Sorting Through Resumes

If you have taken the plunge and have decided to go external to fill your job opening at some point you are going to have to wade through a pile of resumes.

The HR department (if you are lucky enough to have one) should do this for you but at some point you will have to read some resumes. Your goal should be to eliminate unnecessary reading and to select the candidates you want in the shortest time possible.

How many resumes should you read in depth? No more than 10-15. Even if you have received two hundred resumes you have to develop a system of sorting through them and picking out the top resumes in order to reduce your time spent reading.

Why am I so concerned about reducing your time spent reading resumes? Well to put it bluntly resume reading sucks! I won’t go into any more detail about that topic right now. Suffice to say I could do a whole week of postings on the horrors of resume reading.

But for now we want to develop a system to reduce your resume reading time.

First of all start with your job spec. Did you receive a lot of resumes? If so screen tightly against the job spec. If your preference is to have an industrial engineer and you have received 200 resumes from the ad chances are all 200 aren’t industrial engineers. If they are then use another criterion. For example is your ideal experience profile 5-8 years experience. Well immediately eliminate those who don’t fall in that range.

What you want to do initially is pick a criterion that will make it very easy for you to tell from a quick glance at the resume if the person meets that criterion.

If you are looking for an industrial engineer all you have to do is quickly scan the education section of the resume and if it doesn’t say industrial engineering you can immediately throw that person onto the discard pile.

Using this method you should be able to cut the pile down significantly in short order. But what if out of 200 resumes there are 40 industrial engineers? We still don’t want to read that many resumes.

Apply your next criterion to that group. Maybe you are looking for specific industry experience like automotive? Well now you can take that pile of 40 resumes and quickly cut it down based on those who have automotive experience and those who don’t.

If you have managed to get the number below 20 then you can start thinking about reading the resumes in more detail.

Set up a three pile system: yes, no, and maybe. The “yes pile” are the resumes that you feel are very close to meeting your requirements (you will know these because you will get excited when you read them), the “no’s” are obviously those who don’t meet your requirements and the “maybes” are those that didn’t jump out at you right away but you feel might warrant a second look.

So if you have finished reading your 15-20 resumes and there are 5 in the “yes pile.” 10 in the “no pile” and 5 in the “maybe” you have a pretty good start. I would take the 5 yes resumes and “5 maybes” and make that my “long list” of potential candidates. Now you are ready to move to the next steps.

Call them in for an interview right? Wrong. You don’t want to interview people based purely on the resume. You only want to interview those you are really excited about. So now you are going to take these 10 resumes and spend some time on the phone with these people.

I will talk about the phone screen in the next posting in this series.

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