How to Review a Resume Quickly and Accurately

With potentially hundreds of resumes to review in response to a job posting, it is crucial to be able to quickly scan a resume and notice some important—and telling—features.

Here are my top three from my years in executive search:

  • Do the dates add up?

In a chronological resume, has the applicant moved from job to job without long periods of time in between, or are there unexplained gaps? Is the applicant specific with regard to dates of employment? Listing the end of employment with one company as December 2010 and the beginning of employment with the next as January 2011 is clear. Conversely, if the dates are listed in an annual format only, a job seeker who lists one job as ending in 2010 and the next starting in 2011 could be hiding an unemployment gap of up to two years. Finally, has the applicant spent long enough time with each employer to show they are loyal; to see their projects through to the end; and to receive promotions that indicate high potential?

  • Is there evidence of real results?

Many resumes list the applicant’s responsibilities or skills, but the best candidates will show what they achieved. Specific, measurable results indicate an individual’s understanding of how his or her responsibilities contribute to business goals, and that his or her time on the job has been productive and of value to the employer. It reveals a “big picture” thinker who can direct actions to accomplish long-terms objectives. Look for concrete, verifiable and measurable achievements as opposed to vague proclamations of success.

  • Does the tone of the resume indicate a personality that will fit in with your corporate culture?

Aspects of an individual’s personality can come through in the written word. Does it feel like the person is shouting at you? Bragging? Or factually stating accomplishments? Do the thoughts seem jumbled, or do they flow in a coherent fashion to tell a clear story? The feeling you get from reading a resume or cover letter is a good indicator of what the job seeker will be like in person.

Having to review hundreds of job applications is a daunting task. But by focusing on just a few of the most important features of the resumes, it can be accomplished efficiently.

Now that you’ve written a polished resume, your resume only has five seconds to make a first impression.