Resume Screening in 5 Steps: The Ultimate Guide

Cody Cromwell
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Resume Screening: A Critical Step in the Hiring Process

It’s hard to believe that the career you selected when you were fresh out of college can change drastically as your career progresses. Change is inevitable, and it has no doubt influenced your employment over the years.

The basic principle behind hiring procedures is that they’re meant to screen candidates so that the best job can be filled; since timing is everything in life, employers rely on the most efficient means of screening available. Many screeners are currently in use, and they’re often the stepping stone to a career in rising fields.

Resume screening is one such scrutiny because it allows employers to quickly go through the lengthy application process. The idea of hiring the right candidate is a given, but it’s possible that the wrong candidate may get the job. Knowing what to look for in a good candidate is crucial, and so is knowing how to screen them in a most efficient and balanced manner. Below are five steps to follow while screening candidates; if given proper care, they will certainly add to your efficiency while screening.

Resume Reviewing Process: Volumes and Percentages

When it comes to resume screening, more is definitely not better.

In general, more review is better than less, but the more screens you add to your resume review process, the more chances you’re taking with your own success. So keep in mind that if you are putting too many resume screening hurdles in place, a job opportunity may escape your grasp.

Ideally, you want to review a resume in a confident manner: quickly and with an eye out for trends and previously applied skills. This way will help you in getting it done as quickly as possible.

A good screening technique is to view all the resumes for 5 seconds, three seconds for the name, and two seconds for the title and last name. A good practice is to also add in two seconds for new skills you’re considering. With this method, this five second total constitutes 0.03 percent of the total time spent reviewing resumes.

If you prefer longer reviews, you can easily increase the amount of time by:

Doing one line reviews for each resume.

Or by allowing yourself one line reviews followed by two line reviews.

Cover Letters

Vs. Resumes and Why Resume Screening is a Waste of Time

If any readers of Resume Screening Wasted Time have actually read that, they’re probably shaking their heads right now. They’ve probably also probably agreed that if your resume is not reviewed, it will never make it to a hiring manager for consideration. If you’re one of those resume readers, which I happen to be for the past year, I will try to make sense of what my employer is looking for.

Before hiring me, employers are required to review resumes and application materials. As part of this requirement, there have been a lot of forms and documents. Pre-employment checks and credit checks are reminders that we have to show by putting up good credit and analyzing our personal details as a scoring metric before we are hired.

I did not submit a cover letter but included one as an attachment. The cover letter is an additional piece of information, addressed to the hiring manager.

I was required to email my resume and cover letter. This time, the cover letter was essential. I was not only being screen-read but also made to write, and that too a short one.

What Companies Look for When Reviewing Resumes

Utilizing Social Media in the Resume Review Process

Technology has brought new meaning to the resume screening process. Resumes can be uploaded online, reviewed via the internet or downloaded and read in the comfort of your home.

But with all these new, easier options for searching for and reviewing resumes, are employers still interested in screening with paper resumes?

Yes, employers are still interested in screening with paper and/or hard disks.

Spanning the gamut from small ones that require only you or your HR department to review and approve the resume, to large ones that require multiple managers and executives to weigh in, your resume screening process can take as little as 20 minutes and as much as 45-60 minutes.

It’s important to note that there’s no one way to screen the resumes of workers seeking employment. Every company has its own strategy and standards that fall somewhere within the range mentioned above.

But regardless of the actual minimum amount of time set aside for this task, it’s still in your employee’s best interest to submit an appropriate, professional-looking resume. That’s because every minute and every dollar you spend is working against them.

For example, if you do a little research and see that an applicant’s resume may have factual errors, you’re not just wasting time and money on those key minutes.

Know ‘Red Flags’ When You See Them

In order to get the most out of your screening experience and avoid future issues, you need to pay close attention to the ways in which the hiring manager will try to get you to fail.

Here’s what you should be looking for in a potential employer:


Knowing how to write a resume is only the beginning. Before you upload your resume, you need to take the time to craft your cover letter. That’s the secret weapon you’ll use to deliver your resume to the right person.

Never heard of a cover letter? That’s normal. Many of us have never even heard of a resume screen, but you should know that it’s a practice that can save you a lot of money and frustration in the long run.

Do not feel pressured into submitting your resume and cover letter to a potential employer. Instead of giving in to what someone else is requesting you to do, you’ll now have a greater understanding of how to present yourself and your credentials in the best way possible.

Unexplained Gaps in Employment

A resume will not go into enough details about an applicant’s past, or may seem vague in the present circumstances. This problem may arise with minimal gap in employment history or sudden missing employment data.

The best way to eliminate this is to carefully consider it before giving a job to a particular candidate. There are many employers who are picky and check the past employment data of the applicants by reaching out to their previous colleagues.

But the exact process of catching this problem in the past employment history data is tedious for both employers and interviewers. So if you find this problem in your interview process, then here is the ultimate solution you can look on that.

Brief Tenure From Job to Job

This is a must because the type of position you took. Count your job tenure as previous companies. Mention the position, title, job description, years, location, as well as how you ended up leaving and the reason. Do not use your current resume to talk about a previous position.

A Sloppy Resume

A sloppy job of screening is the most commonly encountered barrier to success. Good screening can prevent a number of costly rejections. That’s why it’s worth performing that screening right. So many openings are lost due to bad screening, so it’s important that good quality resumes make the cut.

The Problems that Frequently Occur in Resume Screening

When it comes to a job that requires providing security, you must be on the lookout for potentially dangerous criminals. Because of this, you should devote the most caution in reviewing your applicants… the minute you hire someone, it’s in your best interest to train them to be best. Hiring the wrong person can jeopardize your business. Badly screening applicants is a common problem, so it’s important to know and take into account just what you can do to be sure to avoid those types of setbacks.

