes some of my positions appear longer.

I think you probably want to have a short blurb / cover letter paragraph in the beginning of the resume, and explain why you were doing the stints.

Make sure you are only including positions that help you. Common mistake I see is including tiny 2-3 month long positions, without considering whether including them is additive or not. It's often not.

What should you do about the time in between then?

Personally I'd consider undescribed gaps of 3 months in between the interesting projects unusual.

In fact I'd rather see "waiting tables" rather than nothing.

  I'd rather see "waiting tables" rather than nothing
But why? Maybe the person used that time to study technologies, to update her skill set. Maybe she used that time to relax and get a long deserved vacation. (Or a myriad other possibilities.) What is wrong with that?

If somebody set aside 3 months to study something they should write that. Otherwise it loos like they've been unemployed, in jail or something they rather don't want to talk about.

Also I read it as multiple 3 months gaps. I might have misread though.

> no consistent theme in jobs, (...) one in e-commerce, one in gaming

Not sure why that's a bad thing. I've done telco, cloud provider, ecommerce, embedded systems. I'm happy with that - it gave me much better experience on a path towards an architect position than any one industry on its own could.

It's not a bad thing, I think they phrased it poorly. If you're doing network operations or devops work at an ecommerce business, then in a gaming company, then telco, yeah you'll definitely be more well rounded.

If you're a developer at these companies, and you try to claim you're an expert in each of these fields... yeah I'm going to raise an eyebrow.

I don’t think it’s terrible either. But if I’m reading your resume for a non architect position, I might be thinking that your going to come in, learn the field for a year, and then leave. That’s not the most attractive hire.

I guess the company's response is also interesting for me. It could be yours. Or it could be: this is a person who can fill in another role in the future and will already have a lot of company experience. (I get that this is not possible under some reasonable company size)

Alone, it's not. However, when you are "Changing jobs very frequently and [have] no consistent theme in jobs", then you don't really have much experience that would help you toward an architects role.

> When sending your document, try sending a PDF but not a .docx

Is that a suggestion or a red flag?

I've been a contractor in the UK for a long time...

I've tried switching to using a PDF a couple of times, but I've had pushback from Recruiters/Agents each time, and have had to revert to .docx

Maybe that's just here.

This is because they want to easily remove some personal details you may have put on the CV, like your email, mobile number etc. before they send it over to the company and they usually dont have a app that can edit PDFs.

Not having the ability to edit PDFs is a red flag...

Workaround for #4. List all relevant tech at/near the top of your resume under a section called something like "Skills" or likely a better name than that. Try to be as concise as possible and avoid going too granular (listing just SQL vs TSQL, MYSQL, XYZSQL). I do something similar and avoid listing the tech used for jobs. If I was versed in many stacks/frameworks, I might have a bullet point/mention under each position what stack each company used (Rails, .NET, Django). As a side note to all of this, I believe resumes/CVs should be a single page

Single page resumes made sense when it was typical to stay in the same job for decades. They're not much use for explaining 20 years of experience and growth with 2-4 years at each stop.

I guess this goes back to being concise. I comfortably fit 5 jobs and volunteer work on mine. I have no issue getting interviews or offers. I know others who stick to 1 page that have decades of experience, and similarly don't have issues finding work.

> Try to be as concise as possible and avoid going too granular (listing just SQL vs TSQL, MYSQL, XYZSQL).

Tried that. Got endless calls from recruiters who assumed I knew Oracle, Sybase, MSSQL, etc.

What did you do, upload your resume somewhere lots of recruiters have access to?

Well, yeah, that's kinda how it goes.

If you're in tech you shouldn't need to do it that way. Indeed/linkedin/stackoverflow/craigslist etc all have tons of tech jobs which you can selectively (or not) target. Many require not much more than a resume to apply

> 3. Have a big, long "technology used" for a project. For example, "technology used" in a project includes "Python, Java, Javascript, HTML, CSS, jQuery, SQL, C#, Django, Messaging, C, Bash.."

