Breakdown: The Art of Decoding & Qualifying Candidate Resumes

Breakdown: The Art of Decoding & Qualifying Candidate Resumes


Depending on market demand for certain roles, recruiters and hiring managers could be sifting through hundreds of resumes which can be a lengthy and time-consuming process. Especially without the aid of an ATS or recruitment partner to help pre-qualify the best candidates. Your time is valuable, and it’s important to get the best candidates identified and qualified as soon as possible, but you might not have an ATS or recruitment partner to lean on.

A well-crafted resume serves as a candidate’s first introduction to a potential employer. The task of qualifying individuals based on their resumes might seem straightforward, but it’s an art that demands a keen eye and a thorough understanding of the job requirements. As recruiters and hiring managers, it’s essential to master the skill of extracting valuable insights from resumes to ensure the right fit for your organization. Let’s explore the top 10 things to look for while qualifying potential candidates.

1. Define the Job Requirements

Before delving into the nitty-gritty details of a resume, ensure you have a clear understanding of the job role and its requirements. Create a checklist of the essential skills, qualifications, and experience needed for the position. This will serve as your roadmap when reviewing resumes, allowing you to more quickly spot relevant information and disregard irrelevant details.

2. Skills and Keywords

Skill-matching is crucial when identifying potentially qualified candidates. As mentioned above, aligning the job requirements with tangible skills and keywords is paramount to correctly identifying the right candidate. More importantly, if your organization uses an ATS to help screen candidates, ensure all applicable skills and keywords are listed to help identify more qualified candidates.

It’s also important to know which skills may be transferable within your organization. Are you looking for an automation expert? You may be using HubSpot as your go-to automation platform, but candidates might have more experience using Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Marketo. If your organization has training built into their onboarding process, it’s important to recognize areas where a potential candidate can quickly skill up based on certain skills and experience from past employment.

3. Structure and Formatting

A well-organized resume indicates a candidate’s attention to detail and communication skills. Pay attention to the formatting, grammar, and overall layout of their resume. Look for clear headings, bullet points, and consistency in font and style. Candidates who take the time to present their experience coherently are more likely to be organized in their day-to-day work as well.

4. Relevant Experience

It’s worth noting at this point that not all titles are created equally! A Digital Marketing Manager at Company A is responsible for managing and implementing the organization’s automation tool, social media calendar, etc., while the same title at Company B plays more of a strategist role and manages a team of people who carry out the day-to-day functions across all digital marketing channels.

Try to focus on the candidate’s previous roles and responsibilities that closely align with the job in question. Look closely for responsibilities, achievements, and past projects that demonstrate their expertise and accomplishments in areas relevant to the position. This is where defining the job requirement early on is crucial in identifying potentially qualified candidates early on in the screening process.

5. Quantifiable Achievements

Numbers speak volumes. Pay attention to achievements that are quantifiable. Metrics such as sales figures, revenue growth, project completion times, and team sizes provide concrete evidence of a candidate’s contributions. Tangible results indicate a candidate’s ability to drive impact and make a difference.

6. Career Progression

A candidate’s career journey can reveal a lot about their growth and potential. Look for signs of advancement, such as promotions, increased responsibilities, and lateral moves into diverse roles. A progressively evolving career trajectory indicates adaptability and a commitment to personal and professional development.

7. Education and Certifications

While experience often takes center stage, education and certifications should not be overlooked. Certain roles require specific qualifications, licenses, or degrees. These requirements are more often than not defined by HR, so it’s important to verify that candidates possess the necessary educational background and any relevant certifications that are essential for the role.

8. Cultural Fit and Soft Skills

Technical skills are vital, but cultural fit and soft skills are equally important. Scan the resume for indications of teamwork, leadership, communication, problem-solving, and other soft skills that align with your organization’s values and the specific job requirements. If the candidate provided a cover letter, take the time to read it as it gives insight into their personality and what aspects of the job they find value in.

9. Extracurricular Activities

Outside interests can provide valuable insights into a candidate’s character, work-life balance, and potential contributions beyond the job description. Participation in community service, professional organizations, or hobbies can showcase a candidate’s well-roundedness and dedication.

10. Read Between the Lines

Resumes might not tell the whole story. Look for gaps in employment, short tenures at various jobs, or patterns that suggest frequent job hopping. While these factors don’t necessarily disqualify a candidate, they warrant further investigation during interviews.

Need help quickly identifying the best candidate for your staffing needs? We can help!

Our recruiters at Staffing Strong dedicate themselves to finding the right candidate for your contract, contract-to-hire, and direct-hire needs on a daily basis. Let us know how we can save you time and find candidates who can add value to your team.

Meet the Author

Evelyn Vega is the Founder and President at Staffing Strong and the Past President of the Phoenix American Marketing Association. Since 1999, she’s made her career about supporting her clients in building meaningful careers and partnering with businesses in finding quality hires. In her free time, Evelyn sits on various advisory boards and enjoys practicing on her drum set!

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