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The Ultimate Guide To Resume Screening

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Resume screening, or CV screening, is a widely-used part of the recruitment process — so common, in fact, that it is the focus of thousands of articles on how to hire the best candidates. While it is possible to review resumes manually in a low-volume environment, technology is needed to screen candidates at scale. 

For many organizations, resume screening followed by an in-person interview is standard hiring practice. It works, but it has its challenges. How you implement and manage the resume screening process can drastically affect how efficient your overall recruitment funnel ends up being. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at what resume screening is, why it’s so widely used, challenges to be aware of, and innovations in the practice.

What is resume screening?

Resume screening is the process of using resumes as proxies for job fit. In other words, recruiters, or more recently algorithms, scan applicants’ resumes to try to match them to the job description and identify those who seem to be suitable candidates that can move forward in the hiring process. 

Why is resume screening so widely used?

There are three main reasons why resume screening has become common across businesses

  1. It narrows down a large pool of candidates – It can be hard to find the perfect candidate among a large pool of applicants. Resume screening enables you to filter out unsuitable candidates, leaving behind only those who seem to be more qualified for the role. 
  2. It reduces time to fill – A higher volume of candidates often means longer hiring times. To speed things up, companies find more ways to filter out unsuitable candidates — including using resume screening. Doing so can effectively reduce time to hire and time to fill, meaning you can onboard the perfect candidate much faster.
  3. It helps you assess the effectiveness of job posts – By screening resumes, recruiters can also determine whether a job post is effective or realistic enough for the company’s needs. For example, if you find that none of the resumes you review have the skills you require from your job post, perhaps that could be a sign that you need to adjust your expectations. 
Why resume screening is so widely used
Why resume screening is so widely used, according to Indeed

How to screen resumes

Regardless of whether you decide to screen resumes yourself or use software with a built-in algorithm, you’ll want to keep the following tips for screening resumes in mind: 

1. Screen based on minimum qualifications

Minimum qualifications are a resume ranking tool, taking into account the “must-have” experience, education, or accreditations listed in the original job post. Screening for minimum qualifications means rejecting any resumes that do not fulfill those basic qualifications. 

2. Screen based on preferred qualifications

Preferred qualifications typically describe soft skills that will add value to your organization but are not necessarily required for a candidate to fulfill their job. Examples of preferred qualifications include:

  • Leadership skills 
  • Communication skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work with a team
  • Positive or proactive thinking
  • Strong work ethic

One step follows the other. First, narrow down your list of resumes by your minimum or required qualifications, then filter your resumes further based on these preferred qualifications. 

Screen based on preferred qualifications
How to screen based on preferred qualifications

3. Shortlist based on minimum and preferred qualifications

The remainder of the resumes you’re left with should meet both your minimum and preferred qualifications. From there, take a look at the applicant’s work history, listed skills, and notable achievements and see how they stack up compared to others. 

At this time, you may choose to move candidates forward depending on how small your applicant pool becomes or continue to filter out resumes based on other qualifications or requirements, such as the accuracy of the information they provide or performing reference checks. 

Challenges for recruiters when resume screening

It turns out that while resume screening offers plenty of benefits, how companies screen resumes can lead to a few challenges, including:

Volume

If you have a significant number of applicants applying for a role, it can be hard to screen resumes, especially if you do so manually instead of using software. Recruiters may find that they simply don’t have the time to give each resume the consideration it needs. In fact, a 2018 study showed that recruiters only spend an average of 7 seconds initially looking at each resume — which is definitely not enough time to get a grasp of someone’s qualifications or if they’re really the best fit for the job. 

Inaccuracies 

Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence that candidates lie on their resumes and often get away with it. Many job-seekers know the algorithms and software used to screen applications and resumes and will purposely include certain keywords based on your job description to get around these filters. While you may be able to discern what’s accurate — or real — and what’s not, electronic resume screening software and AI programs may not. 

Quality of hire

Quality of hire is essentially a measure of how much value a new hire can add to your organization, especially over time. Although there’s no strict formula for calculating quality, recruiters understand that this metric is important to keep in mind when screening resumes.

However, doing so can be quite difficult, especially considering that the key indicators used to fulfill this metric aren’t easily identifiable simply by looking at a candidate’s resume. 

Even if a candidate is honest with the details included in their resume, recruiters can only rely on their provided credentials and work experience for screening. This information alone is usually not enough to determine whether the applicant will succeed in the role, so you may need to require them to complete a skills test or interview to truly determine their eligibility and qualifications. 

Otherwise, you may end up hiring a candidate who may have the right education level and work experience (based on what you see on their resume) but may not have the skills ideal for fulfilling the job successfully. 

Unconscious bias

As mentioned above, resumes are a snapshot of a candidate’s academic credentials and work experience, neither of which necessarily predict success. What’s worse, if you focus on pedigree, you are prioritizing candidates from privileged backgrounds. Perhaps most alarmingly, bias against minorities is prevalent through the resume screening process.