How exactly is this a red flag? Javascript, HTML, CSS, jQuery, SQL, C#, Messaging would be a typical project for me and there are likely to be integrations with other languages and I usually have some bash scripts for various parts. I wouldn't typically use java and c# in the same project but it wouldn't be the first time either.

Without supporting evidence, it looks way too much like claiming credit for and expertise in everything any of your friends or coworkers has ever done. The chance of one person doing production grade work on all of those things is quite small. Tell me which of those you're expert in, and which of those you're familiar with because it was used around your specialty and you had opportunity dip your fingers in. Even your shorter list - while being more believable - would have me asking questions about your strengths at each layer of "full stack" you're claiming. Every great fullstack dev I've met has been open about specialising in some part while being some degree of competent or capable in other parts.

I think it might be a red flag if that same resume only has 1 or 2 years of work experience, and the section read like the person just dumped every buzzword they could think of, even if their "experience" with said technology consisted of reading a tutorial once.

I think it means the word salad. Are you really working on a project that mixes Python, Java, C# and C?

On the flip side of the coin, this word salad appears on many job posts. It would be nice to see them clearly define their stack but also other languages they accept on a separate line.

If you say that you created a web based app which did X using JQuery and C# with a MySQL back end most people would know that you used those technologies.

I do lots of hiring. Here are some things I watch out for.

- Multiple, short stints at different companies. Sometimes things happen but if you have a track record of jumping from one place to another I am pretty confident you won't stay around very long if I hire you.

- Multiple pages. A long resume is not impressive. Typically it is just annoying because it makes it harder to find key information. It shows a lack of ability to communicate in a concise manner. I have worked for several companies, completed three degrees, have worked in multiple functions, lead a wide variety of teams, and am still able to keep my resume to a single page. If you need more than one page, fine, but if you need several you are doing something wrong. If there are multiple candidates for an opening your resume is going to the bottom of the pile.

- Keyword stuffing. This typically means the candidate is writing their resume for a search engine. They aren't really looking for the right job...just "a" job. It also shows a lack of ability to communicate effectively.

- "Creative Resumes". Don't be cute. Don't use alternate layouts, photos, background colors, interesting fonts, or graphics. It doesn't get you noticed. At least not in the way you want to get noticed. Stand out by being concise and organized. Show you that you can identify the most important aspects of your career and communicate them effectively.

- Buzz words. Be a human and communicate like a human.

- Lack of precision. Don't just say "Improved application speed" say "Improved application throughput by 50%". When you lack precision my conclusion is either a) You are hiding something or b) You don't know how to communicate effectively.

- Objective statements. These aren't a red flag. They are just a waste of space. Nobody looks at them. They clutter the resume and make it longer than it needs to be.

That's good information! One thing I don't really agree with is:

> Keyword stuffing. This typically means the candidate is writing their resume for a search engine.

If you're applying to a larger company, your CV is likely to be imported into their internal system, often semi-automatically. Sometimes the keywords are not for the public search engine, but for the initial HR's sorting.

If you are dependent on submitting your resume to an applicant tracking system and hoping it will stand out to someone in HR, you're doing it wrong (tm).

I haven't blindly submitted a resume in the 20 years I've been working. I've always used recruiters or an inside contact.

In some situations you can. In others you move 11 timezones, have no local network, and need to find a job. It's not the best way, but it's not wrong.

Even in that situation, I would reach out to a local independent recruiter I. The area where I was looking for a job.

These are all good points. However, I think these occur because the skillsets in our field don't fit the "traditional" resume outline. We almost need a different, common outline for tech jobs. Instead of listing the company and timeframe, list the projects you worked on over time, what was used (lightly, no word salad), how you contributed, etc. I would be more impressed with the big projects you worked on at a startup than the small contributions made at a Fortune 500.

"Multiple pages" point, definitely agree. Ive been a software dev for over 20 years and my CV is two pages of A4 and I dont expect most people to even read page 2 (hint: most wont).

Disclaimer: I work at a recruiting company.

