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Screening lean: Getting to the bottom of that resume pile

By Carolyn Heinze

While applicant-tracking technology has definitely helped to streamline the recruiting process, it hasn’t cut down on the sheer number of candidates that are applying for jobs. If anything, technology may be responsible for increasing the volume of applicants: it’s faster to submit a resume online rather than print one out, put it in an envelope and post it in the mail. This, combined with a challenging job market, has HR professionals and hiring managers struggling to sift through hundreds of resumes per advertised position, in addition to all of the other responsibilities that fall under their realm.

Carolyn Thompson, author of Ten Easy Steps to a Perfect Resume (BookSurge), Ten Steps to Finding the Perfect Job (BookSurge) and Ten Secrets to Getting Promoted (CreateSpace), not only counsels job seekers on how to land a position, she is also heavily involved in recruiting. In a recent conversation with tEDmag.com, she offered this advice.

What is the secret to screening resumes?

CT: When you are looking at the resume, you need to know what it is that you really want. If you need somebody for a long-term project, or if you need somebody who is going to be a permanent employee who is going to move up, you’re going to be looking for different things. Someone who is trying to hire someone for a project will be looking for people who have a history of taking on projects. People who want to be at a company long-term and have a career progression are looking for different things than someone who is a project-based person. Know clearly what kind of person you need to hire and what your true need is.

What is your ultimate resume-related red flag?

CT: The biggest red flag for me is typographical and grammatical errors. Somebody who emails their resume with a cover note that is typed in all caps is not really somebody who understands professional communication. That person, generally, doesn’t have close attention to detail.

Do you run into a lot of situations where people lie on their resumes?

CT: The advent of the Internet and LinkedIn and Facebook have kind of taken away some of that. Someone can send in a resume that doesn’t have the name of their employer on it, but I can find the name of their employer by looking them up on LinkedIn, and nine times out of 10 they have the name of the company they’re working for on there. We don’t see as much of that as we used to, prior to the advent of Internet job boards. But puffing up of qualifications and/or resumes filled with keywords that the person really doesn’t have any substantial experience with –– we do see that.

How should one go about finding out whether or not a resume has been puffed up?

CT: Framing questions for the interview process around what is important for you. Asking situational questions is a really good way to get people to talk about their actual experience with something. Getting them to tell you stories about their experience of how they have used something, or been involved with something, will give you a good background as to how much experience they have with that.

What are some of the mistakes that you see recruiters make when they are screening candidates?

CT: I see people looking for reasons not to interview people as opposed to reasons to interview them. Trying to pick people’s resumes apart when they don’t really know their stories is probably the biggest mistake that people make. It doesn’t take that much effort to get someone on a Webcam, or to get someone on the phone to ask them a couple of quick questions to determine if you want to bring them in. It’s not that time-intensive.

That’s the “human” part of human resources: to not pass too early a judgment on someone’s paper presentation before finding a little bit out about their story and what their journey has been, because everyone’s journey is different.

Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/editor.

Carolyn Thompson


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