June 8, 2023

Resume Screening Best Practices for Recruiters (2024)

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Key takeaways:

  • Factors to consider while screening resumes include job experience, educational experience, and relevant skills.
  • To avoid bias in the screening phase, ignore resume elements like headshots, personal details, and hobbies.
  • Applicant tracking systems (ATS) offer resume screening features that help ensure all candidates are evaluated using consistent, objective criteria.

Explore our ATS Software Guide to find tools that can make your resume screening process more efficient.

What is resume screening?

Resume screening is the practice of reviewing a candidate’s resume to determine if they are qualified for the position. It occurs after a candidate submits their resume and acts as the first checkpoint for recruiters to filter who moves forward in the interview and hiring process.

Resume screening takes many factors into account, including education, professional experience, and skills that are relevant to the job. This process may be done manually by the hiring team or recruiter, or it may happen automatically through an ATS or full-service recruiting software.

Automated screening can give recruiters more time and bandwidth to improve the candidate experience and reduce time-to-hire metrics. Resume screening can also help your team make faster decisions based on how well they fit the job description.

Also read: 7 of the Most Reliable Employment Screening Services

What should you look for when screening resumes?

There are multiple factors to look for when screening CVs, including job experience, educational experience, and relevant skills.

Job experience

When evaluating a resume, look at how closely the candidate’s past job experience matches your ideal standards for the position as well as your company’s industry. Consider what companies they have worked at previously and the length of their employment.

Pay attention to signs of job hopping as well as long employment gaps. There are numerous reasons a candidate may have stepped away from the workforce, including caregiving responsibilities, health issues, or relocation. Prying too much into a candidate’s employment history may be unethical — and illegal, in some cases — so make note of any red flags but keep an open mind.

Educational experience

Depending on the role, a candidate’s educational background may be a critical piece of their qualifications. This is especially true for highly technical positions or roles that require certifications for compliance or liability purposes.

However, a diploma or certificate is primarily an indicator of a candidate’s success in an academic setting. It’s risky to assume someone who performed well in school will have better outcomes on the job than someone who struggled in school or never graduated.

Similarly, if someone has been in the workforce for a while, their recent work experience is more relevant than their GPA from a degree they received 15 years ago. Don’t weigh educational experience too heavily if it’s not applicable.

Relevant skills

When screening resumes, you should look for other skills that are relevant to the open position. Many candidates list their main competencies as separate bullet points to make it easy to parse.

However, a bulleted list doesn’t necessarily reflect a candidate’s proficiency. If a particular skill seems out of place, make a note to ask follow-up questions during an interview to get more information.

Language and formatting

Like the rest of the application materials, the resume should use professional language and proper formatting with few or no errors. 

What’s considered appropriate formatting largely depends on the role. A standard template might be expected for engineering positions or executives, but candidates in creative fields like graphic design or social media may use their resumes to showcase their skills.

Don’t reject an otherwise perfect candidate over a tiny spelling error, but major mistakes or formatting issues may reflect a candidate’s attention to detail or enthusiasm for the role.

What to ignore on a resume

While there are plenty of things to look for while screening a CV, there are some elements that aren’t as helpful when it’s time to make a decision. These include:

  • Candidate names
  • Headshots
  • Hobbies
  • Volunteer experience
  • Resume length
  • Objective statements

Instead of focusing on details that might reflect a candidate’s race, gender, marital status, socioeconomic background, or other identity markers, prioritize the information that predicts how well the applicant would perform in the role.

Some ATS solutions like Pinpoint remove personally-identifying information automatically. This helps preserve hiring objectivity and prevent unconscious bias from creeping in.

Resume screening best practices

Best practices for resume screening include establishing selection criteria beforehand, creating a resume rating system and using an applicant tracking system.

Establish your selection criteria

Before you start the CV screening process, decide what criteria you are looking for so you can evaluate each resume objectively. Streamlined standards also make it easier to sort resumes quickly while reducing the risk that a promising candidate slips through the cracks.

If you are hiring for multiple positions or clients, it can be difficult to stay on top of the criteria for each job. Review the relevant job description before going through resumes to ensure the relevant criteria are fresh in your mind.

Create a resume rating system

To keep the screening process simple, rank or tag resumes based on how well they fit your hiring criteria as you sort through candidates. Most companies group resumes into Yes, No, and Maybe piles to keep things simple, but some hiring teams use more complex systems for critical roles.

Sometimes you will get resumes from candidates who aren’t a fit for the job they applied for but may be the right match for another job down the road. Don’t delete “Maybe” resumes that have potential; instead, keep them on file to build up a pool for future openings.

Read more: What Are Passive Candidates & How Can You Recruit Them?

Consider using an ATS

Manually screening resumes is time-consuming and tedious and takes your HR team away from more valuable activities. If your company receives a high volume of resumes for each job listing, consider using an ATS or a standalone resume screening tool.

Products in this software category typically come with several features to improve the resume screening phase:

  • AI-powered resume parsing extracts data from a resume, generates a standardized candidate profile, and scores the profile based on how well it matches the job description.
  • Social media integration matches candidate resumes to their online profiles.
  • Conditional screening eliminates candidates who don’t meet the minimum job requirements.
  • Evaluation templates ensure hiring teams use consistent and objective criteria to review all resumes.
  • Custom workflow automations send templated emails to candidates based on whether they advance to the next hiring phase.
  • Resume archiving stores candidate information for future job opportunities.

Ready to take your recruiting process to the next level with the help of an applicant tracking system? Check out our ATS Software Guide to find the right tools for your hiring team.


Kara Sherrer Avatar

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