Resumes should be good enough to get you in the door, no more. The typical recruiter/hr scans a resume for 5 seconds. Two things stick out in a bad way - typos and jumpiness. Anything else is usually forgiven, or subjective based on the person reading it. This is coming from someone who sees anywhere from 10-50 resumes a day.

Agreed, I often tell more junior developers the only point to the CV is to get you the interview.

Does HN have any suggestions for people switching careers into software engineering/development and landing junior/entry-level roles? Such as, what parts to focus on outside of transferable soft skills?

Using myself as an example for people with a similar situation:

I worked as a freelancer in the past as an "Integrated Producer" which is marketing speak for a Product/Project Manager & "Growth Hacker" hybrid. I've touched everything from strategy and video production to creating shell scripts to configure new computers. Most of my experience will be the projects I've been building following tutorials or peer-programming with my mentor through a year-long boot camp intensive that covers front and backend, but also data structures, databases, algorithms, and etc.

So, most of my descriptions will be "created" or "integrated" with a technology. Like right now, I'm beginning to build a closed social network project as a capstone. I'm not going to be able to say "improved performance by X" for example.

I'm also not sure how much to share of my past. I can say things such as: "I've increased revenue by X over Y via email automation for Z." There are of course soft skills like writing documentation or managing X amount of cases (started as a law clerk/paralegal) under 5 managers. I also know that I shouldn't say back in the late 90s and early 00s that I started building websites for clans and guilds of gaming communities as a kid. (The bug has been there awhile.)

In general, anything that is a red flag is probably something I would just clarify in a 20 minute phone screen. Most of the time, what looks like a red flag on a resume has a good explanation. That being said, the two that come to mind that I've seen the most of are:

- Not taking direct ownership of achievements (e.g. I was part of a team that did x). I don't care what your team did, I care what you did even if it's less impressive.

- Recent Coding Bootcamps. Not necessarily a no go, but I've had very mixed results with this one, some good, some bad. This will probably get me to look at what you did prior to software development and evaluate if you are a capable person in general.

Would you say those who do recent coding bootcamps are worse than those recently graduated from college?

Graduating from college (even if it's not a CS degree) at least still demonstrates the ability to complete something complex and long-duration.

Bootcamp grads (for me) are more likely to get a look in for project based roles where each project is measured in single digit numbers of weeks. For long projects or product roles, I'll somewhat favour the demonstrated ability of college graduates at sticking with and completing big things.

Not a "red flag" for me, but a reasonably strong signal.

I don't have examples that come to mind of "red flags" on resumes that are otherwise reasonable.

I approach resume screening as a way of qualifying a candidate, not disqualifying them. I'm looking for positive signal, not negative. Do they have experience in the domain or technology I care about? Have they worked in teams and environments that would indicate they could succeed here? Are there are any notable successes, or interesting hobbies or side projects that make them stand out? If they clear the bar, I move to a phone screen.

It's not until much later in the hiring process that we start to look for "red flags" that might indicate something is amiss.

Depending on the volume of qualified candidates and number and urgency of roles available, I can dial different stages of the funnel up and down to optimize for efficiency vs. hiring speed (though the bar to get hired remains the same regardless).

- lots of short stints employment. It costs a lot to find, hire and on board someone. Ideally I’d like them to stick around for a while.

- lists of buzzwords without clear descriptions of what they actually did. I don’t care about “fashionable” terms. I wanted heard about concrete things they’ve done.

- poor formatting. If they don’t care enough to make their resume look clean and neat, why would I expect them to care enough to be thorough in other jobs. I don’t care too much about the aesthetic style of the resume as long as it is clear and consistent.

> lots of short stints employment. It costs a lot to find, hire and on board someone. Ideally I’d like them to stick around for a while.

This is a self inflicted problem across all companies. As long as companies are not willing to pay the market salary, people will move elsewhere.

> - poor formatting. If they don’t care enough to make their resume look clean and neat, why would I expect them to care enough to be thorough in other jobs. I don’t care too much about the aesthetic style of the resume as long as it is clear and consistent.

As neat and tidy as the resume is, certain employers are looking for buzzwords. So if those buzzwords aren't on the resume, it gets to meet the circular file.

