What are Some Tips for Resume Screening?

Resume screening is a process of deducing the most qualified candidates from a slew of applicants. Reading resumes is extremely time-consuming, but it is still the standard practice for hiring in most industries. Applicants often resent the resume: condensing yourself into one page of bullet points is challenging, and some feel it demeans their accomplishments and creativity. But it is also the best way to give a quick first impression by prioritizing your strongest suits.

Some employers ask for portfolios, work philosophies and other supplementary material, but the resume is the definitive document for evaluating a candidate. It is quick to read, comprehensive and informative. As an employer, the resume is your entree into those other documents. If the candidate gives a good first impression on that single page, you might determine that it is worth your time to explore him further. Screening resumes requires an initial time investment, but it can save you time down the road, especially if having to fire an employee could have been avoided by screening his or her resume.

Resume screening usually entails several steps or rounds. At each phase, more candidates are weeded out until you are left with a reasonable stack. The way you conduct your screening depends on your priorities. Are you a stickler for spelling and grammar, or is there a certain level of education your ideal candidate must have attained? Your preferences will guide the way you determine which resumes make the cut and which end up in the bin.

Phases of Screening

In the time before e-mail and electronic submission, resume screeners would take things like paper stock into account to gauge how serious a candidate was. Today, many companies make their applications available online where candidates can upload their resumes, no paper or postage required. This changes the game somewhat, but the rules are generally the same.

In creative positions or very professional settings, document design may be factor in the first phase. Left-aligned Times New Roman may not cut it at a graphic design studio, and Comic Sans is a disqualifier at a law firm. The look of the document can evoke a visceral reaction, so follow your gut when taking that first look. A quick scan can also illuminate spelling and grammar errors and a general lack of attention to detail.

Electronic submission allows you to broaden your field of candidates, but it also lets in the chaff. A sure sign of a candidate who isn't serious about the position is lack of a cover letter. Just the presence or absence of a letter can set a candidate apart. A benefit of electronic submission is the many keyword-finding programs available. These programs can pick out the resumes with a particular keyword included, but beware: they are not fool-proof.

The next phase is a reading for content. If education or previous experience is a high priority, search for those things first. Next, read the objective: a generic statement indicates that the applicant is putting out feelers to see who bites, and he may not be passionate about the position. It used to be that employers would take gaps in employment as a red flag, but that has changed in recent years. The recent state of the economy has led people to go back to school or even suffer unemployment through no real fault of their own.

If, after this phase, you still have a formidable pile, you might do another scan for the stand-outs. Once you narrow the field, you are ready for telephone screenings and face-to-face interviews. The initial resume screening process helps you select the very best to benefit your company.

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