Monday, 8 August 2011

5 Top Tips for Screening CVs

In today’s job market it’s likely that you’ll be swamped with dozens or even hundreds of CVs for a single job vacancy – how can you screen down to the best applicants without taking days and days of effort?

1) Define your most unique, critical requirements in the job
Before you sit down with your pile of CVs, take some time to work out what your key requirements are.  Do you need certain unique characteristics that are essential for success in the job? For example, in an Assistant Librarian role, is the personality to be able to liaise effectively with demanding users more important than knowledge of the particular online sources you use (which can be trained)?

Before going through your resumes, set up specific, unique requirements that not all candidates will possess – this will speed up your ability to narrow down your shortlist, as applicants with those attributes will stand out from the crowd.

2) Skim read your CVs and separate them into 3 categories: A, B and C
The A pile is your “definitely-suitable” candidates — they meet the unique requirements and all the “essential” criteria for the job, and on paper they theoretically should be able to do the job (contingent of course upon your meeting them, verifying their CV and their personality being a good fit for your team). This A pile should be about 10-15% of the total CVs.

The B pile is your “maybe” candidates — they fulfill some requirements or look interesting but do not stand out. Maybe these resumes meet 75-80% of your requirements and you would need to follow up to check if other criteria are met. This pile will be your backup plan if all of the “A” candidates don’t pan out (yes, sometimes all the A candidates fall at the interview hurdle). This B pile should be about 20-40% of the total CVs.

The C pile is your “no thanks!” candidates — they are resumes with spelling, grammar or factual mistakes, as well as resumes of candidates who do not meet any/many of the essential criteria or personality traits, nor the unique critical requirements you’ve highlighted for the job.

If you are strict with spelling, grammar and standards of professionalism when skimming the resumes, you can usually cut out at least 30-50% of the candidates immediately by using a critical eye to the documents. This C pile should be more than half of your total resume list.

3) Focus on the A list, screen further with a brief phone interview
The A list will contain candidates that are a good match to your needs; however you may not fit their needs. A brief phone call with several filtering questions can reduce your list down to the most promising candidates for a more detailed interview. Questions that I often use for phone screening include:

- What salary range you are looking for?
- Would you be willing to work in / move to XYZ location?
- Where do you see yourself career-wise in 5 years?
- What is the reason you are leaving (or have left) your current position?
- Why are you interested in this job?
- Based on our job advertisement, how would your approach the first 90 days in this job?

The above questions will give you an idea of a candidate’s own expectations. The answers will identify any large disconnects in expectations (salary, mobility, relocating, approach/style). These gaps will give you another filter to reduce your candidate pool to a more manageable short list for interviews.

4) Filter your shortlist by screening candidates’ social media presence
I can often shorten my hiring list by another 30-50% simply by doing a quick internet search on their names in Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. There is an amazing amount of information out in cyberspace – I have seen examples including drunken photos, sexual conversations, disparaging remarks about a current employer, boasting about sleeping with the boss/bosses’ daughter, and evidence of poor personality fit.

5) Don’t settle for candidates who don’t meet the critical elements of the job
Even in today’s job market, you may struggle to find the right candidates with good “fit” to your organization and good technical skills. Don’t settle for less than your minimums out of desperation. Wait and keep searching for the right CV and the right candidate! In my twenty years of business experience, I have never regretted waiting for the right candidate but I have regretted, more than once, introducing candidates in haste or desperation.

The outcome of all this work and thought before hand?  A well-qualified short list of candidates to interview and a great candidate who will fit your needs and excel in the job.

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