> This is a self inflicted problem across all companies. As long as companies are not willing to pay the market salary, people will move elsewhere.

Back when I was on the short term merry-go-round it was because companies hiring were only offering 3 month contracts. After a few of these in a row places offering full time won't look at you and even interviews for 3 month contracts ask "so why so many short term contracts?".

I was well into this career trap before lucking out on one of the 3 month contract that forgot to stop paying me. Eventually they "fixed the glitch" but it still got me back on track career wise.

> This is a self inflicted problem across all companies. As long as companies are not willing to pay the market salary, people will move elsewhere.

Why do you say this? Surely underpaying people is one way to make them leave but not the only reason. Some people think “the grass is always greener” elsewhere. Others don’t last long because they are not easy to work with. Others are not great employees and so are encouraged to move along sooner rather than later. Lots of possible reasons. Most do not signal the type of person I want to hire.

> Why do you say this?

I say it because I keep seeing articles like this one [1] all the time: "Workers who stay with a company longer than two years are said to get paid 50% less."

And that matches my personal experience. After spending 14 years at a company giving me 3 percent raises year after year, I've switched jobs frequently, but usually with large pay raises with every job. 8 years out and 4 jobs later now I'm making double the salary I was at the long term job I held.

> Some people think “the grass is always greener” elsewhere. Others don’t last long because they are not easy to work with. Others are not great employees and so are encouraged to move along sooner rather than later. Lots of possible reasons. Most do not signal the type of person I want to hire.

Sure, much of what you say is true. I think it may have been valid maybe 20 years ago.

Lately, though, I think people want to stay relevant in a field with so much churn it makes your head spin. So they see the leading edge of where tech is going, and want to get there first. And if a company has tagged someone as the "Java engineer", it can be hard for that person if they want to switch to ruby on rails, or they want to expand into machine learning but their company doesn't need the skill (or they already have experts doing that work.)

As for me, I've learned to let a technology get established before jumping into it, but even at that rate, the tech I learned 5 years ago, is not relevant today. In college, what I learned lasted maybe 15 years. (Yeah, I'm old).

So yeah, my resume would surely hit your circular file. But I'm in good company I suppose.

The mean job length at google is only 1.1 years even though 84% of people are highly satisfied. [2] Compare this with Eastman Kodak where the median is 20 years, and only 45% of the employees are highly satisfied.

[1] https://www.fastcompany.com/3055035/you-should-plan-on-switc...

[2] https://www.payscale.com/data-packages/employee-loyalty/full...

Thank you for your follow up. 5 jobs in 22 years doesn’t seem that extreme to me, especially if you had a legit story to go along with it. Do you think the company you work for now only wants you for 1.1 years?

Out of curiousity, in what region do you live?

I'm in the Pacific Northwestish area.

I'm a consultant these days, so yeah 1.1 years is actually a long time.

As a consultant, I suggest not putting each job on your resume as a separate gig. List "2012-present Software Engineering Consultant" and then bullet out your most important projects and achievements under that.

I have two "short stints" on my resume.

Staying in these companies would hurt me a lot more in the long term. It's hard to convince the next employer that you're worth hiring when you're out of touch with modern development practices and your relevant experience is limited to personal projects you did after 8h of wading through mountains of spaghetti code.

Last 6 months I have been working on a system which uses SQL stored procedures for everything (including business logic and reinventing parsing of XML and JSON - poorly). Every single time I mention this solution the interviewers raise their eyebrows. Not a single interviewer has expressed any positive feelings about the solution.

Am I really expected to stick along working on such an atrocity just so I could put >1 years of a resume?

"lots of short stints employment" - what do you consider short?

What's your definition of "short stint"? Less than 1 year?

I was going to ask that as well! What's the HN community's view of a reasonable amount of time at an employer? Given that startups are way crazier, require way longer hours, and are less stable financially and politically than normally established companies.

Asking because I've worked for several startups and tech management has changed several times in a year for both of them, they loose and gain huge streams of revenue rapidly, have worked burnout hours at times at all of them.

