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What Are You Looking For in a Resume?
Recruiters and hiring managers are busy people, especially when trying to select candidates for multiple jobs or multiple candidates for a job opening. Often, there is a rush and a sense of urgency to find and select the right candidate for a critical position.
Although there is no prejudice, it can be an unfortunate effort to work with a pile of resumes to select those that offer a correlation between the skills possessed by the candidate versus the skills needed by the company. Most managers desire an easy way to quickly identify the most promising resumes, and easily identify those to ignore. But how to do it? How to recognize when a resume indicates a promise and justifies the interview of the candidate and deep in the personality, knowledge and skills of the candidate. Likewise, how do you decide that a resume doesn’t need further investigation and consideration?
Here are some guidelines that are used to decide “yes” or “no” on a resume. In addition, many of the articles can not immediately disqualify a resume, but they will raise questions for you to ask the candidates if they are invited to an interview.
Look for the Gatekeepers first
The Gatekeepers are those criteria that a candidate must be considered for a position. For example, if one of the requirements for the job in question says that the applicant must have a university degree in a particular field, examine the education part of the resume to see whether or not that qualification exists. Another example is eligibility to work in the United States. By the way, I hope you listed these requirements in the job posting you created and posted!
Evaluate career progression
Regardless of whether the candidates are from the same company or have experience in several different companies, look for a progression in job responsibilities and skills. In addition, evaluate the level of responsibility and how the candidate has contributed to the organization to fulfill its goals. The candidates you want to interview are those who have shown growth and increased levels of responsibility. Note: In today’s turbulent economy, some candidates who have shown growth may have to take a step back to stay employed. Don’t overlook these candidates because they show the ability to adapt and the courage to continue, as well as the ethical perspective to not depend on the government for handouts.
Caveat: Many job seekers submit resumes that are functional in nature and not chronological. Since functional resumes do not list current and previous jobs in chronological order, look for the same clues on the job application.
Examine the construction of Curriculum Vitae
A resume says a lot about a person beyond the information listed. Curriculum vitae gives insight into the levels of professionalism, quality orientation and thoroughness.
How well constructed is the resume? Are there spelling mistakes? Is the resume clean and tidy? Is it easy to read and understand? How well does the candidate express ideas or summarize information? Is the resume formatted in a way that looks professional? Do the sentences make sense? How well does the candidate use grammar and vocabulary? Is the use of tense consistent? Does the candidate jump between first and third person? Often these errors are reasons for a quick rejection.
Since many candidates use professional resume services, you may not see such errors, but many candidates also create their own resume and these errors may appear. Whether professionally prepared or not, poor spelling and grammar are no excuse, especially with the capabilities of word processors and publishing software available today.
These same principles apply to cover letters. Evaluate cover letters with the same standards as resume content.
The resume should be easy to read and easy to find company names, positions held (or better yet, responsibilities) and dates employed. Hiring managers only spend a maximum of 20 seconds deciding whether they want to interview the candidate or place their resume in the “Not Considered” pile.
Assess relevant skills and experience
Does the candidate have the relevant skills and experience? Basically, can the candidate solve the problems that will be encountered in the job? Identify the most qualified candidates based on the skills and positive results quantified. Look for recent experience that reflects the skills you are looking for. Does the candidate have experience in the same industry as the job? Are measurable achievements listed? Can training quickly provide the missing skills?
The skills most hiring managers look for include:
- Effective communications
- Intermediate level user skills with computers and common software
- Experience with analysis, problem solving, decision making and implementation
- Strong work ethic and tenacity
- Relationship, interpersonal, teamwork and collaboration skills
The most recent role
What is the current status of the applicant?
- Is the applicant employed or unemployed and why?
- Fired or terminated? For what?
- How long has the candidate been in the current role? Enough time to acquire the necessary skills for the open position?
- Is their most recent experience relevant to the open position?
How much does the candidate’s resume and cover letter sell themselves to you? Has the candidate demonstrated a higher level of understanding about the job search by providing enough interesting information to get your attention, or has the applicant only list job titles and dates? Search resumes that answer these questions:
- What is our return on investment if we hire you?
- How can you make our company and results better?
- How can you make the company more profitable?
- How does it fit into the company culture?
- Are you familiar with industry-specific language?
- What famous companies have you worked for?
- What educational credentials do you have?
- What training do you bring with you to work?
Look for words, technologies, or specific company associations that are relevant to the position or that are contrary to what the company is looking for. For example “I was an executive at Enron” or only knows the technology that your company does not use, or has no mention of the knowledge of the software needed to do the job. Keywords can be technical in nature, educational, or really, anything you can think of. Examples include MBA, networking, foreign languages, software names such as Visual Basic or Java, or .NET to name a few.
Stability and Tenure
Examine the work history to quantify the length of service of the candidate in the listed companies. Are there any gaps? Does work history indicate frequent change of jobs/companies? I had a candidate explain in his cover letter that he should, “…don’t label my 9 jobs in three years as a job. I’ve never quit a job!” So, have you been fired from any job?
There may be valid reasons for frequent job changes in numbers as small as 2 or 3 in a row, but a large number should send up a red flag.
Here are a few things that may or may not cause a resume to be rejected, but I personally find them irritating:
- The use of “cutie” resume templates – I hope people are more focused on presenting and selling skills rather than using an expensive method of gaining attention.
- Curriculum vitae written in the “First Person”.
- Including “Career Objectives” at the top of the resume. It’s nice, but it doesn’t really say anything to me other than, “I want the job!”
- Exaggeration of titles, experience and skills. As my kids already know, I get to the bottom of things, usually through carefully crafted interview questions to get the facts out. If you discover exaggerations, misinformation or lies, the candidate is written. By the way, if I find out the truth after hiring someone, I immediately have grounds to fire that person for dishonesty on the application or resume, or lying during the interview.
- Using colored paper or odd-sized paper to make a resume stand out, or anything other than “normal” type fonts like Arial, Helvetica, and Times New Roman doesn’t impress me. They seem more manipulative than adding to the candidate’s abilities.
- List personal/private interests and activities if they have nothing to do with work. I don’t care if you take in stray cats.
I took the liberty of including some elements that often make a positive impression, at least for me. You may have other preferences or find fault with some of mine – use what works best for you and gives you good results.
- Email resumes instead of faxing, mailing or delivering more paper. In addition, I prefer resumes in pdf file format, because I do not have to deal with the differences in software versions, and they are easier to pass to others. However, many companies today want resumes in MS Word or text so that their software can scan, store, score, and prioritize resumes.
- Well-organized and professional appearance – I didn’t include correct spelling and proper use of grammar here, because if the candidate didn’t use it, I probably already ignored their resume.
- Short and concise cover letter – less is more. Again, many companies require cover letters to evaluate communication and writing skills.
- Specific skills that match the job – Show that the candidate has read the ad carefully and has matched their skills to what is being sought.
- Skills listed in the same order as the ad listed them, in order of priority – You listed the desired skills in order of priority on the job, right?
- Full and correct web addresses if used and applicable – make searching easier.
You and I spend enough time completing hiring processes. There are criteria that help us screen resumes quickly, and isolate the best candidates more effectively. An applicant’s failure to properly represent themselves helps determine that the applicant is not worthy of an interview. Resumes are actually “sales literature” for applicants. If he did not take proper care in the construction of his resumes, they do not reflect the work ethics, habits and expected processes.
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