Before You Ever Look at a Resume

Before You Ever Look at a Resume . . .
by Scott Crandell


Over the years, we’ve looked at a LOT of resumes and – unfortunately, speaking only for myself – I wasted a TON of time doing that.

And most of that waste came before there were key word searches, SEO optimization, custom-targeted resumes for specific job roles, and all the rest. Reviewing resumes these days is (or can be) hard, tedious, frustrating work. I think it’s safe to say that if you’re still looking at resumes in the same way you were even two or three years ago, you’re probably not really looking at resumes very effectively.

Because I got tired of wasting my own time, I adopted several ‘rules’ – developed by my colleagues here at Smart Work – that I now follow to get the most out of this key (and critical) step.

Rule 1: Understand why you’re reviewing these resumes. Since reviewing resumes (actually “screening resumes”) is an early step in the recruiting and selection process, I understand that I’m doing this only to eliminate the obvious “poor fits”. Especially in today’s economy, if your job posting has been at all effective, and you’ve cast a wide enough net, you probably have far MORE candidates than you can effectively interview. Plus, a large percentage of them (probably) are not viable candidates. (Candidates are using the “spray and pray” technique.) You must use this step to winnow down your volume of applicant leads to something manageable.

Rule 2: Use “Knock Out” questions. Determine what the “Must Haves” and the “Must Nots” are for the position, and develop as many of them as you can into questions that will form part of the application process. For example, if the candidate must have 3 years experience, then that’s one of the knock out questions. If they “must not” be currently unemployed, then include that as well (although we consider unemployed people all the time for our clients, and for ourselves). Those who answer these questions wrong don’t even make it to the resume phase. In one recent job we did for a financial services client (where there were money/security-related aspects to the role) we asked about the candidates’ specific credit score. Again, these answers separate viable candidates (per YOUR criteria) from the others, and many are “knocked out” during the application phase, without your having to do any screening or take any more time. Just be sure you are using “bona fide” criteria for success in the job.

Rule 3: Decide exactly what you’re looking for. Based on the “Must Haves” and “Must Nots”, and your job description (we typically use a far more detailed-than-usual version called a “Job Model”), I know exactly what experience markers (job & industry), and education/training/ certifications I’m looking for. Also know the “poison pills” that tell you when someone is not a fit. In a quick scan (see below), I can see very quickly whether this person is a keeper or not.

Rule 4: Make and follow a “Scan List” to conduct your review. I always have a formalized, printed list of the necessary items (from Rule 3 above) to look for. This is ordinarily seven to nine key criteria, and by using it to guide my scan, I’m typically able to go through a resume thoroughly in 2-3 minutes (and even faster once I’m warmed up!).  If you can’t make the resume screen almost “industrial” in speed and efficiency, you’re probably spending (wasting?) too much time and effort.

Rule 5: Use a Grading System in your scan. My “Scan List” always includes a grade section for each of the key criteria (A+, A, B, & C). I grade each criteria as I go through my scan, and I put the total (or average score) at the top of the Scan List (for easy reference) for each candidate. And I keep all the grade sheets together so my next step is easy.

Rule 6: Group & Prioritize the Remaining Candidates. Chances are, even though your scan weeded out many candidates, you may still have more candidates remaining than you have time to effectively phone screen (which is the next step). Therefore, put all your “A” candidates together, then your “B” candidates, and so on. Start your phone screen appointments with the “A” candidates, and work down through the groups only as far as necessary. You may end up phone screening only the “A” candidates, or maybe just a portion of the “A”s. As long as you find enough viable candidates to move along through the phone screen, there’s no law that says you have to talk to everyone who made it through your resume screen.

Smart Work|Network has developed a lot of tools (far more than just the ones mentioned here) that make the whole recruiting and selection process easier, quicker, and more effective. If you need help customizing and using any of the tools I’ve discussed here for your own use, or want to discuss any issues you might have, we’d be very happy to talk with you, and help you change your recruiting efforts into something more effective.

Remember, the first step in building a high-performing organization is selecting high-performing employees. Hire for fit and train for skills.


Smart Tweets

Get Smarter, 140 characters at a time.