What to Look for in a Resume When Screening Candidates

Trying to find qualified candidates for your position isn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to fill a particular skill set. With some job positions receiving hundreds of applicants, wading through the sea of potential candidates can seem like a never-ending job. After all, narrowing down candidates into viable options is a critical step in the hiring process. After all, wasting time setting up an interview and offering a job to someone underqualified is a waste of time.

 Before you dive into a pile of resumes, here are 7 things to look for:

  • Employment History
    Every employer wants to see consistent history in the workforce, and you should be no exception. You’ll want to note any resumes that have significant gaps in their history (for example, one year or longer) as well as any application that has considerable amounts of jobs in a short time. While people having gaps in employment can be quite common, having a constant flow of employment should cause some red flags.

    Bouncing from job to job can show a lack of motivation, inability to commit, and potentially wasting resources if you were to run a background check, hire, and train this employee. There’s a good chance this applicant will bounce over to the next opportunity they find that seems remotely interesting.

  • Look at their Qualifications
    Although not every job has a specific list of “must-have” skills, if you’re looking for an accountant, verifying they have the degree, certificate, or know-how to perform your job is essential. Take a look at both the educational institutions they attended and the degree or certificate they obtained. Not every credential needs to be met, but if none of their skills are transferable to your job, move on to the next candidate.
  • Consider Their Job Descriptions
    Real-world experience needs to hold up, especially when you’ve narrowed down candidates. Review past job experiences with a fine-tooth comb to see if they have any usable skills for the current position. If you’re hiring a web developer, for example, and the only thing they’ve highlighted is customer service, it may not be the best fit for your company.

    Also, pay attention to skills that extend beyond the job. Do applicants have team building listed as a qualification? Perhaps they work better independently? Highlight any crucial skills for this position that do not relate to the job and build from there.

  • Evaluate any awards or achievements
    If your position is an entry-level position, review any awards or achievements the candidates have received. For example, if your job requires a university degree and they’ve excelled in virtually every subject, it shows a solid dedication to their education. This dedication is likely to continue into your company, particularly if you require specific training or formatting from your staff.

    While awards are always notable, try to remember to keep things relevant. An individual can hold countless awards and achievements in various fields but still not be qualified for the job, so only consider awards that are truly impactful with the current position.

  • Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and structure
    While not everyone will have an English degree, taking the care and time to create a polished resume should not be ignored. If a resume is riddled with spelling or grammatical mistakes, there’s a chance they haven’t put forth an effort in their application.

    While there are many reasons a resume may lack proper formatting (learning disabilities such as dyslexia, for example), it’s always a good sign to have a neat and polished copy on your desk.

  • It’s tailored to your job posting
    Many applicants use the same resume for every industry, giving a generic template of their skills and qualifications. When looking at applications, prioritize those who have tailored their resumes to match your desired qualities. On the other hand, you’ll want to avoid resumes that seem cut-and-pasted from your job posting too. Try to find a middle ground between the two options. Having a qualified individual apply for the job means being attentive and focused on your skillset without simply copying material from the job posting.
  • Review Their Cover Letter
    While it may not be a mandatory feature, a cover letter is a quick way to set one candidate apart from another. A good cover letter will be addressed to the hiring personnel, with proper spelling. The letter should not only manage their qualifications and achievements, but it should also connect the job requirements into their letter. Cover letters don’t have to be lengthy to be effective; they have to sound approachable and convincing.

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