What to look for – and watch out for – on resumes and applications the coming year.

Whatever the market conditions, recruitment professionals need to be up on the trends when it comes to applications and resumes. As we've explored in past articles,  today’s job seeker is either tech savvy enough to break through screening algorithms, or smart enough to do a quick internet search to find out how. They’re practiced in responses to common questions and ready for the question you think will prompt an honest response. The challenge for the hiring team is to hone in on the important info and spotting areas that may be red flags.even-with-technology-becoming-more-prevalent-in-the-business-world-j_16000902_30275_1_14073034_500

How Tech Influences Screening

The trend to use some form of applicant tracking and screening software (ATS) isn’t going away any time soon. Recent reports show 98% of the Fortune 500 use them in some form or another; 66% of large companies; and 35% of small organizations use the tech to prescreen.

While there are a lot of good things to say for prescreening software, there are downsides as well. Job seekers understand the rigidity of AI and change their resume to get through the process. There are data points that algorithms match and candidates know how to get past the screening to score an interview.

1. Employment Lengths

What to Watch Out For:

Suspiciously close employment lengths: your posting may require 3 year’s minimum experience to apply. Applications and resumes that are exactly three years, or a few weeks/months older may have been tweaked a bit to get past the screening.

What to Look For:

Don’t let dates deter you: if you’re asking for 3 year’s experience, don’t hesitate to look through the applicants that were close but not quite. 2 years 9 months on the application may not have passed through the screening, but may be close enough to warrant an interview. Plus you just spotted a candidate that puts honesty first.

2. Job Titles

What to Watch Out For:

Identical titles: While there are a lot of common job titles, watch for exact matches, especially if you call your customer service representatives ‘customer care professionals.’ Some job seekers will shift the title in their own job history to make for a better match.

What to Look For:

Titles that are close enough are obviously fine, but look into the description of the work to see if you really have a good match. You may find a completely different job title describes your exact needs.

3. Keywords

What to Watch Out For:

Keyword repetition: watch for words or terms you used in your posting that are repeated in the resume or application. If you use the term ‘dynamic’ in your posting and see it showing up on the resume, read through carefully to determine whether it was an add-on to trick the algorithm or was appropriate for the context.

What to Look For:

You don’t have to pull up your Thesaurus, but look for language that doesn’t exactly mirror what you’ve posted. Check to see the text flows nicely and isn’t just interspersed randomly with your keywords.

How to Screen Around Technology

As job seekers apply to meet software requirements, the finesse of the process is often lost. Yes, their resume checks all the computer’s boxes, but it doesn’t give a sense of the candidate on any level beyond binary code. There are ways to get a more in-depth look at the job seeker, whether or not they’ve passed the computer’s muster.

the-results-of-the-recent-manpower-group-survey-are-encouraging-for-_16000902_71423_1_14089831_500Objective

The jury hasn’t decided about whether or not a professional objective is worthwhile on a resume anymore, but if it’s included, it can be insightful. Typically one or two sentences, the objective can give the hiring team a sense of the applicant’s goals. Does their objective speak to having a corner office in 3 years, or does it focus on furthering the mission of the organization?

Cover letter

A cover letter is great way to gain insight into a candidate. Some candidates pay professionals to create their resume, giving you less of a sense of their written communication skills. Cover letter templates may also be outsourced, but it’s less common these days. Start with the basics: if the language, format, spelling, grammar of the cover letter doesn’t match the resume, you know they were written by two different people. Next look at the content: the cover letter may reveal qualities you’re looking for in a candidate, or those you want to pass by.

Questions

A best practice is to ask the applicant to answer an interview question, when they submit their resume. It can be a situational question – like ‘how did you respond to a difficult customer.’ Or a behavioral question – ‘what motivates you to do your best?’ Applicants that don’t bother to answer the question didn’t read through the instructions and are likely not detail-oriented. Those who answer will give you some insight into their background and their written communication skills.

TMI

It’s the rare applicant that doesn’t have a social media presence, and many companies will review social media to prescreen candidates. One study puts 90% of businesses use social media to evaluate job seekers before they’re hired. If an applicant has links to their social media pages included in their resume, you may assume they’ve swept through to assure the pages are not labeled NSFW (Not Safe For Work). You may find their passion for volunteerism prominently placed, or their love of partying.

What to Look For:

The jury is out on whether it’s fair game to find an applicant’s social media page (if they haven’t volunteered it) and potentially use it against them. The flip side, finding out the person you just hired as the church organist is really a deejay with great mime skills. You’ll be able to screen out blatant racists or people who proclaim ‘working on a Monday is for losers,’ so it might be worthwhile to have a peek.

What to watch out for:

The downside of screening via social media is you may stumble on information you should not access. They have health issues or be devout in their faith. If you run across any protected class information, and ultimately exclude the candidate, they may wonder (or assert) they were the victim of discrimination. The problem with social media is there’s no filter – you either see it all and risk being privy to information that’s not for HR consumption, or you see nothing and wonder what you’re missing. It’s a double-edged sword.

Navigating trends in hiring often means taking a look at how candidates are submitting their resume. The more you know about what they’re doing, and the more you include ways to evaluate them, the better able you will be to make the right choice when you hire.  If you're ready to look at other ways to screen job candidates, just view our Test List and Try a Sample today.

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