A Guide to Resume Screening for Recruiters


As a business owner or startup founder, you need the right people on your team to grow your company and set it up for long-term success.

Finding the best candidates for the job can be time-consuming and stressful, though, especially when you have a giant stack of resumes on your desk or dozens of files in your email inbox to sift through.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a detailed guide to help you through this process. You’ll no longer have to read online articles and ask yourself “which of these résumé tips is most accurate?” because we’ve got all the answers right here.

Read on to learn what to look for in applicant resumes and how to develop interview questions based on the resumes you receive.

What is resume screening?

Resume screening is a process that business owners, startup founders, hiring managers, and recruiters go through to determine which candidate is the best fit for an open position. When they screen resumes, these people evaluate several key details, including the applicant’s experience, education, and certifications.


Why is resume screening important?

The process of screening resumes and CVs (short for curriculum vitae, which is a long-form, more detailed version of a resume) is essential to choosing the right employees. There are lots of reasons why this process should be taken seriously, including the following:

Save time

As a business owner or the founder of a startup, your time is precious, and it likely seems as though you never have enough of it.

Because they’re often short on time, people in your position may assume that they should skip the resume screening process. In reality, though, taking time to screen resumes before calling people in for interviews can help you save time in the long run.

Screening helps you to eliminate unqualified candidates early. This saves you from wasting time interviewing them or moving them through the later stages of the hiring process.

Generate interview questions

Screening resumes can also help you to come up with ideas for useful interview questions.

When you review people’s job experience or education history, you can take note of things you want to ask them about when they sit down for an interview. This can make the interview more fruitful and help you learn more about whether or not a particular person is a good fit for the job.

Reduce employee turnover

A poorly planned interview and hiring process can lead to higher rates of employee turnover. This is expensive for your company. It can also lead to reduced productivity, lower morale, and a lower bottom line.

To avoid these issues, you owe it to yourself and the rest of your team to recruit the best people possible. One way to do this is to screen resumes carefully and ensure you’re only interviewing people who seem like the best fit.

Maintain a positive work environment

Hiring the right people helps you create and maintain a positive work environment at your company, too.

When you screen resumes carefully and put potential new hires through a thorough interview process, you can avoid bringing on new team members who aren’t good collaborators or who don’t have the right work ethic for your company.

This also ensures that the rest of your employees feel valued and supported in their roles. It saves them from having to deal with a hostile work environment or having to pick up the slack of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing or isn’t committed to the job.

Maximize efficiency

Resume screening allows you to streamline the rest of the hiring process. It also prevents you and other team members from having to dedicate more time than is necessary to interviewing candidates, reviewing test assignments, or dealing with other aspects of hiring new employees.

The more efficient your hiring process is, the more time you and your team have to dedicate to other key responsibilities. This minimizes interruptions and keeps your business running like a well-oiled machine.

Manual screening vs. using screening software

There are two approaches you can use when going through the applicant screening process. You can screen candidate resumes by hand (also known as manual screening), or you can use screening software.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each option, explained in more detail below:

Manual resume screening pros and cons

  • Pro: Easier to pick up on unique language or experiences
  • Con: More time-consuming
  • Pro: Review for other positions at the same time
  • Con: Potential for recruiter bias to interfere or eliminate qualified candidates

Resume screening software pros and cons

  • Pro: More efficient
  • Con: Keyword searches could cause you to miss qualified candidates
  • Pro: Removes potential biases
  • Con: Pricing can be prohibitive to some small businesses
  • Pro: Easier resume tracking and sorting

How to screen resumes

A proper resume screening process is key if you want to find the best candidates for the job and fill vacancies as quickly as possible.

If you’re having trouble with your current screening process, or if you’ve never screened resumes before, here are some tips that can help.

1. Select resumes that have the required credentials

The first step in candidate screening and resume reviewing is to look for required credentials. In other words, what kind of education or training does a person need to have to qualify for a job at your company?

Weed out any applicants who don’t have a specific level of training or who haven’t completed the necessary certifications. This will likely make a big dent in your resume pile (whether you’re sorting through them in person or on the computer) right off the bat.

During the step, be sure to differentiate between credentials that are must-haves and credentials that would be nice to have but aren’t 100 percent necessary. This prevents you from eliminating candidates who might be a good fit too early in the screening process.

2. Select resumes that have the desired skills

Once you’ve eliminated everyone who doesn’t have the appropriate training, you can move on to those who have the appropriate skills.

