The Resume Mystery: Finding the Needle in a Haystack

June 1st, 2011 | Hiring Resources | No Comments »

You’ve heard job seekers complain about the resume black hole before, and you suspect your groaning desk may be the root of that black hole.

Google the word ‘resume’ and you’re bombarded with resources coaching job seekers in the art of resume writing. But what about you? The person who is bombarded with the results of those resources? Even if you know exactly what you’re looking for, finding those resume gems is a challenge. It’s really easy to miss that needle when you have a mountain of papers that are essentially mini autobiographies from real people. They are all so different and yet they all look exactly the same.

Where to start?

Step 1: Beating Blindness

Like I mentioned, you may have a fairly good idea of what you’re looking for. But you may not. And either way, you need to nail down exactly what you want before stumbling into the search blindly.

You probably have a general list of requirements, but which items on that list are the most important, absolutely key skills? Which ones are simply pluses and which ones can candidate learn upon hire? What are the responsibilities of the job, and how much experience would you accept for these responsibilities.

Sometimes it’s helpful to look back on resumes of people who are currently successful at your company. Figure out what you’re looking for, and you’ll notice that black hole of resumes isn’t as dark as it seemed.

Step 2: Layout the Basics

While it’s better to avoid rejecting a resume based purely on first impressions, the first glance can sometimes be very revealing. The layout and presentation of a resume can often give you some great clues to what kind of candidate you’re dealing with.

Say you’re looking for a graphic designer, then the layout of a successful candidate’s resume needs to echo their profession. If it’s messy, cluttered, and generally badly designed, they’re probably not the designer you’re looking for. If you’re looking for someone who’s detail-oriented with great written communication skills, but their resume is filled with bad grammar and spelling errors, you probably want to set that resume aside.

Step 3: Bottoms Up

A handy tip is to start reading the resume from the bottom up. Since the majority of resumes are written in reverse chronological order, you’ll get a bigger picture of who this candidate is and what their career path looks like if you actually read it chronologically, i.e. from the bottom up. A great candidate’s career path should show growth and a steady stream of accomplishments.

Plus, many candidates often stuff the top of their resume with the keywords they think you’re looking for. The story behind how they worked towards those keywords should be clear in the rest of their resume.

Step 4: Get Experienced

Ultimately, of course, the meat of the resume is in the descriptions of work experience. And it can easily be overwhelming when a candidate dedicates lengthy paragraphs to each position. Be aware that the responsibilities they deem most important are usually listed within the first couple of bullet points, so focus there first.

Keep in mind what you’re looking for, and then tackle the meat: Look at industries, skills, responsibilities, accomplishments, dates, and employment gaps. Relate these back to your needs. Are similar industries required or helpful? Do you need someone with identical previous responsibilities to the position you’re hiring for? Have they been at their previous company for so long that their skills are stale? Or not long enough for their experience to be as developed as you need? Do they hop around in their jobs or do they have large, unexplained unemployment gaps?

Step 5: Speed Reading

As you get used to finding these factors, the process should get faster and faster for you. It sounds like a lot to look at, but it’s all part of the big picture and if you neglect this perspective, you may end up with an employee who’s only half as successful as you’d hoped. But master the art of finding that needle in a haystack, and not only will you find the perfect employee, but your desk will start looking a little less like a black hole and a little more like a normal desk.

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