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Tips to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Resume Review Process

April 10, 2018

Tips to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Resume Review Process

The hiring process can be long and taxing. The part of the process that seems to be the least favorite for recruiters is the resume review. That’s not surprising, though; recruiters spend hours sifting through hundreds of resumes with varying formats and information. It can easily become overwhelming.

Furthermore, research shows that resume reviews are less valid and less reliable compared to other processes like structured interviews or assessments. Something that may stick out as a red flag may in fact not be as big of a concern, but you may have already tossed the resume and moved on. Yet, reviewing resumes continue to be a very common step in the hiring process. So, if we are going to continue to use resume screens, how can we make the process more efficient? 

Use a Job Analysis to Identify Clear Criteria.

Before beginning to review resumes, the first thing you should do is identify specific criteria for the job, right? Having a consistent strategy to identify these criteria can help make the process more efficient. A job analysis can help you identify the most important skills, knowledge, and abilities (KSAs) in addition to years of experience and education level required for each job for which you're reviewing resumes. Job analysis observations and conversations guide you to consider the outcome of a job responsibility, rather than the way it is completed. This provides a more accurate and complete understanding of the position and can also help with interview guide development. 

Here's more information on how to conduct a job analysis.

Using the determined criteria, you can start reviewing resumes by quickly scanning for the KSAs you identified. Resumes vary greatly from candidate to candidate and it can be easy to lose focus and begin judging the resume based on information that may not be relevant to the job – resist the urge and stick to that criteria!

Look for the Obvious Red Flags...

The resume review is designed to screen out unqualified candidates, so be on the lookout for issues that may indicate the candidate is unsuitable for the position. Red flags can include the obvious – employment gaps and job hopping, multiple spelling/grammatical errors, or failure to follow directions (e.g. submitting the resume in a word document when the instructions say to submit it in a PDF format). It’s also good to look out for vague comments. If a candidate lists ill-defined roles and responsibilities, this could be a sign that they may be stretching the truth of their actual job duties.

But, Don’t Jump to Conclusions.

So, a candidate missed a comma – it can happen to even the best grammar wizard. Or maybe there was an employment gap, but it was caused by illness, care giving, or continued education. We know that resume reviews lack validity and reliability. So, instead of throwing a candidate out of the process for what could be arbitrary reasons, conduct a phone interview with the candidate and probe into the issue. There may be a very good reason for the employment gap or job hopping. If a candidate seems to have the right qualifications but has a red flag, instead of automatically eliminating them, consider taking the time to further evaluate the candidate using a more valid measure (i.e. a structured interview). To help better equip you to ask the right probing questions, here is a checklist of 5 best practices to help you probe around vague candidate responses.

Resumes cause us all a lot of stress. Candidates hate writing them and recruiters hate reviewing them. However, it is a step in the hiring process that won’t go away. Technology has made reviewing resumes easier. There now is technology that can automatically scan resumes for key-words and qualifications, but we are still a long way away from completely removing a human-based resume review. Until we get there, it’s important that we take the necessary steps to make the resume screen as efficient, valid, and reliable as possible.

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Cassandra Walter Cassandra Walter is a Consulting Associate located at PSI's Pittsburgh office. She holds a master's degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology. She works with clients across many different industries, including manufacturing, retail, customer service, and healthcare. Her areas of expertise include providing training and support for PSI’s applicant tracking system, as well as assisting clients with requests and questions regarding tools and processes.