Step 1: Know the Guidelines

Every decision you make is based on existing standards. These standards aren’t set in stone, but they also aren’t meant to be disregarded. Knowing the rules means you can make an educated and considered decision about whether or not you’ll move forward with an interview.

Personal Data or Lacking Professional Details

Before sending in your resume, think about what you should include & what should be left out. For example, if you’re applying for a job that requires you to have experience, say for instance if you’re applying to be a dishwasher at a restaurant then don’t mention that you’re new to the business.

With the hiring process becoming shorter & shorter, employers are merging the screening process to avoid downtime in the schedule for interviews. Therefore, it is important that you make the best first impressions with the right information in one shot, and not have to wait to be remembered by the employer after an interview.

While the application should include your full resume; one may always include personal details but even if it’s not required it can open new opportunities for you. Your personal details can be used to build a more personal connection, to build rapport with the recruiter, and to avoid a time-consuming first impression that does not match with the job that you are applying.

Length of Resume

The length of your resume depends on a variety of factors. Depending on the position and/or type of work you are applying for, the length of your resume can range from one to two pages. There are a number of best practices you should keep in mind when writing a resume. Among these include:

Tailor each resume to the specific position you are applying for.

Keep the resume in one size and stick to one (or two, if applicable) font size.

Consider the length of your resume when leaving out extraneous information.

Be consistent with the formatting throughout.

Stick to a one-page resume if possible.

Resume Screening: Manual Review vs Applicant Tracking Software (or ATS)

Manual Reviewing

This step is often overlooked but is crucial. There is no way to screen all resumes, so manual reviewing is vital.

There are two main reasons why manual reviewing is important. First it helps you find red flags that may prevent you from fully considering a candidate for your job position. Second, this step gives you a chance to do the more in-depth review of the resume, which can help you understand the candidate’s qualifications and statement of career accomplishments more completely.

You will need to read over the complete resume, not merely the summary.

The key is to concentrate on the overall content. This means while reading, you should be looking for red flags. A red flag is generally referred to as a warning sign that should be investigated further. It may mean you need to speak with the candidate or dismiss the candidate early.

It is important to note that when a candidate is qualified to work for your organization, they will generally have little to no red flags in their responses and will have no red flag issues to address in their resume.

There are many great resources available for learning how to distinguish red flags. One source we recommend is High-Impact Recruiting, which has an excellent section on spotting red flags.

If you are new to resume screening, we suggest you begin by reviewing candidate red flag examples.

Applicant Tracking Software (ATS)

Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is software used by employers to keep track of their applicant’s records. ATS does this by collecting documents submitted by applicants (resumes, applications, etc) and by tracking applications for position offers or request for a job.

As different ATS’s have different levels of sophistication,this instruction will provide for your current software/application.

Resume (and Application) Screening and the Law

Strange but true, there are some circumstances in which employers may refuse to hire, discharge, deny a promotion, or refuse to pay restitution based solely on information that was contained in an employee’s application for a position. This would include:

  • Information contained in a Personal History Statement (PHS)
  • Information contained in a Federal Order Application (FAA)
  • Information contained in an SF 86/Standard Form 86 (SF 86)
  • Information contained in a Financial Questionnaire (FFQ)
  • Information contained in an Affidavit of Support
  • Information contained in an Interstate Identification Index
  • Information contained in a Bond Jingling
  • Information contained in an Affidavit of Support
  • Information contained in an Affidavit of Support for an ETA Application
  • Information contained in an ETA Affidavit of Support
  • Information contained in an Affidavit of Support for a TPS Application
  • Information contained in an Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)
  • Information contained in a Resumé
  • Information contained in an SF 274B

More on Application Questions

In the past, it was easy to weed out most job applicants who didn't have the patience to fill out application forms thoroughly ” and there was a distinct plus and minus to this.

As discussed in a previous post, the plus was that it was a quick and easy way to screen candidates and weed out the chaff. It also brought forth some more organised and industrious candidates; filling out an application form with the appropriate detail and then getting back to your organisation was a whole lot of effort and work. Talk about motivation to succeed.

The minus was that not everybody was willing to go the extra mile in preparing their application form. This meant that some candidates were let in through the back entrance with their applications incomplete. Maybe they weren't even brave enough to go to the interview stage. And as we know, getting a job is serious business.

But as times have changed, so have the times. In recent years, job applicants have been faking their credentials, inflating their resumes and lying about their work experience to get a job. Because of this, the success rate of candidates who don't turn up for job interviews or their first day of work is increasing.

What's more? Job applications are evolving and becoming more complicated. They also tend to contain more information, which increases the chance of application blunders.

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The date the qualification certificate became effective or the status of the qualified officer changed from unqualified to qualified or unqualified to unqualified.

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If the qualifications of the properly officially change and there is no change in the scope of employment, the notice must be served within ten days after the answer;

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a job applicant or an experienced professional, resume screening is an important step in the hiring process. If you’re applying for a fast-paced, competitive job, it’s especially important to let the employer know that you’re a bona fide professional with the experience and skills to handle the job. Just like a cover letter, the resume needs to contain all the relevant details to clearly present your best professional self. But it can be difficult to sift through all the details and come up with a short and meaningful one.

The good news is that when done right, a resume can distill a lot of information into a few key words that will easily make it through the screening process.

If you are looking for a job, make sure to personalize your resume.

If you are on the other end of the job screening process, check out these key resume screening tips.