The basics on managing the flood of resumes

According to the January HWOL report from the Conference Board , just over 2.5 million NEW jobs were advertised online in January, an increase of 16.1% from December, and a jump of 12.1% over the number of new jobs advertised in January of 2010.


If you’re among those who have been posting new job ads, you’ve probably already received more resumes this year than you care to think about…and they’re still flooding in.  While most recruiters and hiring managers I’ve known have likened the activity of screening resumes to reading the dictionary front to back, and have pushed this down to the most entry level administrative staff available, how you manage this process can be of critical importance to your organization.   Aside from the work of finding the great candidates among the volumes of unqualified applicants, there are also regulations and guidelines to be considered.   Here are some important keys to keep in mind from both perspectives:

Strategic Recruiting Best Practices:

  1. When you’re screening resumes, ONLY be screening resumes. Remind yourself and your staff that this is the first step in bringing great new employees onboard to help your organization be productive and profitable; and give it the time and attention it deserves.  Close your doors, shut down your email, and turn off your phone.
  2. Require that every applicant fill out an online application, even if it requires that you assist an applicant with the process. Capturing applicant data in a database allows you to efficiently search the applications and resumes for keywords, phrases, education requirements, etc. With online resources, you can also sort applicant data to help you keep track of great candidates that you didn’t hire this time around.
  3. READ EVERY RESUME. Okay, so this is the one that gets the most pushback and requires the most time.  Unfortunately, it’s also the most effective method of ensuring you’re making the best hire for every position every time.  See the next point for more on why this is important…
  4. Be INCLUSIVE not EXCLUSIVE in your screening process. Don’t focus on eliminating candidates; instead focus on what each candidate can add to the job.  In today’s ever-changing business climate, you can give your organization an advantage by hiring candidates with skill sets that can allow for growth and adaptation.  As you review resumes, actively look for auxiliary skills that could potentially add value to the current job opening or to your organization as a whole.
  5. Build a talent pipeline or community (and yes, even you can do this). As you screen resumes and build a list of applicants worthy of a first level interview (or phone screen), invite those finalists to join your talent pipeline.  You may have five great candidates for one open position, and while you can’t hire them all, you can stay connected and keep them interested for future opportunities. This is a great way to keep your recruitment advertising costs down over the long term.
  6. Set up realistic expectations for all applicants regarding your response to their resume. If you accept resumes in person, be sure that you have signage that lets people know that you won’t be calling every applicant back.  When accepting resumes online, send an automatically generated email that both acknowledges receipt of the submission, and sets realistic expectations of your follow up process.   This really will cut down on the number of follow up emails and phone calls you get from applicants wondering whether or not you’ve reviewed their resume or filled the position.

Administrative Best Practices:

  1. Don’t bother separating out unsolicited resumes in your filing system. While there are different regulations governing the retention of resumes based on whether they are solicited or unsolicited, this distinction is often too difficult to prove one way or another.  Save yourself the heartburn, and treat all your resumes the same.
  2. Make it easy on yourself- keep every resume you get for two years, and make a regular practice of purging older resumes. If you have more than 20 employees, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to you, and dictates that you hold on to every resume for at least one year.  If you are a federal contractor, you are required to retain these documents for two years.
  3. Use an applicant tracking system or other database system to save all applications and resumes online. This is always the best practice as you can search resumes more efficiently, and can group them by any number of criteria.  However, if that’s not an option…
  4. File resumes and applications by Month and Job Title. This is by far the safest and most efficient way to file resumes so you can find them quickly in the event you need to defend a hiring decision. If you post a job opening in January for a Java Developer, and accept resumes from January until March, file all the resumes under January, then under Java Developer.  If you post a second opening in June for the same position, you’ll want to file that in June- this way you are grouping all resumes in relation to the job posting they applied to.

Above all, try to remember that you’re not just screening resumes, but that you’re making a change to the culture of  your organization.  There’s really no way around it- every new hire brings their personal culture, morals, values, and biases with them which affect your culture.  I always have found that it’s best to analyze resumes for fit as you screen for skills and experiences.  While all the applicants you screen certainly want a job, it’s your job to find the ones who truly want to work for your organization.

