How to Identify Candidates for Employment Based on Their Resume

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

A resume provides a snapshot of how an applicant can benefit your organization. A good resume features a person’s skills, work experience, and education — all organized in an easy-to-read fashion.

If your business is looking for someone with specific skills or experience, an applicant’s resume can tell you whether this is a person worth talking to further. Likewise, it can throw up red flags that hiring this person might do your company more harm than good. Learn how to identify the best employees based on their resumes, and how to weed out potential problem candidates at the same time.

Scan for Buzzwords

Resume best practices include highlighting specific skills that pertain to the job an applicant is seeking. For example, a candidate seeking a computer programming position would list programming languages in which they’re well-versed, as well as any relevant certifications that they’ve obtained.

Make a list of specific skills you’re seeking in a candidate, and then prioritize resumes that list those skills. There is even software that filters through resumes based on the presence or lack of certain keywords. Keep in mind that relying on software to whittle down your candidate list may cause some good candidates to fall through the cracks, so it’s always worthwhile to scan resumes with you own eyes, too.

Consider Quality, Not Just Quantity

Candidates can be smooth about making it appear they have the required experience when they really don’t. For example, if you want three years of sales experience calling on C-level executives, a candidate might pull the wool over your eyes by putting sales experience on their resume when they were really a glorified telemarketer.

Rather than simply scanning job positions and dates to look for experience, dig into the details of each job the candidate has held. It’s smart to dive deep with candidates with robust experience who have won awards or earned recognition for their work. A candidate with a year and a half as an award-winning salesperson closing million-dollar deals with CEOs brings more to the table than someone with five years as a sales rep taking inbound calls in a cubicle.

Watch for Red Flags

Just as a candidate’s resume provides a window into their skills and experience, it can also warn you that the person is a bad hire. The presence of one or more resume red flags should make you take pause before considering a candidate.

A common red flag on a resume is vague wording. Anyone who has worked in HR has had a good laugh about “sanitation engineers” (janitors) and “grill technicians” (burger flippers). However, an abundance of vague wording on a resume often means the candidate is trying to cover up lack of experience with lofty phrasing.

Another example of a red flag is employment gaps. A resume with large employment gaps or job changes every few months without explanation should be viewed with skepticism. Most candidates who provide value to their employers manage to stay employed most of the time and aren’t job-seeking several times per year.

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