3 Ways to Evaluate Quality Candidates From a Giant Stack of Resumes


It’s about that time again, when you begin hiring for an open position and the applications start pouring in. While it’s exciting to get so much interest in a role and you can’t wait to fill it with the perfect candidate, you may be dreading the process of having to dig through a giant stack of resumes.

If you have an applicant tracking system, thankfully it’s been able to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you by eliminating candidates who don’t meet specific qualifications, such as licensing, education and certification requirements. But there’s still work to be done: you still need to identify quality candidates within your applicant pool.

Here are three ways recruiters and hiring managers are doing it, and you can too:

Define Your Must-Have Qualifications

When you created your job description, you probably included a long list of skills, qualifications and responsibilities. But in your mind, you probably know which of those items are “preferred” versus “mandatory” requirements for your ideal candidate.

As you’re reviewing paper resumes or evaluating electronic applications through your applicant tracking system, identify two to five things every applicant must have to move on to the next stage in the hiring process. Use this same method as your candidates get more qualified and you have to choose which applicants to pass onto the hiring manger and who to bring in for an interview.

Identify Your Deal Breakers

Another handy technique is to eliminate the least qualified applicants immediately. While it’s tough to evaluate the best candidates based on a piece of paper, you can use “deal breakers” to toss the worst applicants from the bunch.

Andrew Johnson suggests coming up with a list of questions you can use internally to weed them out, such as:

  • How many jobs has the candidate had in the last five years? Maybe your department has established some guidelines for this to avoid job hopper applicants.

  • Does the applicant currently work at a “target” company or worked at that company previously? If you have any insight in how other businesses, especially your competitors, hire and treat their employees, that could give you an indication into the working style, culture and environment the applicant has been exposed to.

  • Does the title/scale/scope of responsibility even closely resemble what you have in mind for your role? If not, then the applicant should be easy to eliminate.

Establishing these deal breakers in advance will prevent you from keeping an unqualified candidate in the pot for silly or unnecessary reasons.

“You’ll at least keep yourself from rationalizing in bad candidates (a common occurrence) because they’re the ‘best of the bunch’ rather than being a legitimate ‘good candidate.’  Of course, if you have tight restraints, don’t be surprised if 100 percent of the ‘random’ resumes don’t fit the bill,” says Johnson.

Keep a Close Eye on Culture Fit

Even though an applicant seems to fit the bill, he or she may not be the best fit for the role in the long run. While it’s challenging to screen for culture fit during the resume review stage, weeding out the misfits will help you avoid reaching out to the wrong candidates.

Masami Hirata uses three criteria to evaluate for culture fit as she screens resumes:

  • Does the experience have some level of consistency in the jobs they’ve had in the past three years? If it appears the applicant changes jobs frequently along with his or her job responsibilities, Hirata says, “Chances are they will hop again.”
  • Does the resume only focus on what the applicant accomplished on his or her own? “Beware of these types as they may have difficulty collaborating with others,” adds Hirata.
  • Are you a scrappy startup or a Fortune 500 company? Consider your size and how the candidate will fit in, no matter how talented they seem.

Put Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to Work

Don’t forget to let your ATS do the work you intended it do. For example, if your applicant tracking software has pre-qualified applicant delivery features, you can get the most qualified applicants delivered straight to your inbox. By prompting candidates to answer job-specific questions during the application process, your ATS can rank and weed out applicants for you during the initial review process. You can go about other business while the software identifies your ideal candidates.

To learn more about applicant tracking software and the features you could benefit from, download “How to Choose an Online Hiring & Recruiting System: A Buyer’s Guide.”


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