All factors that have made me seriously question my employment there at times but the knowledge I'm gaining makes it to good to give up for now.

This: https://hackerlife.co/blog/san-francisco-large-corporation-e...

Suggests median tenures at small tech companies can be as low as 1.5years.

For me - it depends on the stage of career a candidate is at.

If you're not job hopping every 2-3 years in the early stages of your career (say, first 8-10 years out of school), you're without doubt losing out monetarily (which may indicate a lack of ambition).

On the other hand, if you've not managed to hold down a job for over two years (or any job for over 18 months), you ring bells in my head of maybe just having managed to not get let go for lack of performance and bailing out before it makes it to your record.

Those are both offset of some of your roles are listed as contracts (but rest assured I'll be getting your references or LinkedIn or network-sourced ex-colleagues checked to make sure they don't describe them as permanent full time roles).

This is highly contextual. I've got a series of 3 month stints on my CV as I'm a contractor. I usually come in to fix things, but by the time they call me in most of the money has been spent on shitty agencies.

If you're a contractor wouldn't your resume show continuous employment for one company (yourself) with each 3-month stint listed as a client?

"What's the HN community's view of a reasonable amount of time at an employer?" ... If your a contractor, 6 months or more.

It depends on how many jobs you've had and how old you are. If you have 3 jobs each being 1 year that would be a red flag. If you have 10 years of experience, 1 job for a year and the other 2 split across 9 years I would be less concerned.

An outlier versus a pattern is where I see a bad situation versus a concern for hire.

Personally, spending <18 months in a company or on a team doesn't yield enough time to accomplish much. It also doesn't afford you ability to learn from your mistakes and mature.

> Personally, spending <18 months in a company or on a team doesn't yield enough time to accomplish much. It also doesn't afford you ability to learn from your mistakes and mature.

This is a great way of explaining why I think lots is short stints reflect poorly.

It also highly depends on where you were working. Bouncing between Google and Amazon and Cisco and IBM at 9 month intervals is a pretty big WTF. Going between a few series A startups in the same period of time might be perfectly explainable.

I would agree with that, my point of reference is from working the last 3 years at one of those and finding lots of mediocre engineers who bounce from team to team or company to company every 12-18 months. They deliver, leave technical debt and move on. Its a facade of a good engineer and its hard to catch until you are the one cleaning up the mess or replacing the mess.

For me it's 3 or more jobs back to back with <1 yr duration each and irregular durations. Usually, their LinkedIn also boasts being CEO of their own company for an overlapping duration of time.

Depends on context. If someone is a consultant/contractor, short stints are ok. But then have a clear reason why they want to go back to standard employee.

If someone has a number of longer stints, then a short one here or there is no big deal. But I want their resume to tell a story.

Don’t be afraid of explaining circumstances in a cover letter.

I have this kind of hero syndrome where I like to join dying projects to try to save them. Which means I join a lot of companies for short stints, and most of these projects fail. It's a bit hard to justify in a cover letter without looking defensive.

So what do you do? How do you win attention of the hiring manager? I am asking because I may have (had) the same problem.

If it's short, put an explanation. If it's contract work, label it as such. "Example, Inc. January 2018 - May 2018 (contract)." If the company folded or otherwise, you may opt to indicate it, or mention in your reach out to the company.

mine is less than 2

I never look too hard for red flags in a resume - the candidate has already spent hours carefully removing them. Interviews are much more interesting in that regard.

I used to hire at a startup. Following are the things I usually looked at. These are not sorted by severity, some are red flags but others are just irrelevant.

* not following instruction in the job advert

* CC resume to many recipients

* weird sender name in email

* compressed resume

* begging for job in the cover letter

* photo

* "career objective"

* personal information

* broken links

* clear lack of personalization in the resume format

* irrelevant background/experience

* inactive github profile (only uploaded projects etc.)

* MS Office skills

* acknowledgement, signature

Be careful with the "photo" bit. Some parts of the world include photos on resumes as a default, along with age and marital status. I still dislike seeing them on principal, same reason I liked Hired.com's "hide name" option to help remove biases in the resume screening process.

