A Guide to Resume Screening for Recruiters

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 15, 2021

Resume screening saves recruiters time during the hiring process and leads to faster onboarding of new employees. Whether you screen resumes manually or using software, using the best techniques can help you identify the most suitable applicants. In this article, we define resume screening, discuss the different types and provide tips to successfully screen resumes and find the best candidates.

What is resume screening?

Resume screening plays a pivotal role in finding the right applicant for a job by narrowing the list of eligible candidates. Recruiters review applicants' resumes themselves or utilize software to complete the process. Manual screening involves recruiters reviewing each resume on their own, while software-based resume screening utilizes artificial intelligence tools that scan resumes for pre-determined criteria. Resume screening is a straightforward way to remove unqualified applicants from the application process and shortlist candidates to interview.

Why is resume screening important?

With the significant increase of job boards online and a corresponding increase in job ads, businesses typically receive a large number of resumes for a small number of jobs. Resume screening allows recruiters to examine the background of individuals and determine their suitability for the job and company culture.

Resume screening also allows the recruiter to consider whether the job ad's requirements are realistic for the job market. If there are no applicants that have the required skills and years of experience, then the recruiter may consider adjusting their expectations for the job.

Manual screening vs. using screening software

Both manual screening and using screening software have their benefits and shortcomings. Each recruiter needs to make their decision about which method to use based on several factors:

  • Time and budget available

  • Number of resumes to review

  • Number of positions available

Manual screening is a much lengthier process than using screening software, as it involves the recruiter reviewing each resume on their own. However, it can be beneficial to undertake a manual screen, as screening software does not always account for the small nuances and differences between resumes, like using a synonym for a preferred keyword. Manual screening may also help to fill in other vacancies not advertised, as recruiters look at the resumes of less qualified candidates who may be a good fit elsewhere in the organization.

Resume screening software often streamlines the review process by pre-selecting the most qualified resumes based on keywords the recruiter programs the software to detect. Many ads garner over 200 resumes for just one role. As employers usually want to only interview five to 10 candidates, they will reject 98% of applicant resumes through the screening process.

Using resume screening software and applicant tracking systems makes this process more efficient. However, this software is still not as sophisticated as the human mind, so it is possible for resume screening software to overlook strong candidates because their resumes did not use enough of the preferred keywords or because the candidate uploaded a resume in a non-standard file format.

How to screen resumes

Screening resumes is a four-step process for recruiters:

1. Select resumes that have the required credentials

Review applicant resumes with the job description in mind. If the employer wants the new employee to have a set number of years of experience or specific accreditation, then discard any resumes that do not have these credentials.

2. Select resumes that have the desired skills

While employers will have a list of required credentials, they may also have a list of desired skills. It is important to prioritize these because desired skills often help the employee complete the work and integrate into the organization's culture. Soft skills such as leadership and communication may not be necessary for the specific role, but they will add value to the organization.

3. Select resumes that are customized for the job

Applicants who customize their resume to the job ad demonstrate they have done their research on the position and the organization. It also shows the applicant's dedication and attention to detail.

Some indications of a customized resume include:

  • A skills list that matches the skills in the job ad

  • Notable achievements that relate to the job

  • A work history that highlights the skills needed for the job

Uncustomized resumes have several indicators such as:

  • A skills list that doesn't mention any of the skills in the job ad

  • A summary that doesn't connect to the role or organization

  • A work history that is too long and lists outdated and unrelated job roles

4. Check the applicant's information

Once you have reduced the list of applicants, it is important to check the accuracy of the remaining candidates' information. Conduct reference checks to evaluate both the accuracy of the information that the candidate provides and to assess important characteristics like integrity and work ethic.

What to look for in resumes

When screening resumes and assessing candidates, recruiters can stay attentive to the following items to help them identify the best people for the job:

Mistakes and unprofessionalism

Applicants who submit unprofessional resumes, such as those with many spelling, grammatical or factual mistakes, may be more likely to submit unprofessional work. Candidates who submit carefully constructed resumes demonstrate their attention to quality and detail.

Evidence of job-hopping

While "job-hopping," or moving from one job to the next in a short period of time, is becoming more commonplace, it is important to ask questions during the interview process about why the potential employee held many jobs in quick succession. An applicant may have been eager to learn new skills, and moving between jobs gave them the opportunity to do this, or an applicant may have personal commitment issues that make it difficult to stay in one role for an extended period.

Communication with the applicant is important on this matter, as their reason for job-hopping may play a role in their suitability for the job.

Gaps between jobs

As with job-hopping, recruiters should also allow any suitable candidates to speak about sizeable employment gaps on their resumes. An applicant may have a period of time in which they did not work because they studied for a degree, cared for a sick family member, started their own business or were a stay-at-home parent. It is better to ask the employee what activities they took part in during a gap than to make an uninformed judgment about the situation.

Browse more articles