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How Hiring Works

Screening applicants

Once you've advertised the position and have started getting some response, are you going to be reviewing resumes or asking applicants to fill out an application? You can do either, or both, just remember that the resume you are presented with includes only the information the applicant wants you to have. An application you ask them to fill out includes the information you want to have.

How do you really evaluate someone based on their resume or an application? Often, hirers find themselves comparing educational backgrounds and where the applicant grew up with their own experiences. Finding someone who went to the same high school or university you went to doesn't mean you should give them greater consideration than someone who didn't. Train yourself to be impartial to these types of things and you'll be much more successful at hiring the right person for the job.

Reviewing resumes
So what information should you pay particular attention to? One of the first things to notice is the overall appearance of the resume. Does it have a professional appearance? Is it neatly done? Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

Reviewing educational backgrounds and experience
While an applicant's educational background is important, it may not be the best barometer for their actual skills. Take, for example, someone with a degree in English. Does that tell you anything about their skills? Probably not. Other degrees can also be misleading. Perhaps the applicant got a Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Relations, but then went into real estate sales? If you're hiring a sales rep then that next step, which probably shows up in the work experience section, is what you really should be interested in.

Typically, a quick glance at the education to ensure they have any required formal education is all you need to do. Again, the depth of your review into their education depends a lot on the type of position you're hiring for. Your focus in most cases should be on the work experience of the applicant.

When reviewing the applicant's past work experience, look for information that will answer questions about:

  • Their actual responsibilities, as opposed to what is implied by their title. (Does it fit that they were the Manager of Sales, but had no sales responsibilities themselves?)

  • Their duties, as opposed to what they state they were responsible for. (Do these jive with each other? Perhaps they supervised the person who performed the function, but haven't had the experience of doing it themselves. For example, someone may manage a print shop without having ever run a printing press before.)

  • Specific accomplishments such as goals met or exceeded, awards won, or special projects spearheaded.

  • The length of time they held positions or titles. (Were they in a position long enough to have the experience under their belt that you need? Why did they leave that position?)

  • The progression of their work experience. (Does their experience show increasing levels of skill and/or responsibility? Is there significant backtracking? Or, is there no real change in the level of the responsibility or job duties? This may indicate a lack of ambition or desire to achieve.)

  • Unexplained gaps in the work history.

­There are, of course, other questions you may be specifically trying to answer when you review resumes and applications, but these will get you started and lead you to those more specific questions and answers. Remember to make notes about any questions you have particularly about job changes, lack of advancement, etc.

The cover letter is also a good barometer from which to gauge the person who wrote it. Does it address aspects about the position you are filling, as well as your organization? Or, does it appear to be a standard letter template they used to drop in company names and job titles, of which yours is simply one of 75? This lack of customization may show a lack of true interest in the position you are filling. If the applicant doesn't even take the time to research your company, they may not take the time to cover details in the job at hand. Look for statements that show sincere interest, signs of research and knowledge about your organization and the position, as well as good grammar and communication skills.