I agree with you. If it is a part of the resume submission system then that's fine. I just mean that personally photo and personal information are irrelevant to me.

> "career objective"

is interesting to me because that's usually one of the first things I'm asked when interviewing.

I should say boilerplate career objective statements ;)

MS Office skills lol.

A lot of software developers, myself included, do lack MS-Office skills beyond beginner-level because we are totally disinterested in it.

So if you are genuinely knowledgable about it then it could be worth a quick mention.

At a certain level, knowing how to get ideas approved by creating a PowerPoint slide becomes important. So does being able to create a properly formatted statement of work or proposal. They both help to convince your current company the benefits of letting you work on the new and shiny technology that will boost your resume and they help you to get freelance gigs.

Yep, you'll be surprised how many candidates list this.

I'm sorry, but some of my github activity is best be kept private.

I think Github profiles can now show activity in private repos (without showing the actual code, obviously), if you choose to turn this feature on. This is potentially useful for those of us who have 99% of their commits in private repos.

However, it gets removed when you're removed from that private repo, I believe. A prior employer used Github, and my worked showed up on that activity graph thing, but when I left, it all disappeared.

Really? That's super annoying!

I found it just to be a good reminder that chasing "GitHub streaks" is ephemeral meaninglessness, although it was counterintuitive behavior.

I understand. I mean that some candidates create a github profile and upload a couple of projects- just to be able to link that in the resume.

Photo on resume seems like a South Asia defacto standard. At least from what I have seen in Pakistan and India. Cultural differences.

It most certainly isn't a de facto standard in India. Some eople find the need to include a photo but it's entirely useless.

Same here in Germany.

I see a lot of resumes from people who talk a lot about the techs they've used, but talk not at all about what they used them for. I no longer give these people phone screens.

Also, be kind about formatting because HR software is rarely kind to it, but some formatting errors can't be attributed there. The text on the third of someone's four bullet points has extra leading space? They're not going to be able to find why the YAML they wrote doesn't compile.

Some of us do this because we signed a nondisclosure agreement, not because we don't care about the product. As a developer, I would love to talk about the context of my work. It's just that I can't, because my company told me to keep it a secret.

I would consider it more of a red flag if the candidate volunteered too much information about projects on their resume. Let's say you write that you increased revenue by 1%. At some companies you might be able to talk about that. But at many companies, those metrics are extremely sensitive, and putting them on your resume means you're a disloyal employee.

So explain that. An occasional believable "details under NDA" actually looks good (it send me a message you aren't about to tell your _next_ recruiter or employer all _my_ internal secrets).

* Lots of typos. One is fine. Too many suggests someone who is poor at English communication. It doesn't matter how good someone is, if they build the wrong thing.

* Generic boring template-ish resume. Usually these guys don't care much for craftsmanship.

* Too much specialization. 80% specialization is fine, just not 100%.

* For startups, a history of only working at big companies. Especially at the management level, where they tend to overspend and frustrate programmers.

* For larger teams, someone who has a history of only working solo. Some of these guys refuse to communicate, attend daily stand ups, or do daily commits.

* Putting a salary history in your resume.

> * Generic boring template-ish resume. Usually these guys don't care much for craftsmanship.

I thought standardized resumes made it easier for HR systems to parse.

A bit hard to explain without examples, but you can have the usual format just fine. Some minor things like color, jokes, icons, or a slightly different template.

But there are just some really lazy, generic types of resumes which make this person seem really cookie cutter. Like they just downloaded the first resume option on Google or MS Word and took out some words, replaced with their own text.

Any career longer than about five years that has a focus on a single technology or language with no attempt to branch out or learn new things. Especially for those without a comp sci degree.

For example, if your resume says you're a "SharePoint developer" or "Java expert" it's automatically suspect. I've worked with too many people who only know a single thing and are trying to ride that train as far as they can.

Those people have a great first three months if the job is for their exact skill set. But anyone more well-rounded will run circles around them after that.

