As popular industry trainer Barb Bruno has said on more than one occasion, “The recruiter with the candidate wins!” That, in a nutshell, is why resume screening is so important for recruiters.
The resume is the first step in the process of finding the right candidate for a client’s open job order. If a recruiter is able to screen resumes correctly, that will help them to find the right candidate in the shortest amount of time. Effectively and efficiently reviewing resumes is a linchpin of any good recruitment sourcing strategy. If recruiters aren’t able to do so . . . well, then the ending to the story is not quite as happy.
However, before we embark upon our examination of this topic, clearly defining resume screening is a priority. After all, how can we talk about what we’re talking about if we don’t know exactly what we’re talking about?
What is resume screening?
Resume screening is the process of sorting through resumes, either manually or non-manually, for the purpose of identifying qualified candidates who may be available to fill a specific role. The criteria used to identify these candidates is most commonly a person’s education, skills, and experience, although other criteria can also be used.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not. In fact, screening applications and resumes is one of the most time-consuming recruitment process steps. A recruiter who’s been in the business for any length of time will tell you that 75% to 80% of resumes they receive are unqualified. That can translate into a whole lot of wasted time, and wasted time does NOT translate into placements made.
So the challenge associated with what to look for in a resume is to “screen out” the unqualified resumes in an expedient fashion and “screen” in the qualified resumes even more quickly.
Simple steps for how to review resumes
There are two ways to analyze how to evaluate a resume. There’s the “big picture” view and the nitty-gritty details. We’re going to start with the “big picture view.”
Every open position is different. Every job description is different. That has an effect on which resumes you “screen in” and which ones you “screen out.” However, there are some high-level criteria that are consistent across the board, and those are the ones we’ll address now.
Those criteria are two-fold:
- Minimum requirements (“must haves”)
- Preferred requirements (“like to haves”)
With that in mind, there are two simple steps for evaluating resumes from the “big picture” perspective. They are as follows:
#1—Screening resumes based on minimum requirements
When screening resumes, one of the most important criteria is the ability to “screen” out the unqualified resumes as quickly as possible. After all, the thing that slows down resume screening the most is sheer volume. Being able to trim down a huge pile of resumes into a small pile of resumes submitted by qualified candidates is extremely valuable. This aspect of the screening process is what’s known as the qualifying dimension.
That’s where screening based on minimum requirements enters the picture. If a candidate can’t make it past the minimum requirements of the position, then they certainly aren’t going to make it past the preferred requirements. These minimum requirements are also referred to as “knockout factors,” as in candidates or applicants are “knocked out” of the process because they fail to meet them.
#2—Screening resumes based on preferred requirements
Now that we’ve discussed the “must haves,” let’s turn our attention to the “like to haves.” The minimum requirement bar is a set bar. However, the preferred requirement bar is a bit different.
That’s because there are varying levels of preferred requirements. For example, an employer might have 10 preferred requirements regarding the candidate they’re seeking. Let’s say one candidate meets five of those requirements, while another meets seven of them. Despite that difference, they both cleared the minimum requirement bar. However, even though they both cleared that bar, one of them is better qualified for the position than the other, based solely on the number of preferred requirements they possess. This aspect of the resume screening process is what’s known as the determining dimension.
This is where the resume screening process becomes trickier. There are a couple of reasons this is the case:
Preferred qualifications are usually tied more closely to “soft skills” rather than “hard skills.” As a result, they’re more difficult to track and quantify through some sort of soft skills assessment. These soft skills can sometimes lead to the perception of a skills gap.
Preferred qualifications can be more subjective in nature. For example, one person involved in the hiring process might put a greater emphasis on a qualification than another person. As a result, there might be a difference of opinion regarding one or more candidates (although that debate typically occurs later in the process).
The overriding goal is to whittle the list of applicants down into a small list of highly qualified candidates who possess nearly all of the preferred requirements for the position. One method for bridging the skills gap to help identify the most placeable candidates is to incorporate a resume screening checklist.
