How to Effectively Read a Resume

So you have a pile of resumes on your desk — wait, scratch that, this is 2016. So you have an inbox with hundreds of unread emails, and they’re all from candidates interested in working for  your organization. Cover letters, resumes, portfolios. How will you know if they’re a fit for your position and your organization overall?
Here’s how to read between the lines, interpret off the paper, and effectively understand a person’s resume:

1. Don’t Jump To Conclusions

Resumes are a story. It is easy to read what’s there and harder to uncover what’s not. Encourage yourself to DIG DEEPER! Gaps between positions and/or career trails don’t always make sense. Don’t let this scare you. There’s almost always a reasonable explanation; consider contract work (the candidate may not have stated this on his/her resume); a Master’s degree (blank space in career may be a forward-move in education/skills); or an illness (people get sick – they also get better). Give the candidate the benefit of the doubt to avoid the assumption that it was because the candidate was an unwanted commodity on the job market.

2. Know Your Companies

There should be a part of your brain marked “Glassdoor,” filled with reputations and reviews of the companies in your city and your space — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Before a candidate says “YES” they hopefully have done research themselves on your company. Knowing where a candidate chooses to work will help you better understand how selective they have been and will also give you a window into the types of cultures and companies they work well in. Look for patterns and allow for one-offs.

3. How Important Is Progression?

Career progression should be high on your “should-haves” list. You want to see clear advancement; someone who is climbing upwards either within the same organization or between separate organizations. But bear in mind that progress is not always linear and clear on paper. Not all organizations title their roles the same way (especially with companies trying to outdo their competition and retain employees with a creative competitive edge.) Think: People Operations Manager (Indiegogo) Chief Happiness Officer (Pivotal Labs) Crayon Evangelist (InteQ Corp) Ambassador of Buzz (Grasshopper). Titles are also influenced by the size of the company, and may be country-specific. ‘Coordinator’ in Australia may mean ‘Manager’ in North America. Look at the role and responsibilities holistically before passing up a ‘not-so-good-on-paper’ candidate.

4. Focus On Transferable Skills

The focus on industry-relevant experience is becoming increasingly laser-focused. It’s difficult to make a jump from, say, CPG to software. Just because someone’s area of focus may be ‘specific’ and different from your offering/brand/cliental, doesn’t make them irrelevant. This person will have likely done quite a bit of research on the industry (they’ve wanted to switch industries for a while, and you can bet they are learning yours like the back of their hand). This fresh perspective could add unexpected value to your firm and position! Focus on the skills they’ve acquired and mastered in previous roles, and see how those can be applied to the one they’re interested in at your organization. Don’t let their out-of-industry experience mark them as an automatic “no.”