A related problem is someone never having designed and implemented a substantial project where they decided what to use. Rather, only having added onto or maintained existing projects.

That gets people into the mindset of being a "FOO Developer" rather than a developer, because the presence of FOO seems like a fact of life.

As someone who has just gone through over 100 resumes for a developer position, these are some of my observations.These aren't exactly red-flags per se, merely markers that would give one pause.

- Heavy Java stack experience, with no significant experience in other programming languages. One of the signs of a production programmer with no passion for the craft of programming.

- Huge listing of school projects involving many different technologies. This is a sign of lack of experience, and resume padding. When probed deeper, not many truly understood the tools they were using for their projects.

> One of the signs of a production programmer with no passion for the craft of programming.

More like "one of the signs of a programmer who has other things to do after work". It may just be indicative of that person spending time with his kids, or working in an honorary office that's not IT-related.

Yes, one of many possible interpretations. That doesn’t detract from the main point however. The level of developer aptitude we require generally exceeds what this type of developer (production programmer) is able to bring to the table.

Lots of comments here about buzzwords. I get it, without context they are meaningless. I think people tend to do that to try to pass the "recruiter filter". Usually recruiters filter by either searching on linkedin by keywords/companies or when they receive resumes by trying to do pattern matching with their opening roles. (Source: I'm a hiring manager in SF and I've been hiring on/off for the past 5 years. I get the pile of CVs after the recruiter screen phone, which is a filter after the visual filter)

> "many short stints of employment"

I change jobs all the time because I work on what is interesting or highly paying for as long as it entertains me or makes me a killing.

Startups go bankrupt all the time, and big companies will fire tens of thousands of people at the drop of a hat. Pensions will be canceled, jobs restructured, and bonuses occasionally distributed in lieu of raises.

The company has no loyalty to you, they only want you to make them money -- so why should your goals be any different? It's hilarious of them to ask for that when for 50 years the business schools have been teaching them that people are cogs. Milk them and move on when it becomes boring or someone else has a bigger carrot, since job security no longer exists outside of the government.

If the company had been proven, over decades, not to fire people simply because the profit margin wasn't high enough, I would have more incentive for loyalty. But even then, any new CEO can change everything. Employment is now an adversarial game.

It's your prerogative to move on. It's my prerogative not to end a 3-month search by hiring someone whom it'll take 4 months to get up to speed on our codebase when they'll be gone in 9 months and I'll have to do this all over again.

The most recent entry being your own one-man shop that you’re president and CEO of.

Github accounts with recent “my first project” forks.

Gaps in employment.


Expert in too many things.

Why would you treat gaps in employment as red-flag ? Do you expect everyone whom you are interviewing to be like you ?

When you say you consider the gaps in employment (of which 'one-man shop' is just a subset of) to be a 'red flag', is that in the common sense of 'immediate disqualification' or just 'something to follow up on'? I certainly think there are plenty of legitimate reasons to have gaps in one's employment record (including 'I felt like not working for six months').

Interesting replies on changing jobs frequently. Personally, I have only been an engineer for around 3 years, of which I have had fairly valid reasons for leaving each time.

- 8 months in a startup that burned out and failed

- 18 months in a successful startup where the tech side became very stale

- 12 months in an agency where I was required to step up to a management position rather than engineering

- current role @ a company I plan to stay at for at least 2-3 years

Would you suggest that I explain why I left all of these roles on my resume then?

I usually look for some obscure buzzword which I know something about and ask the candidate about it. For example, if he has Foo on his resume I will ask a concrete technical question related to Foo. Oftentimes it turns out the only experience with it he or she has was in a college, years ago. For me, that is an indication that candidate tends to exaggerate his knowledge and whatever else he lists on his resume has to be taken with a grain of salt.

I tried that with someone who had mentioned Lisp and all they could muster was "It has lots of parenthesis lolz".

I've written about a few things on my blog (http://blog.debugmyresume.com/2018/04/11/quality_over_quanti...), but any time someone lists more than 3-4 programming languages, I'm immediately skeptical.

