How to review resumes and find the right candidates for your position
Sorting through resumes can sometimes be overwhelming. There are dozens of different formats each candidate can use, not to mention the sheer number of resumes you might have to review. But there are a few simple guidelines you can follow to make this process easier and find good candidates quickly.
Before reviewing resumes, start by having a well-defined job description. Larger companies are used to setting exact job requirements and they don’t deviate. However, entrepreneurs and people who have less experience hiring often say, ‘Well, I kind of want this, and I want that, and maybe this other thing.’ Then someone charming comes along who doesn’t meet the requirements, and they’re suddenly finding a new spot for the charmer without making sure he or she has the experience and skillset required. Therefore, make sure you have a job description that you can use as a guide to properly compare a candidate’s experience with the job responsibilities.
Divide and Conquer
Divide resumes into three groups: those you definitely want to interview; those that are possibilities; and those that don’t meet your minimum requirements. Once you eliminate the obvious “No” candidates and identify the easy “Yes” candidates, make another pass through the resumes in the “Maybe” group to ensure you didn’t overlook something that might be important for your needs. Use the guidelines below to help narrow down your choices.
Review the overall look and feel
Start by giving the resume a once over and make sure it looks neat and has consistent formatting. Candidates can choose from a wide range of styles, but showing consistency and constraint is important. The best resumes will stick to one style, and look and feel cohesive. If each position or section is formatted differently, this is a clear sign the candidate does not have great attention to detail. This is also true with incorrect grammar and spelling.
Look at qualifications
If you have specific qualifications you need for the position, such as education or licenses, make sure the candidate meets all your requirements. If you like a candidate’s resume but it is missing one or two qualifications, move them to the “Maybe” pile. You can always go back to them if you need to have more conversations.
When reviewing a candidate’s work history, first ensure that their experience “flows” and it is fairly easy to follow their employment story. Second, review the job titles the candidate currently holds and job titles they have previously held. This provides insight as to whether the candidate has held previous positions that are relevant to the position you have to offer. A candidate’s tenure is the next item that should be considered. The candidate may have held relevant positions, but if they are a “job hopper” with less than one year of experience with multiple employers, this could be a concern.
Also examine recent employers, accomplishments, and contributions, and look to see if:
- Responsibilities at past jobs match up with the responsibilities you want them to fulfill
- Their experience is relevant to the position you’re offering
- Key words and phrases in their resume match up to those in your job description
Watch out for red flags
When reviewing for experience, keep your eyes out for these red flags:
- Lengthy career gaps – Several years in between jobs with no explanation of why
- A stagnating career – No true career path, and no evidence of promotions or advancement, or even evidence of decreasing responsibility
- Short-term employment at several jobs
- Multiple shifts in career path
- Lack of accomplishments or skills – Only a list of tasks, without a callout of skills or emphasis on responsibilities or accomplishments at positions
If you notice one or more of these trends in a resume, you might want to reconsider the candidate.
Take one last look
The resumes of those candidates you want to interview should look very similar to your job description. If your stack is still too large, pull those that really stand out—they look the most organized, are the easiest to read, have the most relevant experience, include more skills than needed, have awards or certifications, or list impressive accomplishments—and keep the rest in a file in case you need more candidates later in the interview process.
You can find other good clues in the cover letter, if there is one. Standout candidates will have tailored their cover letter to your specific job description and show evidence that they did research on your company. These should go to the top of the pile.
By starting with your well-defined job description and using the techniques outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to hiring a quality employee.
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