Although this is an issue that may be more common among businesses that rely on manual resume screening, it could potentially become a problem with resume screening software if it is set to automatically “screen out” candidates based on factors such as their educational background. Keep in mind also that poor AI can automate and propagate human biases.

Screening for skills

This final challenge ties in with the previous two points. Because a resume can only tell recruiters so much about an applicant, there’s usually not enough information present to assess whether candidates have the right skills for a role.

In these instances, hiring teams have to rely on what they can glean from a candidate’s previous work experience to determine whether they have the skills necessary for a role. This cannot be considered a “skills test”. 

Some organizations recommend supplementing resume screening with a skills test. Others, including the team here at Vervoe, recommend replacing resume screening with skills testing. 

Challenges of resume screening
Challenges of resume screening

Innovations in resume screening

Although there is a fair share of challenges that come with resume screening, fortunately, there are plenty of innovations that make overcoming these obstacles easier and the process simpler for recruiters, from advanced automation to AI technology. 

Tech solutions that automate parts of the process

Recruiters have the option to take advantage of an ATS, or an applicant tracking system, to aid with resume screening. An ATS usually acts as a database that holds all candidate information and offers additional features to help with the overall hiring process, including:

  • Posting job openings
  • Interview scheduling
  • Sending messages to applicants
  • Processing assessments
  • Screening answers to application questions
  • Creating reports and review analytics

There are several types of ATS, many of which offer resume screening as well. Essentially, once a new resume enters the database from an application, the ATS will parse the document’s content, scanning it for keywords to determine whether it should be sent to a recruiter to review. 

Many benefits come with using an ATS: 

  • They save time by automating multiple processes such as resume screening which helps reduce time to fill
  • They’re particularly useful for screening candidates based on minimum qualifications 
  • They eliminate unconscious bias during screening (assuming the AI is managed carefully)
  • Multiple colleagues can leave ratings or notes about various candidates to help with the hiring process 
  • They improve the candidate experience by eliminating gaps in communication with automated messages
  • They use a database to select candidates from a former pool of applicants
  • There are multiple ATS options available that make it easy for businesses to find the right software for them

However, it’s also worth noting these common ATS downsides: 

  • If ATS filters are too strict, you can miss out on well-qualified candidates. For example, an ATS tends to eliminate the least-qualified applicants from a pool rather than identify candidates who are the best fit for a particular role. 
  • Some ATS resume screening abilities are limited to only being able to decipher specific fonts or resume formats.
  • User error could impact ATS effectiveness.

Tech solutions that rethink screening beyond resumes

Besides an ATS, some solutions go above and beyond simply narrowing down a pool of applicants based on their resumes. For example, skills assessments from software such as Vervoe and Vervoe’s AI can be sent out to prospective candidates to identify their current skills and produce a final ranking that suggests whether they would actually be a good fit for a role. 

Rather than just assuming skills based on previous experience listed on a resume, you can actually put applicants to the test and take the guesswork out of hiring. 

Tech alternatives to resume screening
Vervoe’s innovative AI makes it a great alternative to resume screening solutions

AI Solutions

Several AI solutions help businesses simplify the resume screening and overall recruitment process. Beyond screening, AI can also be used to source and interview candidates as well. 

AI tools can help assess candidates and their fit for a role, using algorithms to analyze applicant responses, personality traits, skills, and more within these different processes. And because AI can manage some of the more time-consuming activities involved with hiring, recruiting teams can effectively speed things up. 

Additionally, using AI for recruitment practices can allow companies to: 

  • Reduce unconscious bias
  • Better predict candidate performance
  • Hire at a larger scale
  • Participate in remote hiring
  • Provide positive candidate experiences
  • Lower hiring costs

However, as most of us know, just like humans, AI isn’t exactly perfect, which can result in a few challenges for recruiters:

  • AI uses machine learning algorithms that rely on existing data; implementing AI into your recruiting process may take a long time as it begins to analyze the thousands to millions of data points you have available 
  • Specific data points can impact the effectiveness of the AI’s algorithm
  • AI has the potential to mimic human bias; going from the previous point, if the wrong data points are fed through the algorithm, the AI can replicate any pre-existing bias
The benefits of ai solutions in resume screening
Benefits of AI solutions for resume screening

Final thoughts

Traditional hiring is like a funnel. It starts with a large group of candidates we know little about and ends with one person we hope to know a lot about. Resume screening is a key part of this shortlisting process.

CV screening means recruiters can narrow down a large list of eligible candidates, bringing the best candidates to the next stage of the hiring process, usually an interview or an invitation to complete skills testing. It can also help businesses determine whether their job post is attracting candidates with the right qualifications.

Although there are challenges that come with the practice, to screen resumes means there’s a higher chance of reducing a company’s time-to-hire and time-to-fill, making the complex hiring process manageable.

Emily Heaslip

Emily Heaslip

Emily Heaslip is a versatile freelance copywriter who writes for finance, tech, and e-commerce brands. She currently lives in Cape Town and can be found running, hiking, and exploring the South African coast in her free time.

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