Processing Applications and Screening Resumes
The key to processing applications and reviewing resumes is planning. Before you receive your first application you should have a plan in place to evaluate, interview, and hire candidates. Ensure that you’ve thoroughly thought out the details of the position and written a great job description. If you’re working with a staffing company, this is where the article ends for now. Send them your job description and let them get to work finding you the best candidate. If you’re hiring internally, post the job on relevant job boards and utilize your network & social media to attract passive candidates. Make sure you’ve put in the work necessary to build a strong employer brand so candidates feel confident applying. Then sit back and watch the applications come in.
The steps of processing and evaluating resumes:
- Set Aside Enough Time
- Create A Review Process
- Sort Resumes Into 3 Categories
- Evaluate The Cover letter
- Evaluate The Resume
- Screen The Candidates
- Call The Candidates References
- Refine Your Process
Plan Enough Time
Time yourself going over one resume. Multiply that amount of time by how many resumes you need to review. Allot enough time to review all of your resumes. Add an extra 15-30 minutes for padding. Turn off the ringer on your phone and dedicate all your attention to this task. Distractions and running out of time could mean that you rush the process.
Create a Review Process
You’ve received a giant stack of resumes, now what? Hopefully while writing your impeccable job description you identified “must have” requirements. This will allow you to eliminate candidates based on their application without ever having to read their resume which can eliminate a lot of wasted time spent reviewing the resumes of unqualified candidates. If you prefer handling tangible resumes print them out. Otherwise, review them digitally. Consider using technology to speed up the process. If you haven’t yet researched it look into tools for spell checking, finding keywords, and parsing resumes. Many of these are built in or integrate into applicant tracking systems.
Your resume review process should include some kind of sorting. Traditionally three yes, no, and maybe piles are created. If your resumes are digital, use yes, no, and maybe folders. These can also be identified as qualified, mostly-qualified, and not qualified. Create a screening checklist that includes requirements for the position. The screening checklist should include items like adequate experience, education, required skill sets, certifications, etc. Identify a threshold for the three categories. For example, resumes that have 8 or more out of 10 requirements can be placed in the yes folder while those with 5-7 of the requirements end up in the maybe folder. If the resumes are digital use the ctrl+f (command+f on mac) function to find keywords relevant to the position. Requirements like spelling and grammar should take a backseat to skills & experience. An overlooked spelling error shouldn’t disqualify someone unless they’re applying for an editor position.
Evaluate the Cover Letter
Read the cover letter. When reviewing cover letters choose whether you want to be effective, efficient, or both. The fastest way to review cover letters is to ensure that it’s customized for your company/job opportunity and to scan for relevant keywords. If you’re more concerned with quality take the time to ensure spelling and grammar are correct. Also, look out for a unique opening line. If no cover letter is included, that doesn’t necessarily disqualify the candidate. If you’ve received a lot of applications feel free to disqualify these candidates. However, in many industries, cover letters are becoming passe. If you received printed resumes, ignore paper quality. Things like paper quality shouldn’t factor into your decision making. Anyone can buy fancy paper, not everyone can craft a clever cover letter showcasing their abilities. Base your decision on what they say, not what the paper feels like.
If you’ve opted for a thorough reading of each cover letter focus on how customized it is. Generic statements generally mean the candidate is reusing the same cover letter for all of their applications. This might be acceptable for entry-level positions as candidates aren’t typically going to wax poetic about their dreams to achieve greatness in the position. Use your best judgment.
Evaluate The Resume
Look for a statement that summarizes the candidates’ experience and qualifications. A statement like this should help you check some of those boxes or identify the candidate as not-qualified. If you’ve opted for the fast track this statement should contain the keywords you need to categorize the candidate.
What To Look For
While reviewing the resume keep an eye out for specific requirements and red flags. Experience, education, and necessary skills are the type of criteria you should include in your requirement checklist. Look for examples of quantitative results and messaging that’s tailored for your company or the position. A lack of these doesn’t necessarily disqualify a candidate, but the best candidates will most likely include them. Red flags such as a lack of professionalism or a lack of long term mentality should disqualify candidates. This is true even for those who meet all the other requirements. If the candidate can’t be professional in their resume, imagine what they’ll be like in person. Furthermore, if the candidate doesn’t have any aspirations, they’re more likely to be a dud. Review recent employers, accomplishments, etc. to check the rest of the boxes or decidedly scrap the resume into the no pile.
Don’t Ignore Red Flags
If a candidate meets all the requirements but triggers some warning flags in your review, relegate them to the maybe category. Some issues to keep an eye out for are gaps in employment history, signs of demotion or decreasing responsibilities, short-term positions, or multiple shifts in career path.
Sidenote: Count the total number of applications received. In the end, you should eliminate at least a third of these. If you haven’t you may want to adjust your qualifications to make them more strict.
Once you’ve finished reviewing the applications, cover letters and resumes. Go through the candidates that made it into the qualified category. Looks for strengths, weaknesses and rank them from most qualified to least qualified. Do the same for the maybe/mostly qualified category. One of the reasons candidates will end up in the maybe category is experience. If a candidate lacks experience but has a lot of promise they could be a suitable alternative if your other options don’t work out.
Once you’ve identified the qualified and the mostly-qualified candidates start the screening process. Before you reach out to candidates, review each resume again and sort them into more defined categories. Once you’ve chosen the top candidates, perform phone screenings and schedule interviews. Depending on the position this might be the last step. References and multiple interviews with team members and higher-ups might be necessary. If you’ve been working with a staffing company this is where you’ll come back into the picture. The staffing agency will provide qualified candidates who have been vetted. All you have to do is the final interviewing, select the individual you’d like to hire, and negotiate compensation.
Contact The Candidates References
If references are required, check to make sure they’ve included the right amount. When contacting references take notes and look for consistency. It’s a bad sign if the way there are inconsistencies with the references descriptions of the candidate.
Refine The Process
As you progress through the process for the first time you’ll identify ways to improve. This is where taking notes can be so helpful for increasing efficiency. Make modifications to the process that make sense for your organization. In addition to those improvements try some of the following tips to increase the efficiency of your resume review process. A streamlined process will allow you to spend more time interviewing the top candidates.
Skip reading candidate names, address, and other personal information. It’s irrelevant until you’ve identified them as a qualified candidate. Ignore spelling errors or grammar mistakes. This is something you can use to identify the cream of the crop. Don’t throw out high-quality resumes because of a typo. Ignore paper quality or font choices. Unless you’re hiring for a print designer these choices have little bearing in the review process. This is an antiquated qualifier, welcome to the 21st century.
Take notes. If you’ve printed out the resumes, use a bright colored pen and make marks and notes directly on the resume. If not, make your notes digitally, or just write them on a notepad. There are a lot of resumes to review and it’s easy to get confused.
As you progress and review more and more resumes you’ll get better at the process. The key is to actively refine the process and intentionally focus on being efficient and identifying candidates that will work well within your organization. The more you’re able to optimize this process the more time you’ll have to do all the other things necessary to stand out in a competitive job market.
If you’ve grown tired of the struggle to find top talent, reach out to us. We’d love to help you with your hiring needs.