Why ? I've worked on compilers and theoretical programming languages and as such, I have notions of a dozen programming languages. I don't claim to be good/expert on more than 3 though.

But if someone does this on occassion as a hobby, how is it weird to know, or have some projects in 10 or even 20 programming languages ?

Also many projects are programming languages in themselves (Greenspun's 10th law). Tensorflow, most scheduling packages I've seen, prolog, several things I've written ... Once a project grows beyond a certain large size, it tends to become a programming language in itself.

Perhaps I was too general. A more accurate statement would be if more than 3-4 languages are listed without any distinction between languages you're good at and languages you've just used, then I become skeptical. And I said skeptical, not that I reject the resume outright. I just find that more often than not those candidates don't actually know more than one or two of those languages very well. Or worse, they don't know any of those language very well. (Not that this is a bad thing! We all have to start somewhere; but listing a lot of languages in such a situation seems dishonest from my point of view).

This is false negatives vs false positives territory. Outliers can get caught in the crossfire - nothing new.

A common red flag for me is: saying you're an 'expert', '10/10', etc in like 5 different technologies. For juniors it's common to overestimate their capabilities, which is okay, but engineers with some years' experience that already claim to have mastered it all: i'll pass on that.

If somebody worked for 10+ years on his or her last job is certainly a red flag for me. People tend to get set in their ways and have difficulty to adapting to new work environment and processes. "At IBM always did it this way, for last 30 years"...

I normally use an outlook email because I can have username@outlook instead of user.name2392.stuff@gmail, also outlook advertisement is less intrusive.

I'm under the impression that it turns recruiters away, can this be right?

[Edit]: Yes/No is enough, no need to downvote.

If you’re mainly interested in having a clean username, why not purchase your own domain? If you pay for a small vps, most registrars will host an email server at no extra cost.

Yeah, do I have a domain name and used my own domain with gmail. But it sounds volatile to me, if (for some reason) I lose my domain I'd miss a good part of my communications. Thanks for your advice, I'll see what I can do.

The resume that lists every version of every library, database, IDE, programming language, development tool, browser and Microsoft Office product the candidate has ever used in any job for however briefly.

I'm not seeing these often these days, fortunately.

- mispellings and typoes

- long term consultant wanting full time job

- hotmail / outlook address

- lack of learning new things across their career

- non-business like fonts and general lack of typography

- buzz word list

What is the problem with the consultant? And with an outlook.com address?

Anything containing Ninja or Wizard

Or anything with the word Cyber.

(Unless that was in their official job title. Anywhere else it's a big red flag.)

Heh, that actually is in my official job title. I'm a "Principal Cyber Engineer". That came about as a way to offer better pay and benefits without affecting a parent company; we all got "Software" changed to "Cyber" with the pay/benefits upgrade.


Lies are not just a red flag but a stop sign, but how do you recognize them?

If the person has a personal domain such as firstname@lastname.net: no tls1.2 smtp transport negotiation in email headers. No evidence of proper spf and dkim setup.

Wow so you just expect everyone to be an email expert?

If they're going to run their own email server, yes, otherwise they have the easy choice of pointing the mx record for their domain at office365, Google, fastmail or another third party service that will handle all the complicated smtp administration for them.

Either doing their DIY properly or outsourcing it for $8/mo to someone who can do it properly says they actually care about mail delivery working, and their domain not ending up in peoples' spam traps (ex: try sending mail to someone from a domain with no spf record).

Experience in Microsoft products. Joking not joking

Is c# a microsoft product? You are missing plenty of people if that's the case.

Do not underestimate the importance of Unix familiarity. I encounter engineers every day that don’t understand command-line flags or how to use the shell, and a big reason for this is people coming from a IDE/Windows/MSFT world that does not teach these skills. There’s a considerable gap of training between “C# developer who has only used windows” and “developer who has used C# and has used a command line”.

Sure, that's fine. But this wasn't a "lack of unix familiarity". This was "microsoft familiarity" :)

Heck, just really knowing how to use git is probably worth a lot. Git ain’t easy.

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