Top Judgments Employers Make Based on Your Resume and Background Check

Want to make a good impression with your prospective employer? Be aware of these seven negative judgments that employers make about applicants based on resumes or background checks.

Some people would tell you that the job interview is the make-or-break part of the pre-employment screening process. However, many hiring managers will make some of their biggest decisions or judgments based not on a conversation with you, but on your resume or your background check.

The bad news about this trend is that a hiring manager will make these decisions without giving you an opportunity to defend your background or clarify something on your CV. In an interview, misunderstandings or inaccuracies are much easier to clear up and clarify.

The good news, on the other hand, is that most employers are looking for the same resume or background check red flags to make hiring decisions. Knowing this information, therefore, gives you a leg up in preparing for the pre-employment screening process. With that thought in mind, here are seven resume or background check-related items that can cost you a job.

  1. You don't have a professional attention to detail: No matter what kind of job you are gunning for, this judgment is not one you want a hiring manager making about you. A resume with obvious typos, misspellings, or grammatical errors is a death knell for employment consideration, because it makes you look unintelligent and suggests that you didn't care enough to proofread and correct your own resume. Such a lack of attention to detail isn't something an employer wants to see in an applicant.

  2. You aren't professional, period: Resumes really can look unprofessional from an aesthetic standpoint. Using ugly fonts (Papyrus, Comic Sans, etc.) can get your resume tossed in the garbage bin right away. Similarly, if your resume was obviously made using a template, or if the information is just laid out in an ugly, off-putting way, you send the signal that you didn't know what you were doing.

  3. You are trying to puff yourself up: Another resume issue—and an increasingly common one—is inflation of self-importance. Some applicants will try to make their resumes stand out by giving their past job titles some extra zest. Usually, though, these edits are easy to spot for experienced hiring managers. Worse, the intention behind them is thinly veiled and borders on desperation. Rest assured that your hiring manager is going to be able to translate "beverage synthesis specialist" to "bartender." Sure, he or she might be amused, but not in a way that earns you respect or consideration.

  4. You aren't an honest person: Lying on a resume is one of the worst decisions you can make while looking for a job. Whether the fib is minor (like inflating your job titles, as discussed above) or major (inventing a college degree you don't have), there is never a happy ending to that story. Hiring managers will typically reach out to your past employers to check hiring dates, salaries, job titles, and responsibilities while broader verification checks look at education, other work history, and professional licenses or certifications. Nine times out of 10, employers will find the lies on your resume and place you in the "never hire" pile as a result.

  5. Your work history doesn't align with the job opportunity at hand: Don't submit the same resume for every single job. Most hiring managers will scan resumes quickly, and if you have a general CV listing every job you've ever had, the chances are that it won't be immediately apparent why you would be a good candidate for the position at hand. Tailor your resume based on the job description, focusing on the jobs, responsibilities, educational opportunities, awards, and other factors that relate directly to the opportunity at hand. You want your prospective employer to glance at your resume and immediately see how your experience would make you a good fit for the job.

  6. You are a danger to others: It's a sad-but-true fact in the employment world that some hiring managers will hardly even consider hiring someone who has been convicted of a felony offense. Individuals convicted of violent crimes or sex offenses are marked as people who pose a danger to a company's customers and other employees. If you have a criminal record, there's not always a lot you can do about this kind of treatment. However, you can try to control the narrative by getting out in front of the background check and disclosing your criminal history up front, on your application. At very least, disclosing gives you the chance to explain your record and mark yourself as someone who is honest and forthcoming.

  7. You have other criminal offenses that make you a risky hire: Convictions for violent crimes are the most likely to get you bounced, but employers are often hesitant about applicants with other criminal history, too. Embezzlement, in particular, is a huge red flag. For positions that involve driving, DUIs or reckless driving charges will disqualify you immediately. Convictions related to theft or drug possession can have varying degrees of impact, depending on the employer and the hiring manager. The bottom line is that, yes, employers are going to make judgments about you based on your background check.

How to Prepare for the Background Check

Revising your resume and eradicating the blunders discussed above should be an easy—if potentially time-consuming—task. Use a resume writing service or resume builder to cut down on time. But how can you prepare for a background check? Isn't your criminal history set in stone? And if you've never been convicted of a crime in the first place, you have nothing to worry about, right?

The truth is that background checks are not always accurate. For instance, convictions can end up on your record by accident. Maybe someone at the county court miscataloged another person's charges under your name. Or perhaps you have bad credit history or a warrant out for your arrest because someone stole and assumed your identity.

In any case, there is a possibility that your background check report will be inaccurate. Running a background check on yourself before you start applying for jobs is a great way to double check what your prospective employers see when they order these reports.

Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.