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Liz HastyJul 25, 20234 min read

How to Read a Resume: Tips and Tricks from Recruiting Experts

When it comes to finding the ideal candidate for a job, sifting through resumes can be overwhelming and time-consuming. That's why it's crucial to master the art of reading resumes to identify the perfect fit for your organization. In this guide, we'll explore common mistakes to avoid and provide valuable tips and tricks to help you extract the most insightful information from each candidate's resume.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

There are a number of things you might be doing without even realizing it that are hindering your ability to find the best candidate! For example…

Misjudging Job Changes

One of the most common mistakes recruiters make is misjudging job changes on a candidate's resume. A candidate with frequent job changes might appear unstable, but it's crucial to explore the reasons behind these transitions during the interview. For example, they may have pursued opportunities for growth or sought a better cultural fit.

Misunderstanding the Resume of a Passive Candidate

Passive candidates – those who aren't actively applying to new opportunities – may have a less detailed resume. This is because recruiters typically ask them to put together a resume quickly, as they often don’t have an updated one on hand. It's essential to keep an open mind and focus on their experience rather than the resume's format.

Look at the Experience, Not the Title

Job titles can vary significantly across different companies and industries. Therefore, it's crucial to concentrate on the candidate's responsibilities and achievements rather than their job title. This approach ensures you assess their actual skillset and suitability for the role.

Not Asking Clarifying Questions

Resumes can sometimes be ambiguous, leading to red flags or discrepancies. Don't write off an otherwise great candidate without giving them the chance to explain during the interview. This helps you gain valuable context and clarify any uncertainties.

Having Too Many Requirements

While it’s important to know what you want in an applicant, rigid requirements can unnecessarily limit your candidate pool. Instead, focus on the top three hard skills someone must have to be a fit for the role. It’s important these are not soft skills; resumes may not adequately reflect a candidate’s soft skills, so don’t use these as a vetting tool. By focusing on only the most critical skills, and only on those which a resume will reveal, you can consider a broader range of candidate resumes and increase your chances of finding the perfect match.

Getting Caught Up on Resume Design

It’s important to look past the visual design of the resume and focus on the content. Exceptional candidates may not have the most graphically impressive resume, but they could possess the skills and experience your organization needs to succeed. Remember: most candidates aren’t professional resume designers, and often, we’re asking them to put something together on the fly!


Tips for Reviewing a Resume

Now that you know what to avoid, let’s turn our attention to what you should be looking for when reviewing resumes.

Think of the Resume as CliffsNotes

While a resume provides a snapshot of a candidate's professional journey, it should never serve as the sole basis for a hiring decision. Consider it as the "CliffsNotes" version of their qualifications, and use the interview to dig deeper into their expertise and potential.

Use the Resume to Form Interview Questions

Leverage the information presented on the resume to craft relevant interview questions. If there are aspects you want to explore further or areas where clarification is needed, use the interview to address them!

Read Each Resume with an Open Mind

Avoid forming quick judgments solely based on the candidate's experience on paper. A candidate's experience might not align precisely with the role, but they could bring valuable transferable skills and fresh perspectives to the table!

Don't Get Stuck on the Resume

If you’re on the fence about a candidate's resume, always take the opportunity to schedule an interview! The initial interview will provide you with the clarity needed to make the decision to go forward.

Use Caution When Grading Attention to Detail

While attention to detail is an essential skill, remember that you're evaluating a candidate's ability to perform the job, not their resume-writing capabilities. Look for evidence of their attention to detail through their work experience and achievements. It’s important to keep in mind the role being applied for when evaluating someone’s resume details.

Look at the Work History Holistically

When evaluating a candidate's work history, consider not only the specific positions they held but also the skills and accomplishments they acquired along the way. Soft skills they developed in seemingly unrelated positions might be more valuable than a candidate who ticks all the work history boxes but lacks essential qualities for the role. It also helps to keep growth potential in mind when reviewing a candidate’s work history; visualize where you see them going and how their prior experience can contribute to that path.


Putting it All Together

Mastering the art of reading resumes is crucial for making well-informed hiring decisions. By avoiding common mistakes and following our expert tips, you'll be able to read and assess resumes more quickly and efficiently. You’ll glean valuable information from each candidate's resume and uncover hidden talents that align with your organization's needs. Remember, the resume is just the beginning of the hiring process, and the interview is where you'll gain a comprehensive understanding of the candidate's potential. With this approach, you'll build a winning team that drives your organization toward success. Happy hiring!

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Liz Hasty

Liz is a Client Success Manager for HubSearch. As someone who has worked for both staffing agencies and in internal HR, she has gained the well rounded experience to help her clients with their hiring needs and much more. She is very passionate about building long-lasting partnerships, the recruiting process and connecting with people to help them be successful.