The Benefits of Resume Screening (And How to Do It)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 13, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Hiring the best candidate for a job is the primary goal of recruiters and hiring managers. Doing this can be time-consuming and challenging, though, so knowing how to screen resumes efficiently can be very helpful for the job hiring process. Knowing how to screen resumes saves time during this process and can facilitate faster onboarding of new employees. In this article, we define what resume screening is, discuss its benefits, explain how to screen resumes, suggest some factors to look for in resumes, and compare manual screening to using screening software.

What is resume screening?

Resume screening is a method for quickly and efficiently reviewing resumes that candidates submit for a position. Screening resumes doesn't involve reading each resume carefully, but instead consists of looking for certain desired criteria in each of the resumes. This allows recruiters to separate those candidates who don't possess the desired qualifications from those who do. After doing this, recruiters can then spend more time considering the applications from candidates who have the criteria they want.

Screening resumes can be a crucial part of finding the best candidates for a job because it's an efficient way of narrowing the list of eligible candidates. Recruiters can manually review resumes themselves or use software to complete the process for them. Manual screening requires recruiters to review each resume on their own, while a software screening tool uses artificial intelligence tools to scan resumes for pre-determined criteria. Screening resumes is an efficient way to focus on the most qualified candidates for a job.

Related: Applicant Screening Process (Definition, How to, and Tips)

What are the benefits of resume screening?

Organizations often receive many applications for an available position. Reviewing many resumes can require significant time and effort, especially if there's only one recruiter or hiring manager responsible for the process. Screening resumes enables recruiters to assess the experience, qualifications, and skills of candidates and determine their suitability for the job and company culture quickly. Screening resumes can also help hiring managers and recruiters hire the best candidates for their workplaces.

With a dedicated method of focussing on the most important criteria, a hiring manager can take on the candidate with the positive qualities that are most important for that specific position in their specific work environment. Screening resumes can also indicate to a recruiter if it's necessary to revise their job posting. If they receive zero, or very few, applications from candidates who have the skills and experience for which they're looking, then the recruiter may consider adjusting their expectations or compensation for the job.

Related: Guide to the Process of Recruitment (With Tips)

How to screen resumes

Knowing how to screen resumes for the criteria you want can make your job as a recruiter or hiring manager much easier. Here are the four steps recruiters and hiring managers can follow to screen resumes:

1. Select resumes that have the credentials you want

It's important to review resumes with the job description in mind. If the goal is to hire a new employee who has a certain number of years of experience or specific qualifications, then a hiring manager can eliminate any resumes that don't have these credentials. This often involves looking at the work experience or education sections and checking to see if the desired criteria are present.

2. Look for resumes that list the necessary skills

Degrees, certifications, and experience aren't the only criteria for which hiring managers and recruiters look. It's often equally important that candidates possess the right skills for a job. These can include both soft skills, such as communication and leadership, and hard skills, which are specific job-related skills. For example, a hard skill for a lifeguard might be knowing how to perform CPR. A soft skill for a lifeguard might be attention to detail, as they need to stay focused while on duty.

Sometimes, soft skills aren't requirements for a job, but they can still increase a candidate's appeal. A candidate who lists the required skills is a more attractive candidate not just because they possess those skills, but also because they know enough about the position to recognize that those skills are an asset for that job. It's important to remember, though, that while a candidate is unlikely to forget to list their educational credentials or work experience on a resume, they may not list all the relevant skills they possess, so a more relaxed approach to evaluating skills might be beneficial.

Related: Words to Avoid and Include on a Resume

3. Prioritize resumes that candidates have customized to the available position

Candidates who customize their resumes to the job show they've done research on the position and the organization. Such a candidate may not only possess attention to detail but also a strong desire to get the job because they've taken the time to craft a unique resume for their application. Customized resumes list skills that match those mentioned in the job posting, discuss notable achievements related to the job, and display a work history that mentions responsibilities that are similar to those of the available job.

There are also some qualities of resumes that candidates haven't customized for which a hiring manager can look. Sometimes candidates apply to different jobs with the same resume, and it might be possible to tell if they list skills that don't match many or any listed in the job description. A generic resume may also seem unrelated to the job or to the organization and have a work history section that is overly long, outdated, or lists roles that aren't relevant to the available position.

4. Check the candidates' information

After narrowing the list of candidates, it's important to verify the accuracy of the remaining candidates' information. To do this, a hiring manager can conduct reference checks and contact a candidate's current or previous employer or the people they list as references in their resume or cover letter. When communicating with the references, it's important to confirm both the accuracy of the information a candidate has provided and to ask about certain characteristics, such as work ethic and teamwork.

Related: Tools for Checking My Background for Employment Online

What to look for in resumes

Much of a recruiter's focus when screening resumes is on criteria such as work experience and skills. There are other qualities hiring managers can look for in a resume to assess a candidate's suitability, though. It may be beneficial to pay attention to aspects of resumes such as:

Mistakes

A resume with numerous spelling, grammatical, or factual errors is often a good indicator that the candidate isn't a suitable choice. While one minor typographical error may not be enough to change a hiring manager's opinion of a candidate, multiple mistakes are concerning. Candidates with carefully constructed and proofread resumes demonstrate that they possess an attention to detail and a commitment to professionalism and quality.

Related: Resume Resources for Writing an Effective Job Application

Working in several different jobs in a short period

In some sectors, it's perfectly normal and appropriate to work in different positions for short periods of time. This isn't always the case, though, and quickly switching from job to job can be a cause for concern. If a recruiter is interested in a candidate who has a work history like this, it's wise to ask questions during the interview about why they held several jobs in quick succession.

The candidate may have been eager to learn new skills, and moving between jobs enabled them to do this. Or perhaps they moved or a corporate merger caused layoffs. It's also possible that the candidate has personal issues that make it difficult for them to remain in one role for an extended period. Clear communication is important for these matters. A candidate may have a good reason for their seemingly irregular work history, or it could be a potential issue.

Related: Top 13 Screening Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

Long gaps between jobs

Sizeable employment gaps on a resume are also worth asking about. Gaps aren't necessarily evidence of anything negative. A candidate may have been unemployed for a long period because they were studying for a degree or certification, they were caring for a sick family member or had a health issue of their own, or were a stay-at-home parent. It's important to ask a candidate what activities they participated in during a gap to learn more. By discussing employment gaps, it's often possible to determine if it's wise to be concerned or if there's a perfectly understandable explanation.

Manual screening vs. screening software

There are positives and negatives to both manual screening and using a software screening tool. Factors such as the available amount of time and budget, the number of resumes to review, and the number of available positions can all affect a recruiter's decision about which method to use. Manual screening often takes considerably more time, but it can be beneficial because screening software doesn't always account for nuances, such as using a synonym for a preferred keyword.

Screening software can streamline the review process by pre-selecting the most qualified resumes based on keywords the recruiter programs the software to identify. This is a more efficient and accurate process than the recruiter doing it themselves. Using software might also exclude qualified candidates who uploaded their resumes in a non-standard file format.

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