Don’t Have a Recruiter? Here’s How to Read a Resume Like You Do

Thanks to digital technology, the job application process has changed a good deal in the last decade or so. It’s never been easier to submit a resume and candidates do so freely.  Some might even say willy-nilly. While ease-of-use is great, it can also create more work for Hiring Managers due to an uptick in the volume of unqualified resumes so easily submitted. While we certainly don’t long for the days of paper resumes and (gasp) faxes, we do miss the assurance that came with the effort in putting stamp-to-envelope that the candidate had given it more than a passing thought.

So here are some tips from the Recruiters here at HireLabs to help make the resume review process a bit more focused.

Keyword Scan

When starting a search, we conduct an intake session that helps us understand what skills and keywords are likely to be found in a top candidate’s resume. These keywords are the, well, keys to a first step quickly assessing a resume.  This is like SEO for resumes. This list can quickly help you narrow the field down to those resumes you want to spend more time on.

Start by highlighting the keywords in the job description that you can’t live without. Once you have your list, you can use the “find” function to quickly find the terms you’re trying to identify. Take a moment to read them in context.  Just because a word is included in a resume doesn’t mean the candidate is qualified in that skill. For example, someone may call out Java on their resume, however they aren’t qualified to write code. Keywords can lead you down the wrong path if you’re not careful.

Use this method with caution and a wide view: a top candidate may neglect to add the one keyword that you feel is most important, but their resume clearly calls out the kind of experience that would be ideal for your role. You should still take the time to read the details but the highlighting might bring your eye to the most impactful positions first.  Lastly, be aware that they may telling you what you want to know in a less in-your-face way. Know all the ways that a skill may be called out. You may have to do a little more research (this is a Recruiters #1 skill) to find out what tech stack a company is using. If you don’t know that Widgets, Inc. uses Java, you may throw out a perfectly qualified candidate.  Nobody wants you to make that kind of rookie mistake.

Career Progression

Many candidates will follow a fairly predictable plan within their career discipline. Knowing what that path is will help you identify if a candidate has stalled or has purposefully leveled themselves off. A career path for an engineer in a leadership track looks something like this:

Intern> Software Engineer > Senior Software Engineer > Lead Software Engineer > Software Engineering Manager > Software Engineering Director > VP Of Engineering > CTO

If you see a candidate has gotten stalled at one of those points for several years or several jobs, that is an area you should explore with them in an interview setting to find out why and where they ultimately want to take their career. Not everybody wants to be a manager and some people simply don’t have the temperment for it. Perhaps an individual contributor (IC) role is what fits them best.  An IC path might look more like this:

Intern> Software Engineer > Senior Software Engineer > Lead Software Engineer > Software Engineering Architect > Principal Software Engineer

Past Employer Insights

Another technique our recruiters use is to look for parallels between company size and culture we’re recruiting for and the size and culture the candidate has historically worked for. While every employee’s experience is different, we know that working in a company that has 7,000 Software Engineers is very different than one that has 7. If you feel like working for a startup is a requirement, look into the organization names you don’t recognize (we love right click and “search google for this term”) and do some research. We tend to hit the “About Us” and “Careers” pages to learn more about company size and makeup, and read how they describe themselves. You can take it to the next level by looking on LinkedIn to learn more about the overall company size and employee base.

Dungeons and Dragons

“Seriously?!”  That used to be what Recruiters would say when someone included personal interests or hobbies of this sort, but the times have changed. Today, it is considered a best practice to share more about yourself to be set apart from the crowd, so don’t dismiss these too quickly. As soon as Recruiters realized that this gave a more holistic view of the candidates we were recruiting, we were grateful for the little nuggets they shared about what a they did outside of work.   In today’s workplaces, particularly in growing tech companies, team fit is a valuable attribute. Good Recruiters can quickly determine if a hobby relates to the role or the team and company culture and will help reinforce interest and “right fit” for the job.

(Duck and) Cover Letters

We know the topic of cover letters is one of the most hotly contested arguments since Hamilton met Burr, but we suggest this: If a candidate has taken the time to write one, we as hiring leaders should take the time to read it. The candidate might share a gem or two that helps you see what interests them about your opening, about projects they worked on or about why a wildcard applicant like them should be considered. Or, they may have thrown “cover letters that get you hired” into a search engine and done a cut and paste job. Either way, that’s great intel to have on someone and it tells you a lot what kind of employee they might be.

OOPS! Typos and Other Miscellany

Once you have created a shortlist, start reading with a high level of detail (we call this full-read). Take a look at the candidate’s GitHub account, LinkedIn profile and any other links they’ve shared on their resume. If they have projects that intrigue you, push them to the top of your interview list.

But typos are considered THE deadly sin on a resume.  We’ve all made them. It happens. Shoot, I had one day where I couldn’t spell a full sentence to save my life!  But this is supposed to be someones best-effort introduction to you and your company, so you have to look for typos and grammatical errors when you get to the full-read.  This says a lot about the effort and attention that someone puts into their work. Typos are just one of the many things us Recruiters look for in a resume. This list might also be useful to you, particularly point #7.

Finally!  You have a list of candidates

Depending on how long your shortlist is, you may end up conducting a quick phone interview with each of these short-listed candidates. If you have a recruiter on staff, this is a high-value activity that they can take off your plate. But either way, the first 15 minutes of a phone interview can tell you if you want to hear more.

Using a process like this can keep you focused on spending your time with the top candidates and improve your hiring success rates.  Recruiters know what to look for to discover the best candidates from a slew of applicants. If your organization needs assistance in this area or with navigating other challenges that come with rapid growth, HireLabs can help. Let’s collaborate to bring in the talent you need to rise above your competition. Contact us now!