Screening a candidate’s resume is one of the first and most basic steps in the hiring process. If you’re like most people, the main thing you look for in a resume is how well a candidate’s education and experience align with the requirements of the role. If there appears to be a fit, you follow-up with a phone screen or an on-site interview. Seems simple enough, and there is not much risk in having them advance to the next step, right? Not so fast…
Time and time again, I’ve seen people either miss or ignore clear warning signs in a candidate’s resume that suggest that they likely lack crucial, non-trainable competencies and should be screened out from further consideration. At the very least, failing to do so wastes time, which costs the company money. Even worse, progressing such a candidate increases the probability that subjective factors (e.g., they just “click” with the hiring manager) cause their shortcomings to be overlooked or minimized, which could lead to an even more costly bad hire. In order to avoid making a serious mistake, you need to be vigilant for red flags, as what they tell you about the candidate will be more informative than how much experience they have.
So what should you be looking for? Instead of just looking at the quality of the person’s experience and education, you should also be looking at the quality of the resume itself. By this, I mean that you should diligently examine it for typos, misspellings, formatting issues, or poor grammar. And I am not talking about a mistake or two. It seems simple and maybe you think that you would notice these things if they were significant, but I consistently assess candidates whose resumes are replete with errors. As all of these candidates are prescreened by our clients, someone either did not notice them or did not think they were significant enough to screen them out.
Here is why that is a major mistake: Serious errors on a resume suggest one (or both) of the following, neither of which are good; limited cognitive aptitude or limited work ethic. In addition to being non-trainable, research shows that these things happen to be two of the best predictors of success in a job, regardless of the position. Conversely, years of experience happens to be one of the worst predictors. That’s interesting you say, but what does this all have to do with a resume anyways? Well, the act of putting together a resume is a sample of someone’s work-related behavior. If they don’t have the aptitude to get a simple thing like a resume right, how well do you think they will be able to solve more complex problems correctly? If they don’t care enough to get it right, what do you think that says about their motivation?
Of course, an error-free resume does not mean that a candidate is bright and hardworking; you need a more objective and valid way to measure that, such as PCI’s TSP process. However, it does mean that they have successfully passed the first hurdle and should be advanced to the next step in the process.