How to Read a Resume

Most leaders have read hundreds, maybe even thousands, of resumes.  But is there any method to the madness?  If you want to give every candidate a fair shot at securing a spot on your team while getting through the pile quickly, there should be.

Analyze the Position

To start, you should have the job description in front of you when looking at a resume that pertains to the open position in question.  You’ll need to use this as a guide to ascertain whether the applicant has the requisite education, experience, and hard skills to warrant further consideration.

Look for Patterns

Now, you’ll want to look for a pattern of achievement and results.  You are looking to see that a candidate has a history of making tangible contributions to his employer.  Along with results, you’ll want to determine if the candidate’s career trajectory makes sense.  Does she move up the ladder in a predictable manner, commensurate with her achievements?  Learning starting and leaving dates, titles, and salaries is obviously useful as well.  A pattern of short-term employment or repeated lateral moves may signal trouble. Candidates will probably try to spin – or leave off altogether – unflattering information.  Your job is to read between the lines.

Consider Presentation

Last but not least, you should look carefully at the format and presentation of the document.  While the one-page rule has generally now fallen out of favor, resumes of any length should still be neat, well-written, and free of any typos or spelling errors.

Beware of Biases

If you’ve decided not to pursue a candidate based on her resume, make sure it’s for the right reasons.  Be careful of unconscious biases you might be carrying – for example, the person is not the typical age for the position, doesn’t live in a good neighborhood, or got her undergraduate degree from your school’s archrival.  These things are simply not important compared to the candidate’s inherent ability to do the job.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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