Most businesses look at resumes when hiring people. Whether you asked your network for referrals or posted a sign in the window or placed an ad somewhere, your stated requirements are the minimum standard. But do you really know how to read a resume?

Start with a basic screen of the resumes received to find the best matches. For each:

  • What does it’s overall structure and appearance tell you?
  • Does it show actual achievements or just position responsibilities?
  • Does it show a pattern of increased knowledge, skill, and/or responsibility?
  • Has the person solved business or technical problems similar to yours?
  • Does it show a pattern of achievement, with adequate details provided as proof?

Once you have selected those resumes closest to your needs, take the time to actually read for details and content.

Tip 1. Has the person done work which prepared them for your job?

Unless you are seeking an entry level person, you want to see whether the applicant has specifically demonstrated the knowledge and achievements related to what you need.

Casting a wide net is smart – you need to know both their technical or skill specific qualifications and how they work. Evaluate where they worked, what they did, and how effective they were. Job titles can be misleading but details tell the story. Look for candidates who provide information clearly.

Match your needs first, then your other ‘wants’.

Tip 2. How close is the resume to your needs?

Did the person use the keywords you use? Tailor it to the specific job you are trying to fill? Does the resume demonstrate progress, attention to detail, and any important ‘soft skills’ you want?

A resume is usually a person’s ‘best foot forward’ – is their best good enough to meet your expectations?

Is there a cover letter? Does it add information you need? Does it show interest or research? Is it a “shotgun” or form letter instead?

Tip 3. Does the resume indicate potential or breadth important to your success?

In small businesses, employees often need both broader skill-sets and a willingness to help others. Resumes that show some breadth of knowledge, a diverse background relevant to your business, or demonstrate good teamwork may be a better match than a narrow specialist. Past part-time or summer jobs can add insight into critical areas like customer service, ability to deal with a wide range of people, and persistence. Are there aspects which help you match the person to your culture? Even better.

These tips will help you reduce your burden and time in hiring while giving you the best possible matches to move on to your screening and interviewing process.