Reviewing Resumes? Here's What You Need to Know

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By Robert Half June 17, 2016 at 6:00pm

You can find plenty of advice for job seekers about how to write a killer resume. But if you are a hiring manager, do you know how to go about reviewing resumes?

While it may sound simple, you should know what to look for in a resume. It’s important to know where to start, what to avoid and how to evaluate each resume fairly so you can compare candidates objectively. Here are step-by-step directions to help guide you in your candidate evaluation process.

Green lights: starting your scan

Reviewing resumes is as much art as science. Part of the art of resume assessment is knowing what to focus on in your initial scan of the document. When learning what to look for in a resume, you’ll want to check for these “green lights” to help you decide which applicants deserve a closer look:

Yes: Industry experience

If you’re trying to staff a specialized or senior-level position, you’ll likely require six or more years of experience in progressively higher-level jobs (in the same occupation or field, of course); three-to-five years for a midlevel position; and up to two years of damp feet in the industry for junior-level jobs. Depending on the position, you might also want to see specific certifications, degrees or other skills and credentials.

Yes: Relevant keywords

Knowing what to look for in a resume includes the ability to quickly find candidates with the right skills, tools and familiarity with processes in your industry. To that end, keywords can be a hiring manager’s best friend when reviewing resumes.

Scan each resume for keywords that best fit your job title and description, giving more weight to those relating to the applicants’ most recent positions.

Robert Half has been helping companies with their hiring since 1948. Let us help you.

Red lights: spotting red flags

When you identify the candidates with the most relevant industry experience, scan their resumes for these potential deal breakers:

No: Lack of professionalism

You can assume that a resume reflects the highest level of professionalism that you’ll see from a candidate should he or she become an employee. The resume presents applicants with a chance to put their best foot forward, with ample time to craft and create a flawless submission — a situation that is not always possible on the job.

Look for resumes that candidates clearly crafted with your job as the end goal.

Therefore, as you consider what to look for in a resume, be wary of submissions that are not well-organized or contain careless mistakes, such as typos, spelling errors and poor grammar. Attitude also plays a role in professionalism. When reviewing resumes, pay attention to the language and tone of the resume and any accompanying job-search materials. They should be confident, honest and upbeat.

Other red flags include those that indicate the candidate may lack professional maturity, such as nonprofessional email addresses, annoying buzzwords and the inclusion of irrelevant personal information like birthdays or physical characteristics.

Maybe: Short-time mentality

Does every position listed on the resume have a date span of six months to a year? While job hopping has become increasingly common, that doesn’t mean that you have to like it as a hiring manager. Too many job shifts in too short a time period may suggest that your candidate won’t stick around for you, either.

If you take a pass on these applicants when reviewing resumes, you won’t be alone: A recent Robert Half survey found that when candidates chose to switch jobs more than five times in a decade, HR managers considered them to be “job hoppers.” As you’re reviewing job history, look for employment gaps. While these may not rule out an otherwise stellar applicant, you’d want any viable candidate to adequately explain these time lapses in an interview.

Target ‘above and beyond’

Still wondering what to look for in a resume? Once you’ve separated out the submissions that both meet your basic requirements and avoid your red flags, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. You’re looking for a superstar, not an average Joe. Look for candidates with proven ability to get the job done:

Yes: Tailored messaging

Some candidates may pass your initial review, yet fail to knock it out of the park when it comes to convincing you that they’re the best fit for your specific job. If the resume and accompanying cover letter appear to be based on a template, implying that the applicant is sending out the same materials to multiple employers, think twice.

Look for resumes that candidates clearly crafted with your job as the end goal. Top applicants will customize the resume they send to you, reflecting their skills and experience in direct relation to the job description and requirements that you posted.

Read How to Choose Between Two Strong Job Candidates.

Yes: Quantitative results

Your ultimate mission when reviewing resumes is to hire someone to help you reach your professional goals, as well as corporate goals. That means you don’t want someone on your team who could embarrass you with their shortcomings.

You can identify candidates with a history of delivering on specific objectives by finding professionals who quantify their contributions. Look for data, percentages, dollars and other signs of financial or quantitative impact. If you find a candidate who has proven their value in the past and has the numbers to prove it, that’s golden.

Out of all players considering the new hire, you as the hiring manager have the greatest stake in the outcome of the employee since you’ll be working the most directly with him or her. In addition, you want to limit turnover as much as possible by hiring candidates who are a good fit with your work group. With this in mind, do your due diligence and make it your motto to know what to look for in a resume. Making smart hires begins with these savvy tips for reviewing resumes.

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