What’s the Most Effective Way to Screen a Resume?

Assessment What’s the Most Effective Way to Screen a Resume?

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Candidate Interviewing With a New Team

A resume is usually your first introduction to a candidate. It contains key information that must be read and interpreted correctly. A shallow reading can leave you with employees who do not really have the skills you need.

As Bradford Smart points out in his free Topgrading guide, misleading resumes result in wasted hours, bad hires, and missed opportunities. How can you avoid these mistakes while you screen a resume?

There are many ways to gain insight into a candidate’s history and personality using a resume.

Many resumes begin with an objective statement. These statements are especially useful if a candidate is looking to change their career path.

For example, when hiring a salesperson, someone might state that they are a proven leader looking for a management position. Clearly, they aren’t really seeking a position similar to their past jobs as a sales rep. This person doesn’t want this job, even if they claim to.

After checking the objective, you will want to look at the candidates’ professional history and education. Of course, you want to look for the experience and skills you need. But there is more to this section of the resume than straight reading.

Look for a history of measurable achievements. An accomplishment might be stated outright, such as winning an award or landing a major contract.

Other achievements are not so obvious. Some candidates may not know how to highlight their best features, so it is worth taking a look at their responsibilities for signs of good performance. Were they given additional responsibilities? Do you see signs of initiative or creativity?

Pay attention to how the candidate’s career has progressed over time. Questions you will want to ask yourself include:

  • Have they taken on more responsibility over time?
  • Have they acquired more knowledge or skills?
  • Are their past jobs related to one another? If not, do particular skills or interests reoccur?

These are good indicators of a candidate’s abilities and ambitions. At the same time, you must take note of any gaps in the resume. While some may be explainable, never ignore them, as they can be an important warning sign. An even greater concern is a pattern of job-hopping. Numerous short stints in different workplaces are a red flag.

If they held the same job for years or were unemployed for a significant time period, did they take the opportunity to improve their prospects? Their resume may suggest that they set out to master a new skill or gain experience by other means during this time.

However, remember that you will need future evidence that this is actually true, as it is easy for candidates to mislead you. Either way, this can imply high or low motivation levels.

If a candidate’s career progression is easy to see, be sure to examine the responsibilities that each of their positions might entail. As an employer, you may be able to take a good guess at what skills or qualities were key to their career path.

Does their history show that their own supervisors clearly thought they were capable of coordinating work? Or does it seem that it was their increasing technological knowledge that brought them more responsibility?

When you read a candidate’s resume, look for a pattern. Try to put the candidates’ work history, skills, and education together to get a more complete picture. Lack of a pattern can be a major red flag, especially for more experienced workers.

Note how the candidates have listed their accomplishments and responsibilities. These are valuable not just for themselves, but because it tells you what the candidate thought was most important about their job.

Resumes are an essential but sometimes deceptive part of the hiring process. By detecting the candidate’s priorities and attitudes through their resume, you can narrow the field more easily and you will be a step ahead when it comes time for interviews.

Best Practices: Screening & Assessing Candidates

Screening candidates is often one of the most labor-intensive parts of your hiring process. Following a structured plan can help you work through this screening phase quickly and efficiently.

Factoring in the use of pre-employment assessments in your hiring process already puts you light years ahead of other companies who aren’t assessing their candidates in this way, but it can be tough to know where and when these tools fit into the overall process.

Some teams use pre-hire testing as a screening tool, whereas others use it after an in-depth interview to further solidify their feelings on a candidate or help sway them in another direction.

In general, there are a couple of considerations before deciding on an approach:

  1. Increased competition for talent among employers > drastically lower unemployment rates > increased candidate employment options
  2. Level of hire. The lower the level of the position, the more upfront testing you can get away with. The higher the level of talent the less upfront testing is recommended and more candidate engagement will be needed

More generally, if you are getting a ton of applicants (say 300-500 per month), then asking the best of your talent pool to complete a short 10-minute sales skill test can be helpful in trimming your talent pool to some better-qualified candidates.

What you wouldn’t want to do, on the other hand, is ask them to dive into a lengthy 60+ minute assessment before having a conversation with them.

Quick on the Draw

Keep in mind too, that you have about 24 hours max to respond to applications and ask candidates to complete this testing task or even ask them for a phone interview without having a substantial drop off in candidate engagement (ie: tests completed and responses to interview requests).

The higher the level of talent tends to see an even more dramatic decline in engagement if it takes you longer than 24 hours to get back to candidates.

Ideally, we’d spend some time ranking our candidates right away. We’d reach out to connect with our 4 and 5-star candidates to schedule a short 15-30 minute phone interview within 24 – 48 hours max from the time they apply.

If the candidate seems promising after the phone interview then we’d ask them to complete our full set of assessments.

This does a couple of things:

  1. Massively improves your candidate’s experience and gives them a chance to get to know you, which further engages them in the opportunity.
  2. Weed out the ones that look okay from a resume standpoint but are really duds.
  3. Improves your interviewing skills dramatically in a short period of time.
    1. You learn to ask the important questions, getting to the root of the issue quickly.
  4. Accelerates your overall hiring process by at least 1 week, if not more.
  5. Ensures you don’t miss out on the best talent.
    1. Typically the less desirable talent are those likely to engage in testing, long applications, or other impersonal screening tactics.
  6. Allows you to screen as many as 60 candidates per week (30 hours of work) lighting fast.

In the end, executing a top-quality search campaign has a lot of nuance to it. If you’re interested in reviewing some of the more detailed best practices for hiring and screening your talent pool that will really elevate your ability to capture the best talent available on the market, get in touch with us!

Employer Resume Checklist

This resume checklist outlines a successful resume screening process to save you time and help your screening efforts to become more efficient!


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