As hiring professionals, we can be guilty of taking a resume too seriously. We can treat it as a be all, end all document that we line up next to the job description and if we cannot check off a majority of the required qualifications, we rule the candidate out.
That’s not how we look at resumes and we would encourage you to take a different approach as well. A resume is not an autobiography, but merely an overview of experience, skills, and accomplishments. Think of it as a movie trailer – there are a lot of great trailers for awful movies and vice versa. The resume should merely be used as a screening device and tool to understand if you should take the next step with the candidate.
This doesn’t mean you have to be more liberal with the number of in-person interviews you grant, but you may want to take ten minutes to phone screen or send some questions to a candidate to fill in some gaps. You should never look at resumes in terms of – these are the people that could do the job, but rather these are the people I should speak with.
So when you are looking at a resume, what do you look for?
Look for demonstrable skills and talents… accomplishments that show you if the candidate is at the right level you need for the position. You don’t necessarily want someone who has done 100% of the job you are looking to fill as the person you hire will have no room to grow and you’ll be hiring for the same position again soon. Look for talents, skills, and aptitudes – don’t get too hung up in things that can be ramped up fairly quickly.
And please, when you look at a resume – don’t look at the objective. If the candidate has an objective on their resume they are getting bad advice from someone. An objective should have given way to a summary section where you can get a high level, quick picture of skills, experience, and accomplishments.
What else should you look for? Start with the overall professionalism – you are not hiring a graphic designer but if there are grammatical or spelling errors, inconsistencies, or even mismatched fonts then you can move on. If a candidate is sloppy on a resume, you can be sure they will be sloppy on the job.
Look for certifications, industry involvement, and other accomplishments that may reveal an overachiever behind the resume.
And while you should look for transitions and numerous job-jumps, don’t be overly judgmental about them as the average person has close to 11 careers over their lifetime and changes are more common in younger candidates. The candidate may be searching for exactly what you have to offer or may have taken several consulting/temporary positions – a trend we are seeing (and filling) more and more.
And finally, don’t get too caught up in cover letters unless the one accompanying the resume is customized for your position, giving you deeper insights into qualifications.
If you would like to learn more about what to look for in resumes, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email at email@example.com.