Top 3 Ways Hiring Managers Screen Applicants

resume wiz blog screen applicants

Everyone on the Resume Wiz team is an experienced hiring manager, and combined, we have reviewed thousands of resume. Here are the most common way we screen applicants.

A hiring manager just posted a job ad and is seeing hundreds, if not thousands of applications rolling in. They’re thrilled to see so much interest, until you they sit back and think – someone has to go through all of them and find the best person for the job.

Sorting through the noise and finding all-star performers among your candidates can be rather daunting. How can you know that an applicant is really the right fit for the position and that they will fit into your team? You screen them before making any decisions.

Here are some of the most common methods for screening candidates, some tips to on how to get them right, as well as their pros and cons.

1. Skills Testing

The number one priority for most employers out there is simply – whether the candidate can do the job or not. However, this is not something that you will be able to tell from resumes, reference checks (not entirely, at least) and looking up your candidates online.

Many employers use pre-employment tests in some shape or form to determine if a candidate is a good fit. In fact, this is precisely the reason why Resume Wiz was created, to test applicants for real-world skills and their job, and not rely on other screening methods to make hiring decisions.

At Resume Wiz, we use a skills test at the very beginning of the application process. In this way, all candidates who do not know how to do the actual job are discarded at the very start. Our candidate selection tool has saved hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars for companies.

Pros and Cons

Pros: You get to see candidate performance. There is no bias of any kind. When done right, they can eliminate lots of bad applicants in very little time.

Cons: Skills tests lend themselves more to certain roles than others. For example, Resume Wiz is great for hiring developers, marketers, and sales people, but at the moment doesn’t support designers or accountants (though more roles are always being added!)

2. Resume screening

Next on the list – a more old school technique. Going through resumes is the oldest method of determining if someone is the right fit for the job, and it starts with the resume. Although resumes aren’t the best indicator of a candidate’s skills, they’re one of the key elements hiring and they don’t seem to be going away any time soon. Here’s some of the information you can get from a resume while screening candidates.

  • Length – If you get several hundreds of applications per position, you don’t have time to spend half an hour on each. Ideally, the resume should be 1-2 pages long, with the most relevant information about the candidate.  
  • Design – Even the perfect resume length doesn’t cut it if the info is scattered around and it’s difficult to view. While not everyone is a PhotoShop master, most people can organize their resume to be readable.  
  • Language – As a writer, I cringe at seeing grammar and spelling mistakes in resumes and they’re usually a sign that a candidate is not very detail-oriented. However, don’t be too quick to judge, especially if the position has very little to do with writing and language.  
  • Previous work experience – Ideally, the candidate should have relevant work experience listed, along with months and years spent on each position. An applicant for a web designer shouldn’t list working as a math teacher as relevant experience. Speaking of which…  
  • Resume fit – One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is sending out the same resume to all job applications. Every job has different requirements and the resume might need smaller or bigger tweaks to make it relevant. Needless to say, this takes time and many candidates don’t bother – but it’s also a way for them to show dedication and desire to get the job.    

Pros and Cons

Pros: Resume screening is the most thorough method of screening. You get to take a look at individual factors and create an image of the candidate.

Cons: It’s very time-consuming, especially for jobs with lots of applicants. You rely on candidates to tell the truth in their resumes and you don’t get to find out anything about their actual skills. A possible element of bias, based on gender, age, work experience etc.

3. Cover letters

Resumes are a great way for candidates to present themselves, but they can be rather limiting. If you want them to tell more about who they are early on, you can ask for a cover letter along with the resume as part of the application process. Besides showing off their writing skills, here are a few more things you can find out about applicants from the cover letter.

Following directions. When asking for a cover letter, you can just simply leave it at “send in your resume and cover letter“ or be specific and ask for something more. For example, you can ask candidates to explain why they’re the best person for the job, what makes them excited about working at your company, how their previous experience relates to the position, how they can contribute to your team etc. Whatever the instructions, the candidates should follow them. If they can’t write a cover letter according to your instructions, they may have a hard time following them on the job as well.  

  • Length and organization. A cover letter should be one to two pages long at most. By keeping the letter short (and neatly organized), candidates show respect for the recruiters’ time.  
  • Personality. Would you want to hire someone who seems as dull as watching paint dry? While you can’t expect candidates to go all out and crack jokes – the cover letter is a great way to show off a bit about how they think and what makes them tick.  
  • Tailored for the job. Just like the resume, the cover letter should be unique for the job. If the cover letter sounds like a template where all they changed is the recipient’s name and date of sending, it’s clear that the candidate hasn’t given enough thought to the letter.    

Pros and Cons

Pros: You get to find out more about the candidate, without a test or an interview. You can see how the candidate presents themselves.

Cons: Wading through hundreds of cover letters can take lots of time. The only skill you test is how well somebody writes – nothing more. Because they take more time to write, you may get fewer applicants, as they can’t bother to write a cover letter to apply.

Need more tips? Bookmark our Blogs page as we will be coming out with 3 new tips every week!

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