How to Read a Resume

When hiring a new employee, the resume becomes an invaluable tool. Not only
does the resume help to create a picture of the potential employee by revealing prior work experience and accomplishments, it also provides references to elucidate any questions about the resume.

             1. Say goodbye to ugly resumes.

Although the cliché “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is valuable when judging the character of a person, it is inappropriate in the context of recruiting.  An applicant had time to create, review, and edit his or her resume before submitting it and therefore should have created a resume that is both filled
with relevant content and aesthetically pleasing.  No cover sheet means no interview.  If the applicant is not dedicating time to crafting a well-designed resume, will he or she take the time to create a well-designed
business presentation or to complete the responsibilities assigned to him or her?


During the first review, an interviewer or recruiter should spend about ten seconds looking at the resume, checking that the cover sheet is addressed to the correct company, the objective matches the job description, and that the resume is organized.  The second review involves deeper analysis but at this point, several applicants should be weeded out.


2. Be selective…


The downturn in the economy means greater unemployment, which in turn means more people searching for jobs.  Many of these people will be knowledgeable in the field so that companies can be more selective.  This also means, however, that recruiters have more applications to sort through reinforcing the importance of weeding out ugly resumes as outlined in step one.


  3. …but do not overlook those who are young…


Many companies are hesitant to hire employees that are coming straight out of college because of their lack of experience.  This presents a perpetuating unemployment (and a paradox) for those applicants who fall into the category: they are not hired because they do not have experience and they are not gaining experience because they are not being hired.  Consider, however, that while recent graduates may lack experience, they also can be very knowledgeable and up-to-date on trends in the field.  Younger employees tend to be more tech-savvy, a valuable asset in a world that relies more and more on technology and social media.  Furthermore, many students have had internships or conducted research with their professors.  Even studying abroad can prove valuable as small businesses are realizing the importance of the global market; for example, experiences abroad can be useful for marketing to foreign countries.


4. …or those who are not-so-young.


Just as many companies are hesitant to hire young employees, older employees are also falling victim to this “invisible discrimination.”  Some companies fear that older, more experienced employees are going to ask for higher salaries or are going to be illiterate with respect to technology.  This is probably true in some cases, but definitely not in all.  First, with a sagging economy, many former bigwigs are focusing less on finding a job with a high starting salary and more on finding a job.  If there is opportunity for growth, an applicant may be willing to take a lower salary.  Do not eliminate an applicant simply because they may seem overqualified.  Let the applicant determine that.  Second, older applicants may not have grown up with cell phones (and may still own a record player or Walkman) but that does not imply they are not capable of mastering modern technology.  Many applicants will already be fluent “speakers” of technology or can be easily trained.


  5. Call the references.


References can provide information about an applicant’s personality, work ethic, and job history and, therefore, should be taken advantage of by anyone reviewing a resume.  Are the references legitimate?  That is, can the references be contacted (or is the number out of service and the e-mail address non-existent)?  Is the capacity in which he or she knows the applicant professional or relevant in some way?


Another advantage about references is that they can be more forthcoming about an applicant’s strengths and accomplishments than an applicant who fears coming off as conceited.  Do not hesitate to ask former bosses why their former employee was fired.  References have known the applicant for much longer than an interviewer has or will have the opportunity to before a hiring decision will be made, so references should be questioned about the applicants’ character and work ethic.


6. Remember that the interview is important as well.


While a resume is invaluable, an interview also provides information as well.  The interview gives the opportunity to probe deeper into the resume.  Instead of eliminating an applicant because of a small gap in employment, use the interview to find out why there was a gap.


Another valuable tip to remember when reading a resume is to not discriminate against an applicant.  While this tip seems blatantly obvious, there are still companies who face lawsuits because they fail to comply with federal regulations.  To avoid this, a company should review the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Act or consult a FREE PEO matching and comparison site (PEO) who can provide legal consultation on issues of terminating and hiring employees.


About the author

Carolyn Sokol is a frequent contributor to and writes about issues that may affect small businesses such as administrative duties which can be handled by an Employee Leasing company. She is a founder of which helps match small businesses with the right PEO Companies for their particular needs. Her background is in marketing and communications, employee education and training, development of policies and procedures and the ongoing delivery of outstanding service to customers.

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