I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen: Resume Selection 101

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An employee turns over (apparently they don’t see in your company what you do, obviously their loss).  This vacancy needs to be filled quickly and being the diligent hiring manager that you are, the position is soon posted in every possible location.  Resumes begin pouring in and before you can say “Talent Acquisition,” a surmounting pile of hundreds of aspiring employees is awaiting judgment.  Instead of crawling under the desk to hide, consider some strategic tips aimed at trimming down that mound of applicants.

As a general rule of thumb, don’t start by thoroughly reviewing each resume.  There may be one or two items of value in each one, thus increasing the chance that the screener will end up with an abundance of mediocre candidates in the “interview” pile.  Reduce these down to a select few resumes and work backward, supplementing the stack of top contenders with applicants that closely match 100% of the requirements, until you have a well-built pool to start with.

Knowing now that a “whittle down” process should be in place, how do you begin?  One by one, work through this list until only the top five or ten candidates remain:


It seems like a no-brainer, but some hiring managers tend to consider applicants with less than the set requirements if other credentials on the resume are appealing.  Instead of wasting time with the top 50, narrow down job seekers by selecting the right previous experience.  Keep in mind that the time the employee held a particular position matters.  A previous role may be identical to what you’re looking for, but if the position was held for less than two years, it may be hard to assess how much experience was actually gained.


Tenure not only matters in terms of experience gained, but also in predicting the longevity that will be held with your company.  Five jobs in the last 10 years is not a good sign for a potential long-term fit.  An unstable job market does allow for the consideration of reduction in force as a reason for an employee’s turnover, however, a “last one hired, first one fired” excuse should not be the reason for every move in a candidate’s employment history.


A degree in Rocket Science from Harvard is impressive, but a position as a lab technician hardly requires it.  Unless the career path at your company ends in a role where that level of education could be utilized, this applicant should be screened out.  Shy away from those that are over educated for the position you are recruiting.  Those with a higher education will soon be bored in a role that doesn’t allow them to apply that knowledge.


The economy today affords recruiters the luxury of a seemingly never-ending stream of potential hires.  With good candidates across the map looking for work, relocating someone can be a last resort instead of a strategy used right out of the gate.  Reduce the quantity of resumes by weeding out those that live more than a few hours driving distance away from the proposed location.  If a local hire cannot be found, relocation can be a fallback.

Consultants/Business Owners

Owning your own business is a great example of an independent thinker, an entrepreneur.  Someone with consulting experience is obviously talented in their field.  However, if a resume is riddled with small stints between positions in a candidate-owned business or a consulting role, this is a huge red flag.  This suggests that when the going gets tough, the candidate gets going…and they have their own business or other interests to fall back on.  There are a lot of failed businesses, currently a sign of the times.  Making sure the intent of the applicant is not to jump ship when the economy turns around is a very important consideration when looking at a resume with this kind of experience listed.


After all that narrowing down, are you still left with more than enough candidates?  Screen resumes for accuracy, spelling, and grammar.  If a candidate doesn’t care enough to proof their resume before submittal, how much care will they show with their job responsibilities?  The state of their resume may be an indicator when estimating a level of detail.

In the end, making the right staff addition lies in how you choose to screen beyond the resume.  Following these simple guidelines will only help to increase the probability that an applicant moving on in the process will become a successful long-term hire.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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