How To Screen Resumes

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Posted by: David Garcia April 30, 2024

When a new position opens up, hundreds of people will apply for the coveted spot. Hours can fly by while recruiting, just sorting resumes into piles of “no,” “yes,” and “maybe.”

It is up to recruiters to sift through a high volume of resumes just to find a candidate with proper qualifications worth interviewing.

Even experienced recruiters say the hardest part of the job is resume screening. In fact, on average, 75% of all candidates are unqualified for a position! But once you learn how to streamline the resume screening process, you will save time, have better candidates, and more successful recruitment.

This article will break down everything you need to know about resume screening and increase your chances of recruiting only the best talent.

What Is Resume Screening?

Screening resumes are basically like the recruiting version of playing matchmaker. Recruiters or hiring managers match qualifications to job requirements. The end goal is to create a shortlist of those candidates who seem perfectly suited for the open position.

Recruiters analyze education, experience, certifications, achievements, awards, and more when determining who moves on to the next stage of the hiring process. Screening resumes is an essential part of the recruitment process and the only way to learn about a candidate before they come in for an interview.

What Is the Importance of Resume Screening?

Resume screening is a vital step in the recruitment process. When applications start rolling in, they can quickly pile up, creating a monstrous – and stressful – selection procedure. Any pre-employment screening can be useful, but when hiring managers or recruiters sift through a large volume of applications to identify candidates who best match the job criteria, screening resumes can save a lot of time and energy.

Screening carefully filters out unqualified candidates early, ensuring that only the most promising applicants move forward to the next stages of the interview process. It speeds everything up but also provides a higher standard of applicants.

Steps for Effectively Screening Resumes

Have High Standards From the Start

If you come across typos and clear errors while resume screening, toss it before moving on. This is a clear indicator the applicant lacks attention to detail. A resume that seems copied and pasted is a sign that the candidate is not actually eager for the open position. It can also be a warning of job-hopping or throwing resumes into the wind and hoping one sticks.

There should be no difficulty in reading a resume. It should plainly and concisely break down previous experience and qualifications. Do not waste your time screening resumes that were made without care or effort.

Create a Clear Job Posting

The more specific you can be when breaking down the roles and responsibilities of the position, the more likely you are to attract the best candidates. List all skills, software knowledge, and years of experience necessary in the job description to narrow the volume of candidates.

Rewarding recruitment starts on your end, and a clear list of necessities will give applicants a better time deciding if it is worth their time to apply.

Request Cover Letters and References

The more barriers you put in place before an application is allowed to be submitted, the fewer people will apply. Those who do apply will have spent time and effort writing about themselves and reaching out to past colleagues.

You can trust listed qualifications when other professionals have backed them up.

Check For Employment Gaps

If you spot more than a month between jobs while screening resumes, ask the candidate to explain that period of unemployment. Some people have legitimate reasons for gaps, like military service or family leave. But while hiring, you need to be sure your candidate will commit to a long-term position.

Resumes Are About Work

Resumes sometimes document hobbies, volunteer positions, and vacations. A professional resume should only list qualifications, not interests. During resume screening, you should reject all non-professional resumes that do not have any real job experience.

Prioritize a Cultural Fit

Even candidates with top qualifications on their resumes can have limited success in person. Always value communication skills, leadership, and teamwork in your search.

If a candidate cannot work well with others, you may find yourself posting another listing and screening resumes again sooner than you would hope.

Value Quality Over Quantity

More jobs on a resume do not mean better, more varied experience. Most likely, this is a sign of job-hopping, especially if the candidate seems to change positions every few months.

A candidate who has committed several years at past companies has clearly valued long-term growth within a business.

Consider an Applicant Tracking System

Many companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to optimize and shorten the resume screening process. This technology automates the initial evaluation of resumes by scanning them for keywords and phrases relevant to the job description. ATS can slash the time needed to screen resumes manually, meaning that companies can focus all their efforts on the interview and selection phases to ensure they’ve got the right candidate for the job.

What Should You Look For When Screening Resumes?

Relevance of Experience

The first step is to assess the candidate’s previous work experience and look for specific roles and responsibilities that align closely with the job description. You’ll need to evaluate the industries in which the candidate has worked, the relevance of their tasks, and any achievements that might be a good potential fit for the new role.

Skills Alignment

Identifying skills of all kinds should also be high on the list. These include hard skills—technical abilities specific to the role—and soft skills like teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. Pay close attention to skills directly mentioned in the job posting and consider how the candidate has demonstrated these skills in past positions.

Educational Background

Educational background is essential, but not as much as it once was. Today, companies are increasingly willing to look for candidates with real-world experience and ideas that could drive an organization forward. However, degrees, certifications, and relevant coursework can still be good indicators of a candidate’s dedication and ability to meet the demands of the position.

What Are The Challenges Recruiters Face While Screening Resumes?

For years resume screening has been a long and tedious manual task usually just done by a single hiring manager or recruiter. This, of course, leads to many challenges in the recruiting hunt for great talent.

Let’s take a look at the notorious difficulties involved in resume screening.


The average number of candidates for a new position is 250! Let’s say you spend 10 minutes looking at every single resume in detail, which comes out to over 41 hours of resume screening. Anyone would start to burn out after reading so many applications.

What makes this even more difficult is that over three-quarters of candidates will be irrelevant or not have proper qualifications.

Recruiter’s Personal Knowledge

A recruiter is hired to screen resumes and bring in the best candidates, but they are often not experts on the open position. Detailed jobs in the IT department can be more difficult to screen than general management.

A recruiter could bring in the wrong candidates just from not fully understanding the requirements and qualifications of the job.

Settling Too Quickly

Sometimes a recruiter will find what seems like the perfect resume near the top of the pile and call them and hope they work out. Often this leaves out other candidates who might be more well-suited but happen to land further down.

This is one of the cons of accepting and screening resumes on a rolling basis versus waiting for applications to be submitted before resume screening.

Time to Hire

Qualified candidates are going to have many offers. The average time to hire is 30 days, but your favorite pick could be stolen by another company that is faster in offering a position.

Shortening the time between resume screening and job offers will only benefit you and the company. Get ahead of the curve and hire outstanding applicants before it is too late.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Resume Screening Take?

Even when using automated steps, resume screenings usually last the most extended period of the hiring selection process. It depends on how many resumes need to be screened, but on average, recruiters may look at each resume for 10-20 seconds or a few minutes if they want a deeper dive.

Final Thoughts

An extensive selection process can easily last months, so any method to shorten that time while maintaining accuracy is a no-brainer. By using a careful screening process and focusing on key factors such as relevance of experience, skills alignment, and educational background, companies can refine their hiring process to be faster and more efficient.

Once the screening process is out of the way and you feel confident that you’ve chosen the right candidate, a comprehensive verification and background check should always be the final step of any selective hiring. ScoutLogic takes care of all the final stages of the hiring process, leaving you safe and secure, knowing that you’ve got the best person for the job.

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