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This chapter is from the book

Reviewing Résumés

If you’re lucky, all that recruiting will result in a flood of résumés. But how do you identify the potential stars in a stack of résumés?

Reading résumés is an art. You need to look for your requirements expressed in someone else’s words. You need to read between the lines. You need to connect the dots. You need to read the words and imagine the activities the candidate would have had to undertake to be able to write those words. You need to think through whether the range of experiences candidates have had will have readied them for your company and your position.

Pretty soon, you have to make a value judgment regarding what requirements are truly required, how experienced a candidate really has to be with each of those technologies, how many applications you need to see, and how big they need to be to prove a candidate truly has the skills you’re looking for.

If you’re seeking arcane and unusual skills, the pickings may turn out to be scarce. You’ll have to decide whether to redouble or rethink your recruiting efforts in order to find the candidates you need or to scale back your expectations and plan to train. Keep in mind that though you can train FTEs, you should expect contractors to have each and every skill you need, coming in the door.

As you read résumés, jot notes on your copy (not on an original, since you want other interviewers to reach their own conclusions, not base their judgments on yours). Highlight the skills and tools you’re looking for, where they appear. Draw arrows to gaps in employment history, so you can follow up with a question. Circle spelling errors, bad grammar, and sloppy formatting; you may end up making a decision between two candidates based on knowing that one can write well enough that you won’t have to review every word. Note where candidates have changed jobs frequently; if you’re looking for someone to stay on your team long-term, you may need to formulate a question that elicits why a candidate jumped around. And write questions on the résumé as you’re reading it (e.g., “What was your role in this accomplishment?” “What part of this project did you do?” “Why were you at this company for such a short time?” “What was the result of this effort for the company?” “What was the most difficult aspect of implementing this technology?” “What technologies and tools did you use on this project?” “What language did you write this in?” “What was the toughest challenge you overcame on this project?” “How did you learn this new skill?”).

Résumé reading is a skill in which new managers will find it helpful to be mentored. Ask around to identify experienced and talented interviewers and hiring managers. Ask if you can help them read résumés for their next hire. Few managers will turn down that offer since even those skilled at it find reading résumés a thankless, but critical, chore.

You will find the résumé-reading checklist in the Tools section useful.

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