Résumé Screening: How to Effectively Assess Job Applications

recruiter screening résumé on laptop

It is no secret that the job market has become increasingly crowded and competitive. While this is encouraging news for most employers who are in desperate need of new employees, sometimes it gets too much for them as well. With the never-ending sea of résumés, it becomes difficult to decide on the right candidate, especially when they all have similar skills and experience. According to Ideal, 52 percent of talent acquisition leaders say the most difficult part of their job is screening the right candidates from a large applicant pool.

This article covers everything you need to know about the résumé screening process.

What is résumé screening?

Recruitment always involves the evaluation of skills, knowledge and abilities of a given job candidate and the most common type of assessment is résumé screening. It is the process of sorting through résumés to disqualify candidates. It helps to determine whether a candidate is qualified for a role based on his or her education, experience and other essential information included on their résumé.

Why is it important?

A wrong hire could result in a time-consuming and costly situation. If an employee does not meet expectations at a later stage or prove unreliable, this is a huge loss for an employer who wants to make sure he/she is recruiting the best candidate for the position. Résumé screening helps with the analysis and verification of data relating to work experience, education and other qualifications and can determine if the person in question is the most suitable or risk-free candidate.

How do you screen a résumé?

There are many ways to screen résumés to minimise the chances of a bad hire.

1. Use an ATS

Studies report that at least half of jobseekers don’t possess the basic qualification for the jobs they are applying for. With the help of Applicant Tracking Systems, employers filter out the candidates whose skills and experience don’t match the job requirements, so that they never even have to see them. If a résumé doesn’t include the right keywords or isn’t tailored to the position applying for, it will probably never make it to the employers’ hands.

2. Create YES/NO piles

One of the most time-effective strategies that recruiters use is dividing the résumés into piles. Since the majority of résumés are received via email or through a recruitment system, they will be sorted into digital folders. Each employer does this differently depending on what they choose to give priority, whether it’s skills or experience. So they might create folders that say ‘must-haves’, ‘definitely yes’, definitely no’ or even ‘maybes’. This helps to make the pile smaller.

3. Examine your résumé closely

The first thing employers should look at when they get hold of a résumé is presentation - format and style are the two elements that stand out. Employers also take a good look at the structure, the order in which the information is presented to get the candidate's name, contact details, work history and employment dates.

If the document is of interest, you shouldn't stop there. Recruiters should also assess the content to see how well the applicant can communicate with short sentences and bullet points and further analyse their work history and skills to find out if they have what the hiring company is looking for.

4. Check for mistakes

When they are examining the content, it becomes much easier to spot any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or anything that doesn’t quite fit. More specifically, you need to look at possible career gaps, inconsistent dates, drastic career changes, decline in responsibility from one role to another and lots of relocation in a short period of time. This helps you as an employer make sense of what the candidate has done in your past, any accomplishments or milestones, as well as their overall career path and what their career goals are.

5. Utilise skills tests

Some employers use skills testing to filter out additional candidates. It helps to make sure that the candidates have what it takes for the job by providing an objective measure of a candidate’s abilities. After they have short-listed applicants using the ATS, they invite them to complete a skills test and use those results to make a decision.

Depending on what the job criteria is, employers decide on the type of test to use. GreatBizTools offers a couple of examples that test perceptual, verbal, math skills, cognitive skills, visual skills and keyboard skills.

6. Focus on accomplishments

Employers give priority to applicants who show what they have accomplished in their previous jobs. An accomplishment-focused résumé is much more powerful than a résumé that simply refers to job duties - employers love concrete results. Numbers, data, achievements, grades, success and performance will are imperative for a candidate to stand out from the crowd.

7. Solve a problem

The most demanding employers require candidates to solve problems to show evidence of skills and knowledge. So, you might want to present the candidate with a dilemma or a problem related to the field or the job they're applying for. More specifically, you should be looking to see how they solve it, why they have done it in this way, what they would do if they ran into this problem and who they would involve if it happened at work. A real-time problem-solving exercise could take the form of a brain teaser or a behavioural interview question.

8. Accept video résumés

While traditional résumés are still relevant and will continue to be for quite some time, this is no excuse for not making use of videos. Quite the contrary, some smart job seekers have started making use of this medium to make a good impression on employers - and it’s working. It’s one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd. Amongst the other benefits of using a video résumé, is that it helps candidates stay memorable, showing employers that they are creative and can use technology effectively.

9. Figure out their target audience

Employers don’t have much time to spend reviewing pointless résumés or going through every single job application. As such, you should make sure that you create job adverts that attract the right kind of applicants. You can specify this through the job criteria, years of experience, educational and certification requirements, stating that jobseekers who don’t meet them should not apply. Employers might also create job adverts that go out to a specific target audience – e.g. young people if they are looking for interns, and make sure to advertise the job in places where it can be seen by people in that age group.

10. Search for cultural fit

As an employer or hiring manager, you shouldn't only be interested in the academic qualifications a candidate posseses, you'll also want to determine cultural fit. Personality assessments and questionnaires that test the interest and motivation of the candidate applying for the position can provide this kind of information. Screening for personality and motivation helps recruiters understand the intentions of every applicant so that they only get people who are truly passionate about the job.

Résumé screening can be a long and tiring process. But, it’s a necessary process for employers. Finding the best candidate for a position can be difficult because of the large volume of applications they get, but as you can see recruiters have found a few ways to work around it.

Do you know of any more ways to screen résumés? Let us know in the comments section below…