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What To Look For In A Resume When Screening Candidates

Adrian Dixon

November 16, 2018

When a job posting for a high-volume role receives more than 250 applicants, it’s essential to know what to look for in a resume to find qualified candidates.

LinkedIn’s data tells us 69% of talent acquisition leaders report their hiring volume has increased, but only 26% say the size of their recruiting teams increased.

Having an organized system for resume screening will save you time and make your life a lot easier. Here are 4 things to look for in a resume to find qualified candidates.


1. Work experience

The qualifications for a job should be based on which skills, traits, and behaviors are necessary to be successful in the role.

Generally, the first thing most people do when they look at a resume is look at a candidate’s previous work experience.

A candidate’s work experience can be evaluated as an exact match to the current position (e.g., previous retail experience for a retail associate job) or a related match (e.g., previous experience in a customer-facing role).

Some things to look for in a resume for work experience are accomplishments and signs of career progression such as increasing responsibility.

For candidates without any previous work experience, you may want to look for related volunteer experience.

2. Education

Many jobs don’t necessarily require a minimum level of education but as college and university degrees become more and more common these days, education has increased in importance as a qualification.

For candidates without a lot of previous experience, you may pay more attention to their education.

Professional certifications fall under the education category and depending on how essential you feel they are, you can look for a candidate’s certifications on their resume.

3. Skills, knowledge, and competencies

As a recruiter or hiring manager, you’re often faced with the choice of whether the skills or knowledge required to do the job successfully can be “bought” or trained on the job.

Evidence of a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and competencies are crucial things to look for in a resume but they can be harder to assess.

The assumption we tend to make is that based on a candidate’s work experience or education, he or she is likely to have gained some of the skills, knowledge, and competencies related to the role.

Generally, the shortcut we use here is to look for relevant keywords on their resume for a desired skill or knowledge of a certain procedure.

Once you feel confident that a candidate is likely to possess at least some of these skills required, you can always further assess their abilities during the interview stage.

4. Personality and values

Although most job postings list desired personality traits and values such as being friendly or a preference for teamwork, assessing a candidate’s personality and values from their resume can be hard to do.

Personality and values tends to be related to how well a candidate will fit into a company’s culture, their work team, and the job itself.

We can make some guesses about a candidate’s personality from their resume if they include their personal interests.

Generally, we tend to use other sources of information to assess personality and values such as their public social media profiles or their behavior during an interview.

The takeaways for what to look for in a resume

Here’s a list of what to look for in a resume when screening candidates are:

1. Work experience
2. Education
3. Skills, knowledge, and competencies
4. Personality and values

While work experience and education are relatively straightforward, skills, knowledge, personality, and values can be harder to assess from a resume.

With recent innovations in resume screening technology, it might make more sense for you to invest in a resume screening tool that automatically identifies qualified candidates for you to interview.

This way, you can spend more of your time engaging with them to assess how good of a fit they are for the company, team, and the job itself.