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Selecting Top-Quality Resumes

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I struggle when reviewing a resume to determine who to interview. What should I be looking for to make better decisions?

A: When you're hiring, there are several key steps to take long before you post the position or see a resume.

First, it's critical to clearly define the job responsibilities. This means writing a job description or, at a minimum, a job profile that covers the duties of the position and the knowledge and skills required to do the job. If you're replacing a person who left, don't make the mistake of automatically reusing the old job description—take the time to review and update it to reflect any changes. This step is crucial to finding and hiring the right person with the right skills!

Before you look at a resume, spend some time prioritizing the skills and abilities you listed on the job description:

  • relevant experience and years required
  • required educational level
  • "nice-to-have" experience or skills (for example, the job doesn't require a second language, but it's a plus)

Don't make the mistake of automatically reusing an old job description—take the time to review and update it to reflect any changes.

Now, when resumes come to you, you know exactly what you're looking for. Use your list of requirements as your roadmap to do your first review, and if you need to narrow it down further, apply your "nice-to-haves" or desired skills to get down to a reasonable number of resumes to screen in more detail. I like to use three piles—yes, no, and maybe or A, B, and C.

If job stability is important to you, look for how long the candidate has stayed at past jobs. If you cannot relocate new hires, look at where they currently live. Be strategic as you review resumes, and don't get pulled in by the "halo effect"—for example, liking a candidate just because they're from your hometown.

If your organization uses an applicant tracking system, input the keywords or phrases that will tell you whether the candidate meets your minimum qualifications.

Next, put together a phone- or video-screening questionnaire using your required skills and abilities, and then call the people in your "yes" pile. From those interviews, you should come up with a group of candidates for in-person interviews.

Taking time upfront to determine specifically what you're looking for in applicants will make reviewing resumes easier and result in better hires.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]