Resume analysis

Resume analysis involves a multi-step process of automated and manual resume reviews. The intent is to extract key information from resumes about job applicants in the most efficient manner possible.

Some larger organizations may receive thousands of resumes every month. To reduce the cost of resume reviews, they scan incoming resumes into resume management software. The software then searches the scanned text for key words, work history, education, and years of experience. The system then ranks resumes based on the job criteria, and presents to users a list of the most likely candidates. Those resumes that are clearly unsuitable may never be seen by a human resources person.

Once the automated resume analysis (if any) is complete, the next step is to examine the remaining resumes by hand. Since some resumes are professionally prepared, it can be difficult to ascertain from the information presented whether someone is the genuine article, or has stitched together a sketchy background into a polished presentation. Here are some techniques used to pluck the better resumes from the pile:

  • Cover letter. If an applicant spends the time to craft a cover letter that is specifically targeted at the requirements posted for a job, this indicates considerable interest in the company. The absence of a cover letter shows that someone is simply bulk e-mailing information to every possible employer.
  • Employment gaps. An unexplained gap in the chronology of jobs is a major indicator of a problem. Applicants may try to hide these gaps by extending the work periods listed for jobs before and after these gaps, or by only reporting employment by year, not by month and year.
  • Flat growth. If there is no trend line of continuing career advancement, there is probably a good reason for it. A better resume indicates continuing advancements in responsibility and job title. However, this may not be a valid indicator of poor performance for technical or creative positions, where someone may be quite happy in a particular role and wants to remain in it.
  • Formatting and typos. If a resume is poorly formatted, it reveals either inadequate knowledge of the word processing software or a lack of professionalism. Even a small number of typographical errors leave the impression that someone does not care enough to proofread their resume.
  • Job bouncing. If a candidate has continually bounced from job to job after short stays at each one, look out. This can indicate that the person is unable to fit in, or that multiple employers have encouraged them to move on for some reason.
  • Job titles. Read the description for a job to see if it matches the associated job title. For example, someone with a company controller title might actually have the responsibilities of a bookkeeper. Also, delve into the details of a vaguely-worded, non-standard job title to see if the title is overblown.
  • Passive associations. When applicants are not actually responsible for an activity or an outcome, they may insert words that imply a passive association with these items. For example, a low-level clerical type may have “participated in” a major project, but only to the extent of buying coffee for the rest of the project team.
  • Word count. Someone fabricating portions of their background is more likely to provide a relatively skimpy amount of information. Conversely, if an applicant has overloaded a resume with lots of detail, it is more likely that the content is correct.
  • Letters of recommendation. If a letter of recommendation comes from an employer that is no longer in business, or if the writer of the letter cannot be reached, discount the letter entirely; the recommending person and the related organization may be a fabrication.

Thus far, we have discussed issues to look for that will result in resumes being eliminated from consideration. What about issues that allow the reviewing person to locate top-quality candidates? The following sequence of activities might help:

  • Match to key requirements. Decide in advance which aspects of a job description must be fulfilled by an applicant, and screen specifically for these items. It is best to keep the list of these gateway requirements as refined and well-considered as possible. For example, an audit firm may decide that the only “hard” requirement for a job applicant is a degree in accounting. This should result in a modest number of resumes that have cleared the first hurdle.
  • Match to broader requirements. Compare the remaining resumes to the other requirements of the position that are considered important, but not critical. There may be no resume that meets every requirement, but several are likely to meet a mix of the requirements. If no resumes are left after completing this step, the position requirements may be too harsh.
  • Enumerate holes. The initial resume review may reveal that the information supplied appears to approximately match the job requirements, but there are some gaps in the supplied information for which additional information should be obtained. Document these resume holes.
  • Screen by phone or video. Contact applicants by phone or videoconference in order to answer the questions documented in the last step. This step can be expanded into a full-blown interview. An alternative is a two-step process; if the answers supplied to questions documented in the last step are answered in a satisfactory manner, continue with a more comprehensive interview during the same contact. For the first step, a five-minute call may be sufficient. For a full phone interview, the duration may be closer to 30 minutes.