Recruitment series – Part 3: The screening process

About the Author: Ashley Thomson
Ashley Thomson

Now comes the interesting part.

Screening resumes.

We’re going to start with a rule of 10.

And when we say the rule of 10, we are talking about 10 applicants we want to have after we’ve screened all the resumes that have come through.

After all is said and done, we want 10 applicants to be able to try, test and peruse over further in helping us make our decision.

Business coaching has shown us over time that you want to have 8 candidates that you can really defend, candidates that stand out and give you reason to justify their inclusion in a top 10 of resumes.

We’ve also seen some amazing recruits come through that haven’t necessarily fit this criteria, and why we strongly suggest leaving two spots in a top 10 for a couple of “roughies”, candidates who may not have the experience but have impressed through something (which you may not even be able to pinpoint) on their resume.

So what’s the best way of finding the magic 10?

I advise the business owners that I coach to focus on two broad areas of the application; the cover letter and the resume.

Having briefly touched on cover letters in a previous blog, we explained that cover letters give a great chance to see what an applicant is about. Look for things within a cover letter that tells you there is “something about” an applicant.

This may mean an applicant has addressed the letter to you, has written it in a manner that suits your role or has gone out of their way to explore the company.

Cover letters show effort, and effort generally reflect attitude. Therefore, it’s paramount to read a cover letter to get a gist of an applicant.

A few immediate FAIL pointers:

  1. No cover letter
  2. The cover letter is addressed to ‘Whom it may concern’
  3. Speeling mitsakes. Seriously? How hard is it these days to misspell something? Thanks to autocorrect, I had to retype “speeling mitsakes” three times before I got it to stay deliberately incorrect.
  4. The cover letter doesn’t address the role or what they’d bring to it.

Despite the importance of the cover letter, the scanning of the resume is the important part. And within resumes, we look for a few key things:

Does it look good?

A resume that looks good shows attention to detail, an important characteristic for an applicant to be successful.

Where are they travelling from?

Have candidates shown a willingness to travel, say, from one side of Melbourne to another? This will be important to weed the serious from the serial appliers.

How long were they in their previous roles?

Are they job hoppers? I’ve coached hundreds of businesses and I know it’s very rare to see an employee make tangible achievements within twelve months, and their length of employment is a good indication of this. Length of employment is also a great indicator of loyalty and importance in previous roles.

Do they have experience in similar roles?

This has a bit of a caveat. You want people who have specific experience but your position may be a specialist or specific position that somebody may not have experience with, so be liberal with this point.

Why have they left past roles?

This information is not always easy to gather, but if a candidate includes it, it’s an extra tick because it shows forethought and anticipation from a potential recruit.

As well as looking at the specific elements of resumes above, we also recommend a few little things when immersing in the screening process.

Ruthlessness is essential. It is sometimes difficult to ignore resumes, but the nature of business means that there are going to be inappropriate applicants, and these need to be weeded out quickly.

Skim read. A poor applicant should take a minute to read, a decent one should take 3 and a good one should jump off the page in 10 minutes. Be liberal with your time limits.

Be disciplined. The temptation is to check resumes as they come in, but allocate a time where a diligent approach is taken to screen out candidates. It might be once a day, once every two days, but don’t go crazy on checking applications.

Screening resumes isn’t an exact science. In fact, it’s more of an art. So use the tips above but also use intuition because sometimes your gut knows best.

Next up in the Recruitment Series:

Part 4: Telephone screening

Part 5: Face to face interview

Part 6: Reference checks

Part 7: Trial day