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What are some tips for screening résumés?

Screening a stack of résumés can be a daunting task for even experienced recruiters. However, with a little prework and an organized approach, the process can be streamlined to help select the best candidates to interview.

Know the positions/vacancies. Become familiar with the job and its position description in order to efficiently and accurately compare the experiences listed on a résumé with the requirements of the job description. Things to consider might include the following:

  • Be sure job descriptions (especially for vacancies) are up to date. Meet with hiring managers to make sure any duties, skills or credentials that may have changed have been included or removed as necessary.
  • If the job description is significantly out of date, a job analysis may be needed to get an accurate description to ensure a proper hire.
  • Understand what qualities a person in the job should have to ensure success in the position, such as the ability to work independently, being results-oriented, strong teamwork skills, etc.

Create an evaluation grid. To help organize the résumés, create a spreadsheet to chart and rate the résumés as they come in. This chart may be altered for different positions. Some ideas for creating the grid include the following:

  • List the résumés alphabetically (by name) or numerically (in order received) along the Y-axis (down the column on the left).
  • List the qualifications to consider along the X axis (across the row at the top). Include such headings as credentials, competencies (SHRM's sample interview questions can provide guidance to help identify competencies needed for the position), educational requirements, certifications, years of experience, supervisory experience, accomplishments, relocation needed, gaps in employment, spelling/grammar errors. Identify which categories are "must-haves" in order for the candidate to be considered for the position.

Organize résumés into three folders. As you chart the résumés on your evaluation grid, organize them into three folders as follows:

  • Yes: meets all criteria.
  • No: does not meet must-have or minimum criteria.
  • Maybe: meets must-have criteria and some additional criteria, but not all.

Review each folder. Now, more closely review each folder; ensure the "No's" really do not meet minimum requirements and the "Maybe's" don't belong in one of the other two folders. Sometimes, as we go through the process of organizing, we get better at it, and résumés reviewed early on might be misclassified. Then review the final "Yes" folder for more specific information and question each résumé. For instance:

  • Are there actual accomplishments to support the competencies required?
  • Does the résumé include statements like "reduced unemployment claims by 12%" or "increased productivity by 5%" where "results-driven" is a competency for the position?
  • If job-hopping is not uncommon for the industry, does the applicant's job history indicate movement that exceeds the norm?
  • Are there any unacceptable writing or style errors?
  • Are there any unexplained gaps in employment?

Sort the final folders. Put those résumés that do not meet the above questions into the "Maybe" or "No" files as warranted. Organize the remaining resumes in the "Yes" folder in the order of those with the most positive answers on top, followed by those that may be more questionable, but are still acceptable. Select those on the top to interview first, followed by the remainder of the "Yes" folder if more interviews are desired.


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