Views: 208

Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on March 2, 2011 at 8:47am
#4 is the item most frequently ignored, IMO. You don't know how the selection process will play out - having a wider/deeper range of candidates to pull from is always useful.
Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on March 2, 2011 at 11:20am
I don't agree with the need to read the resume thoroughly.  All most corporate recruiters and recruiters who specialize want to know is: where did the candidate work, what did they work on, what were their titles and promotions and, briefly their accomplishments.  That is all I want to know before seeing a candidate.  I read their resume thoroughly before sending them out to make sure that their resume is tight, well written and has no mistakes, gaps or other flaws.
Comment by Jason C. Blais on March 2, 2011 at 11:31am
Paul, while I agree that most recruiters do work the way you mention, I would challenge that it's a best practice by asking this- If you only had 5 resumes in hand to select from, wouldn't you read them each thoroughly to identify auxiliary skill sets as well as a history of interest/success/engagement with the type of work you're hiring for?  If this is something that would be best practice if you only had a few resumes, doesn't that mean that it really is best practice always, but that it's de-prioritized only because of the need to sort through the large volumes of resumes received?
Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on March 2, 2011 at 12:24pm
Jason:  I recruit for a single industry, advertising.  I can scan a resume and know instantly if a candidate has what my clients are looking for.  If they have not worked at an ad agency, I probably cannot send them.  If they lack relevant experience, I cannot send them.  If they have ad agency experience, it then depends on where.  I can tell all this at a very quick glance.  My ration of send outs to placements is very high as a a result.  I will read the resume thoroughly before seeing someone, however.
Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on March 2, 2011 at 12:30pm

These are good tools to follow, BUT it is a case by case for each recruiter.


Remember the process is living and breathing

Comment by Paul Alfred on March 2, 2011 at 12:31pm
Wow ... Some Recruiters still sort through hundreds of unqualified resumes...  Where do they find the time?
Comment by Ken Forrester on March 2, 2011 at 12:35pm

This is the perfect example of trying to fill open jobs on the cheap-an administrative headache that continues day after day.  Why do you even call this process recruiting?  Isn’t recruiting suppose to be challenging and exciting?   This process seems like boring, non productive and uninspiring work!  And in the long run-will this process deliver the best talent and will it save the money you thought you were wasting on professional experts?   

Until we wake up and accept the fact that the war for talent was only a fad that crashed and burned; we will continue wasting years of our lives sifting through worthless resumes and believing that we are actually recruiting.

Comment by Jason C. Blais on March 2, 2011 at 1:14pm
So many great points, thanks everyone!  There are definitely no single silver bullets or golden geese for sure. As with all things, I think it's safe to say that a process that's built and customized for the specific user will always be the most effective for that user.  This certainly applies to the world of 3rd party recruiters.  However, in corporate settings, recruiters who are part of the company and often part of the HR department, almost always have to work within the confines of a system or business process.  I believe the best way to manage those situations is to narrow down the focus of  your recruitment marketing and sourcing activities, and reviewing fewer resumes more thoroughly.  To be sure, it's easy to see who could qualify for a job with a quick scan, but it takes more time and effort to identify who would be the best fit and bring the most added value to the organization.
Comment by Valentino Martinez on March 2, 2011 at 2:39pm

If the guidelines Jason has provided are followed consistently, regardless if there is a flood or a trickle of resumes--the employers who do will be in a better position to select the best qualified candidate (having gone through each resume/application thoroughly).


Of equally importance, should such an employer ever be challenged on their pre-selection process (the process of evaluating each job applicant thoroughly)--they stand a much better chance of satisfying an EEOC or OFCCP inquiry or lawsuit on the matter.  

Comment by Leah Davis on March 2, 2011 at 3:32pm
A great discussion Jason. I completely agree with your strategic recruiting best practice tips. But also realise that many recruiters are constrained by time and competitor pressures and are unable to perfectly follow best practice. It is great to be able to receive CV's that have already been thru an automated yet sophisticated screening process initially to ensure you dont receive so much rubbish. Such solutions usually require applicants to enter a reasonable amount of relevant information into an online form providing you with a quick summary to scan thru. This allows you more time to read the resumes because you receive fewer, more targeted applicants. Quality online solutions should provide you with reporting facilities that you can log into allowing you to easily track and manage your talent pipeline.


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2023   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service