With online sites making it easy for people to apply for jobs, you may end up with dozens — or hundreds — of resumes for any job you post. Yet many of those applicants won’t even come close to being a good match for the position you’ve advertised.
The flood of resumes can be taxing and time-consuming even for large organizations with robust human resources departments. For small-business owners, the task of sorting through the pile can be downright overwhelming. Streamline your resume-reviewing process by using the following strategies.
How to Pare Down the Pile
The majority, if not all, of resumes submitted to you will come in digital form. The first step to an effective review system is to make incoming resumes searchable. Create a special folder in your email inbox to store them you can easily conduct keyword searches, and request resumes in a format that your email client can index (Microsoft Word, etc.).
Consider setting up three sub-folders to this new folder — High Potential, Low Potential, and No Potential — so that, as you work through the resumes, you can sort them appropriately. Remember: You are legally required to hold on to resumes, even from unqualified applicants, for one to two years, so don’t trash anything. Note why a candidate has low or no potential to help protect yourself against any claims of discrimination.
Once you’ve identified the candidates with high potential, here are some ways to continue narrowing the field:
Bury a message in your job ad. Too many people don’t carefully read a job posting before they apply and apply to every job they see. Include a message such as “To be considered, email your resume with the subject line ‘Best Applicant in the World’ to adam@XYZ.com.” Or tell applicants how to name their resumes (such as “Resume_DoeJohn_SalesRep.pdf”), or ask them to answer three or four questions in a cover letter. This way, you’ll be able to search the files quickly to determine who followed your directions. Move anyone who didn’t to your Low or No Potential file.
Check the applicant’s location. Unless you are willing to relocate an employee or allow remote work, disregard applicants who don’t reside within a reasonable commute to your office. (Move them to your Low Potential file.) Warning: You may overlook some outstanding applicants who would be willing to relocate themselves or who are so good you’d be willing to let them telecommute. Still, chances are you’ll still have plenty of top-notch candidates from whom to choose in your immediate area.
Focus on education. If the job requires a specific degree or certification, search for it. To be safe, search both the full name and any abbreviations (Master of Business Administration and MBA, etc.). If you will consider experience in lieu of education, skip this step.
Identify past experience. If you want someone with management chops, a quick search for “manager” or “management” will allow you to weed out unqualified candidates. Just remember that there may be people who could fulfill the expectations of a higher-level position, so be certain that previous experience at a certain level is critical to you.
Look for experience in the field. If you want to hire only people who have a background in your industry, do another keyword search (“publishing” or “manufacturing,” for example). If a resume lacks the desired terms, move it to your Low Potential file.
How to Decide Who to Interview
Now that you’ve isolated local applicants who have the education, industry background, and job experience you seek, you can dig more deeply to find the top candidates.
Review resumes for the following elements:
Writing — If a resume is full of errors, confusing, or unclear, move it to the Low Potential pile. You should be able to tell very quickly exactly how a candidate qualifies for the job. If someone is unwilling to put effort into creating a clear, error-free resume, how can you count on them to produce meticulous work?
Recent experience — For example, if you are hiring a sales rep, check to see whether the person has been actively selling within the past year.
Frequent job changes — If you are seeking a long-term solution (and many small-business owners are, given the resources required to recruit, hire, and train new employees), you want to avoid job-jumpers. Look for longevity in past positions.
Qualities — Keep a list of 10 or so personality traits that are critical to the position. As you review resumes, put tally marks next to the characteristics each candidate displays, until you find someone who possesses all or most of them.
Now you can move on to interviewing the winners.