To do this, compare the resume to the job description and look for applicants who have the desired skills for the open position. Are they familiar with a particular coding language, for instance, or are they proficient in more than one language?

While you’re going through this step, be sure to distinguish between must-have and nice-to-have skills — just as you did when reviewing credentials. This can help you avoid eliminating someone who maybe doesn’t check every single skills box but could still potentially be a good fit.

3. Select resumes that are customized for the job

Ideally, your applicants will customize their resume or CV and tailor it to the specific job. Instead of sending the same generic resume to dozens of different companies, they’ll take the time to review your job ad and echo the language used in it.

Look more closely at the resumes left in your stack and consider which ones are customized for the particular job for which you’re hiring.

Those applicants should get bonus points for taking the application process seriously and going above and beyond. Taking the time to tailor their resume shows attention to detail and can indicate that the person is serious about trying to get hired for the job.

4. Check the applicant’s information

Finally, check the applicant’s information when screening their resume, whether you’re working manually or using resume screening tools.

This step should include reviewing names, locations, and contact details. If any key details are missing, you’ll likely need to eliminate the resume from the stack.

What to look for in a resume

As a busy professional, you have limited time to commit to reviewing CVs and resumes. Because of this, you need to know which red flags to watch for when you begin to screen applicants. Here are some key ones to keep in mind:

Mistakes and unprofessionalism

A resume or CV is one of the most important documents someone can send out. After all, it plays a key role in deciding whether or not they get hired for their dream job.

Because resumes and CVs are so important, applicants should be taking extra care to ensure they are free from mistakes and are written using professional language.

Spelling errors, grammatical errors, and typos can all be red flags. They may indicate that the applicant doesn’t care much about accuracy and may bring the same attitude to the job.

Evidence of job-hopping

Job-hopping involves jumping from job to job very quickly.

If someone spends a couple of months at one company, then moves on to another for a few more months, then moves on to the next one, that can also be a red flag. It may be a sign that they’re not dedicated workers, or that they have a lot of conflicts with their colleagues.

You don’t necessarily need to eliminate someone’s resume just because they seem like job hoppers, but it should be something you keep in mind when considering them for the position.

Gaps between jobs

Long gaps between jobs can also be red flags on resumes. If someone has several months or years between jobs, you’ll want to dig a bit deeper into why.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a disqualifying factor. Perhaps they took time off to go back to school or care for an elderly parent.

The more you know about the candidate and their reason for leaving the workforce for a while, though, the easier it is to determine whether or not you should consider them for the job.

How to create interview questions after screening resumes

Once you’ve finished screening resumes, you can start creating interview questions to continue narrowing down your search. These tips can help you put together a list of relevant questions for each interviewee:

Address concerns directly

If you noticed something on a candidate’s resume that could be potentially problematic, ask about it directly during the interview. For example, you might need to ask a question like, “Can you explain this 2-year gap in your resume?” or “Why did you only spend 2 months at your last company?”

Ask for clarification and elaboration

You can also ask candidates for clarification and elaboration during the interview process.

For example, you can ask them to clarify a gap between jobs or how long they spent in a particular training program. You can also ask them to elaborate on their responsibilities at their last or to explain how those responsibilities would translate to the job for which they’re applying.

Review credentials and certifications

Be sure to ask for more information on each applicant’s credentials and certifications, too. Ask them about their degree or their training in a specific field, for example.

You can also ask them to elaborate on the most important things they learned during their training or which areas they struggled with the most.

Double-check key details

You may also want to ask questions double-checking key details on a person’s resume. This might include where they went to school, where they’re currently located, and whether they’re willing to relocate (if applicable). This can help you get clarity on a person’s commitment, as well as the truthfulness of their resume and application.

Improve your resume screening process today

The applicant screening process certainly isn’t easy, whether you’re trying to hire a receptionist or a CFO.

Keep the tips discussed in this guide in mind, though, you’ll have a much easier time knowing what to look for in a resume and how to screen applicant resumes as quickly and effectively as possible.

Don’t underestimate the benefits of resume screening software when building your team, either.

The right resume screening tool can make all the difference. It speeds up the screening process, eliminates potential biases, and ensures your team continues to work as efficiently as possible.

As long as you’re using a reputable and reliable software like HireBeat, you won’t have to worry about the potential downsides of a resume screening software, either.

Try HireBeat for free today to see what separates us from our competitors.

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