B+P Insights: What to look for in a candidate resume?

The experienced recruiter is skilled at reading, analyzing and quickly searching for information when reading resumes. But for the small business owner who never reads a resume but now has to hire, the first-time manager who was promoted and now has to build a team or the operations leader now tasked with HR duties sifting through a large amount of resumes the learning curve is steep. In this Birn + Partners insight we provide you with some suggestions on how to make you more efficient when reading resumés…


Where to put the focus in a resume:


Concise content: Candidates demonstrating they can briefly articulate their expertise without using too much company-specific jargon or complex terminology is important. Ideally, one can write their experience on their resume to ensure it reads clearly, articulately and concisely.


Grammar, spelling: While spelling and grammar is important, applicants should take the time to ensure they are spelling the names of important industry-related items correctly – this could be complicated software. What’s more, make sure they are using consistent verb tenses and have proofread for spelling and grammatical errors.


Longevity: Look for 2+ years or more with each employer – which also depends on the field/industry – but that’s a good measuring stick. Certain fields tolerate more (job hoppers) due to the nature of the business – but, in general, you want to see they have stayed long enough at each employer to add value, learn new skills and build longevity and loyalty with an employer.


Experience match: Look for experience that matches what you need, but be open to the level of experience. Many candidates want to stretch/grow into their next role – look for experience but don’t get too focused by level.


Don’t overlook outside industry experience: Look for previous industry experience that is interesting to you – every candidate does not have to come from the same industry as what you are hiring for. Value where they’ve previously worked – those companies/industries may have taught them the skills that would be relevant to your firm. If the skills are there, be open to industry.


Focus on skills: A job is a job, but what has the candidate learned? What will he or she bring forward to the next challange? More important than titles, more important than the names of the companies where the candidate worked in the past are the skills he or she will bring to the next step. What skills are needed and look for them in the resume.


Notice any red flags: Be alert on the end of a resume that says, “References available upon request” is code for the fact that the candidate has probably been laid off or let go at some point during his career. This is not necessarily a bad thing; but it’s something to be aware of. Someone who has never lost his job would not include this line on his resume.


Hard facts versus fluff: A strong candidate will back up any resume with facts. “Increased sales by 200% during FY 14.” “Increased productivity by 25%, meriting an internal award for excellence.” “Closed €2M of sales within first six months.” Statements like these are facts. Statements about “teamwork, being a ‘people’ person, and ‘leadership skills,’ unless bolstered by facts, are fluff.


Readability: Does the resume invite you to meet the candidate? If so, invite him or her for an in-person appointment. If not, think about why not. Is it two pages of fluff? Is the resume filled with meaningless acronyms?



If you don’t want to read someone’s resume, trust your gut’s feeling and toss the resume in the trash.

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