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

FletcherCandidate Selection Process Strategy, Hiring Process, Initial Interviews, News, Recruiting, Screening Resumes, Time to Fill; Hiring Timelines

Workers sitting in front of laptops reviewing documents

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 a 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.