Need Better Hires? Pay Attention to These 7 Little Things on a Resume

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

If you’re hiring, chances are good you’ll be perusing dozens of resumes looking for that shining beacon, or at least a diamond in the rough. Sure, education, a solid work history, and experience in your industry will grab your attention. 

Those aren’t the only things you need to consider.

Finding the best new hire for your open position, and avoiding costly hiring mistakes, takes more effort than hitting a resume’s high notes. Hiring managers can glean additional intel by looking at other, less obvious things that resumes tell you about a job candidate. Not reviewing the resumes you receive is one of the most costly mistakes you should avoid during the hiring process

If you need stronger hires, pay attention to these 7 things on a resume. 

Related Article: Why Compassionate Leadership Can Decrease Your Company’s Turnover

#1: Don’t Start with the Resume

Look at the cover letter first to deduce if the candidate is well-qualified for your position. If a person doesn’t send a cover, they miss a big chance to highlight some of their most sellable features. 

In today’s market, let’s be honest, most candidates do not send over cover letters. If candidates skip the cover letter, can you count on them to be detail-oriented? Go the extra mile? Take advantage of every opportunity. 

For the cover letters you do receive, read them thoroughly. It’s a chance to get to know the candidate and their experience. Pay attention to the highlights and accomplishments. Those offer insight into their ability to handle your job. Note the mention of additional skill sets as well. 

#2: Overall look and feel

Before you read the resume, look at the formatting, layout, and design features. Did the candidate take the time to make it look professional and easy to read? Or is it jumbled and unorganized? 

These days, it’s cheap and easy for someone looking for a job to use a template they can find online within minutes. There’s no good excuse for a disorganized, badly-laid-out resume. If candidates don’t take the time to lay out their resumes (which is an important first impression) well, how can you count on them to organize their workloads, be dependable, and stay on task? 

#3: Specific tasks and experience

Now it’s time to dive into the meaty portion of the resume. Yes, you already know that you need to look at their education and experience. But, you also need to dig into specific responsibilities they’ve handled and tasks they’ve completed. 

In this section, write off the vague fluff. Try to find specific information that helps you decide if the person is the right one for your open role. For example, if it’s client-facing, does the resume mention experience handling problem resolution? The bottom line is that you need to look beyond the claim to the provided evidence. 

This is why the next point is critical:

#4: Measurable results

Give a candidate points for highlighting measurable results. “Increased by 30%”, “finished 99.5% of projects by the deadline”, or “placed in the top 3%” are examples of helpful, insightful information that should drive your interviewing choices. 

As mentioned above, vague claims that aren’t backed up shouldn’t hold that same weight in hiring decisions. Candidates who communicate their experience and skill sets with quantifiable results show an understanding of their strengths AND an understanding of what your open role entails. 

#5: Soft skills

Today’s work environment puts more of a priority on soft skills than ever. They may be the reason a person succeeds or fails at their job!

Look for proof that the candidate has a good attitude, a healthy work ethic, and strong communication, time management, and conflict resolution skills. Now, you might not be able to discern all of this from the resume, but you can hopefully start getting a feel for whether the candidate has some of these or not. 

For example, looking at their list of responsibilities tells you a lot about their work ethic. The tone of their resume and the length of time they’ve maintained employment give you insight into their attitude. 

Keep soft skills that benefit your company’s culture at the top of your mind when you’re dissecting a job candidate’s resume. You can flesh them out more during the job interview. 

#6: Typos, misspelled words, and grammatical mistakes

This point seems obvious, but no list of little things to look for on a resume would be complete without mentioning it. 

Even if the open role doesn’t require written communication skills, it’s still important to note candidates with incorrect grammar, misspelled words, and typos. These issues show a lack of attention to detail and quality and shoddy work. If the candidate won’t spend the effort to use spell check and proofread their resume, will they perform tasks, meet deadlines, and complete quality work? 

#7: The candidate’s expectations

Finally, scour every resume for what the candidate is looking for in their career change. We aren’t talking about salary, benefits, and perks. Look for the responsibilities, position, new challenges, and the ability to develop and showcase their current skills.

If there’s no evidence of the candidate’s interests or desires for their next position, this tells you:

1) the candidate may not fully understand your role

2) the candidate might not know exactly what they’re looking for in their next position. 

These pieces of information may give you pause about the person, especially if you receive other resumes where the candidates’ expectations are clearly defined. 

A candidate’s resume is their first impression, and the first time you get to “meet” them. It’s a plethora of obvious, and more subtle, information that can guide you into granting them an interview and eventually hiring them for your open position. Or passing on them altogether.

Take great care in unpacking the resumes you receive and look for little things (in addition to the experience and education required for the job) that give you insight into the candidate’s ability to be a good fit for your organization. Using the resume as a hiring tool this way should be incorporated into your step-by-step for filling your open positions. Noticing these little things help pinpoint the candidates that deserve to move forward with your company. 

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