Resume screening checklist
A resume screening checklist is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a checklist of guidelines that help recruiters more accurately and effectively review resumes. (Don’t you love it when the world makes sense?) There are plenty of considerations for screening applications and resumes, and inattention to any one area can create inefficiencies in the process, resulting in wasted time, energy, and effort.
Below are six basic steps to include in your resume screening checklist:
#1—Make sure you’re attracting the right applicants.
This is tied directly to the job description. It must be written correctly, with laser-like focus on exactly what you want in applicants. You know candidates: they’ll apply for positions even if there’s NO way they’ll get the job or even remotely qualified for it. (Although in the back of their mind, they’re thinking there might just be a chance . . .) Be specific about everything, including skills, years of experience, training and education, etc. Spell out exactly what you’re seeking so that nothing can be open to interpretation. If you leave it open, then expect even more submitted resumes from unqualified applicants.
#2—Beware of extreme employment patterns.
This can go in two different directions, as the word “extremes” implies. First, a flurry of employment stints within a short amount of time. (A “problem employee,” perhaps? That’s not for us to say. It’s for you to say.) Second, staying with the same company in the same position for years and years and years? (A “stagnant, risk-averse employee,” perhaps? That’s not for us to—never mind, you get the idea.)
#3—Identify “keyword stuffing.”
Candidates aren’t stupid . . . even if they aren’t qualified for the position. That’s why they “stuff” their resumes with perceived industry buzzwords. They figure if they include enough of these words, then their resume will be more likely to be considered. This could work especially well if you use an applicant tracking spreadsheet to code applicant resumes. That’s all fine and good, except that the buzzwords are usually the best part of their resume. The right candidates will have the right buzzwords in the right places, such as descriptions of past work history and accomplishments. To scale this process, don’t be afraid to use ATS recruiting software to quickly break down the real strengths and weaknesses of your prospective candidates.
#4—Employ testing, when and where possible.
This is an added layer of resume screening protection. Applicants will be forced (that might be a strong word) to undergo an online pre-employment skills test. The beauty of this is that you can administer this test anywhere along the line—before they submit their resume, after they submit their resume and before the phone interview stage, after the phone interview stage and before the face-to-face interview. However, do your homework before implementing such a step, and also discuss it with your organization’s legal team. They might be interested to know what you’re doing.
#5—Articulate the ideal candidate prior to the search.
There are many people associated with the hiring process. That means there is the potential for many opinions and subsequent clashes of those opinions if everybody is not on the same page. That’s why everybody associated with the process should know what the idea candidate looks like, on paper, if nowhere else. And since we’re talking about resume screening, we are talking about paper (or the digital facsimile thereof).
#6—Consider skills outside of the minimum or preferred requirement range.
There a good chance that the ability to speak three languages isn’t one of the minimum requirements of the position. It probably isn’t even one of the preferred requirements. But what if an applicant who submitted a resume is able to speak three languages? Or has lived in four countries during their life? That’s definitely something to consider, and it might just be a consideration that propels the applicant onto the shortlist of candidates.
A resume screening solution for recruiters
An applicant tracking system can a great way to more effectively screen resumes. The ATS serves as a recruiting database, holding all of the resumes and allowing you to perform keyword searches on them. Once the resumes are in the database, you can screen them all at once based upon whatever criteria you choose. Then you can further refine your search until you have a short list of qualified candidates from which to choose and/or move to the next stage of the process.
However, the question becomes this one: how do I get the resumes into my recruiting software? Well, there’s more than one way, including the following:
This tool extracts all of the important information from the resume, such as contact information, work history, education, skill sets, etc.
With this tool, recruiters can quickly email resumes right into the database, and their software will parse the resumes, create a record, and attach the resume to that record.
Big Biller is an applicant tracking system for recruiters that offers both of these tools. It also offers a Contact Importer that allows recruiters to import Excel spreadsheets and .csv files of candidates into the software quickly and easily.
Big Biller is a resume screening solution for recruiters, and you can try the Big Biller recruiting software right now FREE for 15 days. You can also sign up for a demo of our recruiting software.
Screen resumes more effectively, present more qualified candidates, and make more placements!