There have been several times when I was swamped with hundreds of resumes for a single job posting – how does one screen down to the best applicants without taking days and days of effort?
1) Define your most unique, critical requirements in the job
Do you require certain unique characteristics that are essential for success in the job? I hired for one position where an ability to “make sense from chaotic data” was much more important than the core accounting skills usually required in that role. In another situation, I required very strong “relationship building skills” because that was the most lacking strength within my department at the time.
Before going through your resumes, set up specific, unique requirements that not all candidates will possess – this will speed up your ability to narrow down your shortlist in record time.
2) Skim your resumes, separate into 3 categories: A, B and C
The A pile is your “qualified-for-sure” candidates — they meet the unique minimum requirements for the job, and on paper they theoretically should be able to do the job very well (contingent of course upon your meeting them, verifying resume facts and their personality or fit to the role). This A pile should be about 10-15% of the total resumes.
The B pile is your “maybe” candidates — they fulfill some requirements or look interesting but do not stand out. Maybe these resumes meet 75-80% of your candidate requirements and you will have to follow up to see if other strengths are present. This pile will be your backup plan if all of the “A” candidates don’t pan out (yes, sometimes all the A candidates don’t make the final cut). This B pile should be about 20-40% of the total resumes.
The C pile is your “no thanks!” candidates — they are resumes with spelling, grammar or factual mistakes, as well as resumes of candidates who do not meet the core skillsets, personality traits or unique critical requirements for the job.
If you are harsh with spelling, grammar and standards of professionalism when skimming the resumes, you can usually cut out at least 30-50% of the candidate simmediately by using a critical eye to the documents. This C pile should be more than half of your total resume list.
3) Focus on the A list, screen further with a brief phone interview
The A list will contain candidates that fit your needs; however you may not fit their needs. A brief phonecall with several filtering questions can reduce your list down to better win/win candidates for a more detailed interview. Questions I often use for phone filtering:
– What is the range of compensation you are expecting?
– Would you be willing to move to XYZ location?
– Where do you see yourself careerwise in 5 years?
– What is the reason you are leaving (or have left) your current position?
– Why do you want this job?
– Based on our job advertisement, how would your approach the first 90 days in this job?
The above questions indicate a candidate’s own expectations. The answers will identify any large gaps in expectations (compensation, career mobility, relocating, approach/style). These gaps will give you another filter to reduce your candidate pool to a small short list for interviews. You will save cost, time and travel expense of interviewing a larger number of candidates.
4) Filter your shortlist by screening candidates’ social media presence
I can often shorten my hiring list by another 30-50% simply by doing a quick internet search on their names in Facebook,Linked In and Twitter. There is an amazing amount of information out in cyberspace – some examples I have seen (all true) include drunken photos, sexual conversations, disparaging remarks about a current employer, and evidence of poor personality fit (eg: “I’m a gypsy psychic who can tell your fortune” applying to work in a military style organization).
5) Don’t settle for candidates who don’t meet the critical elements of the job
In a hot labor market, you may struggle to find the right candidate with good “fit” to your organization and good technical skills. Don’t settle for less than your minimums out of desperation. Wait and keep searching for the right resume and the right candidate! In my thirty years of business experience, I have never regretted waiting for the right candidate but I have regretted, more than once, hiring in haste or desperation.
The best solution: a win/win with the right candidate. They will fit your organization’s needs and thrive in a job role that fits their niche skills and talents.