Become an Expert! Best Practices for Accepting Paper Resumes at Career Fairs

In preparing for this article, I was rather surprised to learn two things:

  • The demise of the paper resume was predicted as far back as 20011. Given the subject matter of this article, its accuracy ranks up there with doomsday prophesies.
  • A Google search on best practices for accepting paper resumes turned up literally hundreds of articles for writing resumes – but not a single one for dealing with them.

In my previous post, I argued for taking paper resumes at career fairs. So assuming your legal eagles have blessed the policy of accepting resumes at career fairs, there are a few practical tips you’ll want to consider to help deal with the legal minefield and inevitable paper avalanche to follow…so remind me again why I’m in favor of accepting paper resumes?

Document (Resume) Retention Strategy – Simply stated retaining documents related to the recruiting is the law and it’s not optional. Depending on whether your resumes are solicited or unsolicited, they’ll need to be retained anywhere from a week to three or even many years. A comprehensive discussion pertaining to resume retention is outside the scope of this discussion, but SHRM has a succinct article on the subject of federal record retention guidelines here, and I found this handy “cheat sheet” courtesy of G. Neil.

Capturing Recruiter Comments – Unless you’ve been blessed with a photographic memory, odds are you’ll need to capture your candidate relevant thoughts for later review. And to be really efficient, you’ll probably decide it’s best to write notes directly on the resume, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! These documents arediscoverable and in the hands of skilled employment attorney, even seemingly innocent looking comments will become weapons of mass destruction. Even if every team member has been through Recruiter Training 101, trust me when I tell you someone is going to write something that can and will be used against his or her employer.

One alternative is to write notes on the back of a candidate’s resume. This advice assumes all resumes will ultimately be digitally scanned, meaning only the front, thus effectively eliminating all discoverable comments. In theory the advice sounds great, however in the real world recruiters may forget to submit paperwork for scanning whereby it languishes and invariably finds its way into the hands of the enemy.

By far the most effective strategy, and my personal favorite, is to utilize preprinted “Post-It” notes containing only check boxes with approved and job related verbiage. Despite the obvious advantage of their temporary purpose, they’ll significantly reduce risks associated with free-form commentary by creating a more consistent and thereby defensible candidate evaluation process. Brilliant!

Organization is Key – Any recruiter who has attended more than a handful of career fairs doesn’t waste much time developing a personal system for dealing with the mountain of resumes collected. My “system” involved bringing three folders – a green for clear matches, a yellow for average matches, and a red for clear non-matches. This color scheme was easily understood by staff who were often “pulled from the field” to join me, and at the end of the day when I was one click away from being declared clinically brain dead, it was easy to keep them separated. I brought pre-printed express labels and envelopes so that I could ship off the “reds” to be scanned, which also represented the bulk of the resumes. Okay, I realize that some of you may be hyperventilating with my suggestion of a color-coded folder system – which might be construed as a de facto ranking and scoring system. I promise I will address this – in my next blog. Ultimately the key is to have a system that is well thought out, thoroughly documented, applied consistently, and is easily executed by anyone tasked with going to a career fair.

Going Paperless

But even with these tips for accepting paper resumes, the undeniable “elephant in the room” question is – WHY ARE YOU STILL TAKING PAPER? It’s the 21st century and there is an app for everything – including dealing with paper resumes. So hands down, the best practice for accepting resumes at career fairs is NOT to accept them – at least exclusively in just paper form.

Ultimately, the process of becoming paperless can take a variety of formats from exceeding simple to astoundingly comprehensive. In then end, it will come down to what specific problem(s) are you trying to solve, and how much support you can expect from your organization.

The great news is that most of us already possess the resources necessary to initiate a basic “paperless” resume process in the form of a smart phone or tablet. There are numerous of apps, many free or incredibly affordable, that do a good to great job of scanning documents on the go. CamScannerJotNot, and Tinyscan are a few examples to check out. For the most part, they create very acceptable, HQ PDF versions of resumes that can be keyword tagged, stored in the cloud, and of course emailed to your contacts. However, if you are seeking the ability to convert these scanned images into searchable versions (referred to as OCR), these apps will not provide this functionality.

On the other hand, two apps that incorporate excellent OCR functionality are OfficeLens (Microsoft) and FineScanner (ABBY). These apps blew me away with the accuracy of the OCR conversion, especially since the scanning was not in in a controlled environment. Although a connection to the cloud is required to utilize the OCR features, image scanning can be utilized “off-line” anytime. Without a connection, documents submitted for OCR are queued and then automatically uploaded when reconnected to the cloud. Both a free and subscription option are available, and since FineScanner is a Microsoft solution, it plays nicely with Word and their cloud storage solutions.

However wonderful these options are for bringing a paperless resume process within reach of any recruiter, they have not been designed with recruiters in mind. As a former recruiter who’s collected enough resumes to fill an average sized room, the best practice available for taming the paper resume monster is to employ RECSOLU’s integrated solution. Why? Because as former recruiters ourselves, we understood that dealing with the paper issue was just a symptom of a process that hadn’t changed in several decades – literally.

So beginning in 2010, we revolutionized the industry with apps that redefined the recruiting experience for recruiters and their candidates. Our holistic approach focused on:

  • Creating a seamless and paperless workflow from the initial candidate meeting until their final interview
  • Removing decades of entrenched process redundancies at every stage
  • Ensuring 100% compliance with federal record retention guidelines
  • Enhancing OFCCP and EEO audit and compliance outcomes
  • Leveraging real-time data and powerful CRM capabilities to create more engaging candidate experiences while reducing administrative loads
  • Unleashing the power of mobile to liberate recruiters from the limitations of their desktops
  • Enabling instantaneous communication with Top Talent through system generated emails and texts
  • Providing a 100% ATS agnostic capability to address the constantly evolving ATS landscape

Today, RECSOLU’s clients enjoy the best of both worlds – they’ll accept candidate’s paper resumes at their recruiting events but have the ability to leave the event with less paper than when they started. To learn more, contact

1. Sturm, Gretchen “Bye-Bye Paper, Hello Resume of the Future.” November 27, 2001

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