What is the Best Way to Review Applications?

Hiring for open positions is a time-consuming task. Businesses today can have hundreds of applicants for a single opening, and while a large selection can yield the best talent, managers find it difficult to adequately review each application. There are several strategies managers can employ to methodically sort through a stack of applications and resumes. Find the one that best suits your time constraints and the nature of the opening.

In recent years, new companies with personal debt or even well of businesses have turned to keyword finding software to sort resumes and applications and extract those that meet specified criteria. This technology is a time saver, a way to weed out a large number of applicants in a short time and with virtually no manpower. Technology is not foolproof, though, and these programs are not all sensitive to nuances in wording or prioritizing candidate qualities. You might find them to be a good first step to narrowing the field, but rely on your own judgment to select the final candidates.

The most efficient and thorough strategy for reviewing applications is screening in phases. You can decide which criteria matter to you and how many stages your screening process needs. Unlike computer screening, you can also keep applicants for a second look that the software might throw out for not having the right number of keywords, for instance.

Screening Applications

Screening requires several phases. At each phase, you review a different part of the application or resume to narrow the field gradually. As your stack of applications gets smaller, you end up with a better and better selection of applicants. The final phase should leave you with a manageable number to call in for phone or in-person interviews where you can make your final selection. The criteria you choose for each phase depends on your preferences and the qualifications you are looking for in an employee.

The first phase whittles away the non-serious candidates whose applications are not worth a second read. Incomplete applications, gross spelling and grammar errors and illegible handwriting tend to be grounds for automatic disqualification. This first phase could potentially dwindle your list of candidates, but you save hours on unnecessary reading.

The next phase is a quick review of content. If resumes are attached, you can start with the first line, the objective. Vague or generic objectives are a sign of someone putting out their feelers to see what bites. Someone who has taken the time to tailor that statement you the position and the company's mission might prove a more promising potential hire. You can also check for simple criteria like whether the applicants have college degrees.

The third phase is usually when you get into the meat of the application. At this point, review relevant skills, previous work experience, volunteer projects and other information on the application. It may take a couple of read-throughs to come to a reasonable final numbers. For each reading, you can be more and more selective. If necessary, hand off the stack to another manager or supervisor for a second look.

The final stage of the application process is the interview, and it can be more telling than anything on paper. An applicant's personality is just as important as his qualifications. Someone without the ideal work experience might be a very promising prospect. The job application screening process is not perfect, but it is an efficient way to review a large number of applications thoughtfully. Ultimately, your preferences and the requirements of the job will determine the best fit for your company.

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