A guide to assessing a candidate’s resume

If your name shows your personal identity, what shows your professional identity?

Hardly any thought is given to the concept of professional identity until you start putting your resume together. Your resume summarizes your professional identity. Most candidates put in their finest achievements and almost every imaginable attribute in their resume to impress the recruiter. 

A resume is built almost like a puzzle to decode for the recruiter, where they have to dissect each part of the resume carefully to choose information relevant to making hiring decisions.

Evaluating a resume takes an organized approach with a lot of attention to detail. Matching your findings to the criteria needed for the job role, you have valuable information to hire the right talent.

7 steps to evaluate a resume

With a planned approach, you can not only hire the right talent but also evaluate the competitiveness of applicants for a certain role. The intent is also to be as objective as possible and not allow too much bias to come into the evaluation. Here is a process you can consider to evaluate a prospective candidate’s resume:

#1 Define objective criteria for a job role

Every job role needs a certain set of criteria that can be divided into:

  • Necessary skills are skills without which an employee can’t perform in the role at all. E.g., communication is a necessary skill for customer service.    
  • Trainable skills can be developed through learning and experience over time. These are usually advanced technical skills. E.g., if communication is in place, an employee can be trained on email etiquette.
  • Additional skills are used to be more efficient in the role or may be useful in the future. The candidate may have it or may be trained on it. You could also make a note of special skills, attributes, or experiences during collaborative decision-making.  E.g., leadership skills or project management skills in a candidate who has applied for a customer service role.   

You can do this for personal attributes and values as well. Once you define the desired criteria, your evaluation becomes simpler. Many organizations conduct elaborate personality tests to assess the candidate’s alignment with the job role and company values.  

#2 Create a rating standard for evaluation

When you use an automated resume screening software, it assigns points for every match with the set criteria. The percentage of a match is converted into a score. This is called a resume scorecard.

You can replicate the same for manual evaluation. Every skill matched to the set criteria can be awarded a point. For example, educational qualification can be allotted a point, additional certifications can be given 2 points each, etc. 

Certifications, special projects, and awards can be given additional points. 

If job stability is an important criterion for your organization, you could also allot extra points for that!

You can play the devil’s advocate and say that some potential candidates may be missed due to stringent scoring. Here you must remember that it is a rating scale created by you. You can set your benchmarks for the selection of candidates.

#3 Check for consistency in career path

Once the criteria for educational qualifications (and any certifications) are met, you could start by checking whether the degree was obtained in the usual time frame (maybe 2 or 3 years). Note delays or extensions in the completion of a course. 

In the employment history, check if the candidate:

  • has had jobs in a single industry (or the same as yours)
  • has worked in roles similar to the ones they have applied for
  • has won awards and received appreciation 
  • has been promoted or moved laterally
  • has interests or achievements in the applied field 

Check for the candidate’s tenure in each role, each of their previous organizations, and the reason for their exit.

Also watch out for red flags like:

  • Frequent job hopping
  • Stagnant jobs and roles for a long time
  • Careless, excessive mistakes in their resume
  • Inconsistent, incomplete information
  • Too generic or too much complex information

Employment gaps may be a red flag but that can be verified through interviews or reference checks. You may make a note of any gaps to be discussed while decision making.

#4 Look at the content more than the presentation

Glittery wrappers always catch our eye; so do good-looking resumes. But it is always the stuff inside that counts. Learn to look at the content and its quality in the resume.

Often, you will find that a candidate has enough experience and expertise but has trouble presenting it.

Avoid unconscious bias by focusing only on data points and standardized scoring of the resume. Biases can be positive as well as negative. They can creep in due to your perceptions, and previous experiences. Put in a conscious effort to be self-aware of your biases (you don’t need to reveal them to anyone else). Keep your goal clear and verify the information later during interviews and background checks.  

By looking at the data points in the resume content, you can create a candidate persona. Make notes of your observations on each profile for reference in the following interview rounds.  

#5 Create broad categories for selection (or rejection)

After assessing a resume, you can gauge the possibility of selecting a candidate for further rounds. The resume scorecard benchmark can help you group resumes into broad categories like yes, no, and maybe (or any other term that suits you).  

If you have too many profiles in your ‘yes’ and ‘maybe’ categories, you review them and narrow them down to a manageable number. If you have lesser profiles in your ‘yes’ category, you can review your ‘maybe’ list and see if some can be moved to the ‘yes’ category to have a substantial talent pool for interviews.

If your ‘no’ list is more, you can relook at being more flexible with your hiring criteria.   

#6 Evaluate the Cover letter

Submitting a cover letter shows the candidate’s interest in the role because writing a customized cover letter to the organization requires time and effort. 

Check for the following:

  • How much has the candidate invested in the cover letter? 
  • Is the cover letter too generic or copied from the internet?
  • Do they present their skills and achievements?
  • Have they presented how they can contribute to your organization? 
  • Does the candidate explain gaps and inconsistencies?
  • Does the cover letter have many grammatical errors and typos?

There are certain jobs that require articulate communications. For such kinds of jobs, cover letters form an integral part of the resume, as it helps cover more details which may not always be possible with a resume. 

#7 Make a list of questions after reviewing a resume

After screening a resume, make a list of questions to ask the candidate. If you have noticed gaps, inconsistencies, and unclear points, make a note of those to clarify them with the candidates. 

Ensure that you don’t spend time asking obvious questions that can be verified through other sources. Also, be mindful about not allowing bias into your evaluation.

Wrap Up

As a recruiter, you can use a candidate’s resume as a very significant tool to separate desirable profiles from a huge lot. With experience, you will be able to develop an eye to notice the important details in the resume. Over time, you will be able to convert simple information into insights for making the right hiring decisions for your company.

You will also get feedback about your resume evaluation skills from the interviews when you are able to cross check your analysis with the responses of the candidate. 

You will be sure of your evaluation skills when you check your quality of hire.  

Resume screening will save you a lot of trouble in finding the needles in the haystack and make your recruitment process efficient. 

FAQs on Resume Evaluation

How much importance can you attribute to Job Titles?

Job Titles differ in organizations. What is more important is the nature of work that falls under the job title. For example, a job title may be Strategic Account Manager and the job responsibilities are mainly about providing long-term dedicated customer service. Thus, what matters is the tasks entailed in a job title. 

How do you analyze employment gaps?

Employment gaps are not necessarily negative. Gaps can be because of:

– Medical leave
– Family emergencies or obligations
– Personal development
– Burnout at work
– Lay-offs
  
A gap in employment becomes a red flag when the reason is unexplained or unjustified. Watch out for bias while evaluating this parameter; you may lose out on potential if you are too rigid about your eliminating criteria.

What role does communication play in resume writing?

Before a candidate interacts personally with the recruiter, a resume is a mode by which candidates express themselves. If the language used in the resume cannot be understood due to grammatical errors or usage of complex language, the candidate stands at a disadvantage in being considered for the role. A resume may not be necessarily sophisticated or contain high-level vocabulary; it needs to be simple, clear, well-explained, and relevant to the applied role.  
 

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