Review Résumés at Rocket Speed!

Placing one job ad can result in a torrent of resumes. Here’s how to cut through the pile quickly and have more time for qualified candidates.

Every HR manager knows this situation: You put a job ad in the newspaper or on the Web. Within days, or even hours, your inboxes (electronic and plastic) are overflowing with resumes, each calling out for your precious time. Suddenly you know how a mother bird feels facing all those little mouths to feed.

Is there a way to quickly lose the losers and locate the winners, without trampling on that “diamond in the rough” who looks marginal on paper, but later becomes Employee of the Year?

In a word, yes. Here are some suggestions for reviewing those resumes at rocket speed!

1) “Knockouts” and “KRAs.” HR experts agree that the path to resume reduction starts with knowing the must-haves and must-not-haves for the job opening you seek to fill. HR author Arthur Pell calls them “knockouts”—obvious disqualifiers—and “KRAs” —Key Results Areas.

If, for example, you’re looking for a chemist, one knockout would be no science experience, and one KRA, a degree in chemistry. Before you read the whole resume, look immediately for these pre-selected positives and negatives. A KRA or two with no knockouts, and your candidate moves ahead.

2) Neatness Counts. Experts advise judging paper resumes by the quality of the paper and envelope and all resumes by whether they have typos or spelling errors. Sloppiness in either area may indicate carelessness about the job. Check also if the resume has a cover letter, and preferably one that addresses your situation specifically. “Usually, unqualified applicants fail to write a cover letter,” notes author Susan Heathfield.

3) Pile’em On! Stephen D. Bruce, author of BLR’s QuikStep Hiring, speeds up resume review by creating piles. Pile A meets all qualifications, B is missing one or more important qualification, and C is clearly not qualified. He further advises dividing Pile A into “Top Candidates” and “Backups,” and spending most of your time with the top group.

When these initial steps are complete, you should have perhaps 10 percent of the resumes you started with, along with more time to thoroughly review them. What will you then look for? Common red flags are: gaps in employment history; a pattern of job hopping; and fuzzy descriptions of responsibilities (“I was involved with …,” “worked with…,” etc.)

None of these factors, say the experts, should be an automatic disqualifier, because any or all of them may be satisfactorily explained in phone or personal interviews—interviews that steps 1 through 3 may finally give you the time to do.

How do you separate the “wheat” from the “chaff” in resumes? And what are your resume “knockouts?” Use the “Share Your Comments” button below and let us know.

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