Screening Resumes like a Professional

In the past two weeks, I have seen over 1,800 resumes!! (Actually, that is probably on the low side of what I have seen.) With approximately 200 applicants per job ad, I thought I would share a bit of the process to help you find work. Or, if you are a small business with over 200 resumes to review–this is how an HR professional does it.

You might be surprised to hear that some resumes get reviewed three or more times before they get rejected. Here’s what I do.

Round one I am looking for applications that are not complete. Indeed provides options for testing–DO IT or be prepared to be eliminated in the first round.

Applications from out of the country also often get rejected in the first round. Right now, it is challenging for a company could obtain a work permit for an Administrative Assistant or general labourer type role. Unemployment rates in the area are high, and there are lots of people looking for work. If the position is extremely specialized and there is not a big pool from within the country–the out of country applicants stay.

Applications that are in no way related to the field of work are rejected. For example, Class 1 truck driver with 20 years of experience and no administrative experience on a resume applying for Administrative role–gets rejected. IF you submit a cover letter and explain why you would be a fit, you will likely make it through this round.

This first review generally eliminates about 1/3 to 1/2 of the resumes.

Round two is when I get very heavy-handed with the reject button. Instead of looking for the right candidate, I am still looking for reasons to eliminate people from the competition. That might sound backwards, but the process works–trust me.

Now I’m eliminating resumes from people with spelling mistakes, missing information or incomplete resumes and job descriptions. Yes, spelling counts. Especially if you tell me you have good attention to detail, and I find 13 spelling errors on the first page of your resume. Most employers want to know a few things about your employment history–where you worked, the position title, how long you worked there and what you did. Simple. If you leave out one of these pieces, it makes it hard for me to include you in the next round.

By the end of this round, we will have the majority of resumes in the reject pile. But I’m not done yet.

As I start the next round, I am looking for your skills and background to match the job we are hiring for more closely. Experience is excellent–but too much experience for a starting position might take you out. Or not enough experience. If we are looking for someone with ten years of experience, it means we probably won’t settle for less than seven years. And while I appreciate that your two years were filled with learning, this role requires someone who already knows all the tips and tricks. Want to stay in the competition–include a cover letter and dazzle me with reasons to hire you even if you are not on paper the best fit.

Out of the 200 resumes, we started with by this point, and we are hopefully down to 30ish resumes. This is where I begin to look for who is moving forward. Everyone in the pile has the right basic skills for the role, and now I am looking for the fit. If the position is at a large corporation and you have never worked at a larger company, I may choose the candidate who does have that experience over you. Your experience is good, and it isn’t to say that you couldn’t do the role well, it just means we need to narrow down the list.

During this part of the screening, I am looking for a cultural fit for the company; I’m looking for interesting resumes that are standing out even if they don’t fit all the boxes, and I use my instincts. The list is now down to 10 – 12.

Leave a comment