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3 resume screening tips to find the best candidates to interview

Posted Rowan O'Grady, Hays Canada President on Friday, Jun 29, 2018

Whether you're sorting through 20 resumes or 200, you want to be efficient and thorough. Many hiring managers tell us they are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applications that come in and often more than half are not relevant or sufficient for the advertised role.

So how can you quickly discard irrelevant resumes, without throwing out a diamond by mistake? Follow these three steps and you'll be able to reduce the time between advertising and interviewing.

1. Do an initial screening for the "definitely nots" and the "maybes"

In your first round of review, don't worry about finding the perfect candidate - focu on rejecting resumes that don't have the necessary skills or experience. Use the person specification to determine the "must haves" and discard resumes that don't have these. Try to keep the list of "must haves" short and focused on competency, rather than looking for very specific education or an exact number of years of work.

The core question you are asking at this stage is "Are they worth a closer look?"

If you are working with a recruiter then they will take responsibility for this step so you can focus on the next stage. There are also tools such as resume screening software that can quickly filter resumes. However, if you're using this type of program make sure your specifications are broad  enough to capture a range of language and phrasing. You didn't want to discard someone with the right skills because they used different wording.

2. When you have your "maybe" pile, narrow the list even more based on skills and achievements, education, and previous employment.

Now your pile of resumes should look more manageable. Take a closer look at these resumes and ask some key questions about each candidate:

  • Where did they work previously and what were they responsible for?
  • What did they study? Do they invest in their own skills development?
  • What makes them unique? How could that benefit your organization?
  • Have they shown that they can set goals and achieve them?

These questions should help you rank the resumes. You know that these individuals have reached the absolute minimum requirements so now you're looking for differentiators. Is international experience more valuable than an industry-specific degree? Do you need someone with customer service experience, or are administrative skills more important?

3. Look at cover letters and social media as a final step before confirming interviews

Once you have your short-list, read their cover letter and look at their LnkedIn. The cover letter should be tailored to the position, and give you an indication of who they are, not just what they can do. Look at why they want the role and what they hope to achieve from it. Refer back to your original specifications and consider some of the aspects that are hard to assess. You can learn a lot about a candidate's soft skills, such as communication, from a cover letter.

When you're looking at a LinkedIn profile, make sure it aligns with their resume. Look for recommendations and endorsements, their personal summary, what groups they belong to and what kinds of updates they do. These can indicate how engaged they are with the industry and their career.

Once you've completed all these steps, you have the shortlist and knowledge of each candidate to begin phone screening. If you work with a recruiter then they will be able to streamline this process so you only see the shortlist and from there decide who you want to meet in person.

Get the tips you need for hiring the best people by getting your copy of the Hays Hiring Essentials Handbook.

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For more advice on how to hire the best talent, check out another of our blogs:

How to hire: Best practices from ad to offer

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