Gone in 30 Seconds: How to Review a Resume

Julie Checknita, Employer Services | June-29-11


Needle Haystack


One of the greatest challenges in recruitment occurs after the job has been posted, once the resumes begin to roll in. Whether it is during tough economic times, when jobs are limited and applicants are abundant, or during a boom when the number and quality of applicants are low, narrowing down a list of candidates worthy of an interview is not an easy task.

Learning how to efficiently and effectively screen resumes is an essential skill for anyone involved in the recruitment and selection process.  In the following excerpt from About Human Resources, Susan Heathfield outlines steps you can take to decrease the time you spend searching for that ideal candidate:


• Read the customized cover letter. Look especially for a flawless presentation, correct spelling and grammar, and the applicant’s attention to detail. What – there is no cover letter? This is the downside of electronic resume spamming. Receiving countless, usually unqualified, applicant resumes, occurs following every job posting. The tip off? Usually, unqualified applicants fail to write a cover letter. Choose, or choose not, to continue your resume review at this point.

• Scan the resume to obtain an overall impression of the applicant. Look especially for a flawless presentation, correct spelling and grammar, and their attention to detail. Paper resumes must pass the “feel” test.

• In the first skim, look for the easy-to-find qualifications. (As an example, if you are requiring a college degree, does the applicant have one?) If not, reject the resume or place it in your “maybe” meets qualifications pile or electronic folder.

• Read the description of what the candidate says they are looking for in their next job. Is the statement customized to your job or does it describe any job in the world? As an example, I generally reject resumes that make statements such as “I seek a challenging opportunity to utilize my skills with a progressive employer who will provide opportunities for growth." Honestly, you’ve got to do better than to offer this type of generality to pass the resume screen.

• Look for a summary statement of qualifications and experience. If the candidate has taken the time and customized their summary for your job, this enables you to quickly find the characteristics you seek from your role profile. These resumes quickly hit the “further review” pile. Applicants also need to recognize that more and more larger organizations are scanning resumes into data bases. When a job becomes available, resumes are scanned for relevant keywords. Make the keywords easy to find

• Review the most recent employers and the applicant’s stated experience, accomplishments, and contributions. At this point, you must have found significant cross-over between the applicant’s resume and your requirements. Place the resume in your “to be reviewed further” folder unless you have encountered problems. Red flags at this point in your resume review, that are unexplained on the resume or in the cover letter, include:


--employment gaps,
--evidence of decreasing responsibility,
-- evidence of a career that has reached a plateau or gone backwards,
--short term employment at several jobs, and
--multiple shifts in career path.


• Review your selected resumes against your criteria and each other.

• Telephone screen seemingly qualified candidates. Schedule interviews with the candidates who pass your initial screen.
The more you review resumes, the better your resume review will become. With practice, your resume review may be called gone in twenty seconds, or even, gone in ten seconds, while your resume review continues to yield great candidates.


Have any other tips or suggestions? We would love to hear from you!



Original content posted on About.com Human Resources