Seeing the dozens of resumes on your desk, you feel compelled to read each one to make sure you don’t pass on someone perfect for the position. But, you really don’t have the time to look through each one that carefully. What do you do?

If you decided to use a search firm to advertise your vacancy, they will do the majority of the applicant screening for you and will only refer candidates to you to interview.

If, however, you decided to conduct the search on your own, you, or someone at your company, will need to screen the applications to narrow the number of people you interview.

Follow these steps for a foolproof way to screen out unqualified resumes, leaving you with the cream of the crop:

1.  Refer to the job description

The first step to screening applications is to look at the qualifications, skills and experience required from the job description that you so carefully created for the position. Make a checklist of the must-have skills and the nice-to-haves.

2.  Compare the applications to the checklist

Read through each application and give one point for each must-have skill that the applicant possesses and one point for each nice-to-have skill. At the end, the more points an applicant has, the more closely he/she matches the requirements of the position.

3. Look past the resume format

Don’t be thrown off by the different styles and formats of resumes that you receive. In this first review of applications, you can pick out whether the candidate does or does not possess the skills that you require, regardless of how the resume looks.

4. Categorize each applicant

Separate each applicant into a Yes, Maybe or No pile. “Yes” applicants are those who possess all the must-have skills and most of the nice-to-have skills. “Maybe” applicants are those who possess all or most of the must-have skills and some of the nice-to-have skills. “No” applicants are lacking both must-have and nice-to-have skills.

5. Select candidates to proceed to the next step

Depending on your time availability, you will most likely interview candidates in the Yes pile and possibly some in the Maybe pile. If there are no candidates in the “Yes” pile, review the candidates in your “Maybe” pile and see if any are worthwhile considering further. Or, if you are lucky enough to have lots of candidates in the “Yes” pile, you will need to narrow the number of applicants even more by looking at what additional skills and experience they bring to the table. A common process is to use the initial review of resumes to screen candidates out, while a more careful second review is used to screen candidates in.

6. Don’t settle

Finding the right employee for your business is critical to your company’s success. Settling for the wrong employee can cause you much more harm down the road than good. Provided that you are sure that your job description accurately reflects the position that you are trying to fill, if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the applications that you have received, go back and re-advertise the position. You will save yourself tremendous time, energy and heartache by hiring the right employee, the first time.

7. Red flags

Although not necessarily a reason to screen out a resume, be on the look out for the following red flags: frequent changes in employers or positions; large gaps in employment; a resume with no dates; spelling and grammar mistakes; vague descriptions of duties & responsibilities. Any concerns should be questioned during the interview.

Follow these guidelines and you will reduce the amount of time you spend interviewing unqualified applicants.


Copyright 2008 Clear HR Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.