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What To Look For In a Resume

Hiring the right employees allows you to create a corporate culture that is inclusive, innovative, and motivates your workers to do their best each day. However, finding people who are qualified to fill marketing, customer service, and other positions within your company can be a challenge. Let’s dive deeper into what to look for in a resume and what it reveals about a job candidate.

Is the Resume Easy to Read?

Ideally, a candidate will make a sales pitch that is clear, concise, and free of major spelling or grammar mistakes. As a general rule, an applicant should be able to explain why he or she is qualified for a position on a single page.

By the time you have finished learning about a prospective employee’s background, you should have a good idea of who that person is. You should also have a good idea as to how that person would fit into the overall culture that you’re trying to build within the organization.

If there are spelling, grammar, or other issues, it could be an indication that whoever submitted the resume for consideration doesn’t pay attention to details. This could be a sign that he or she would make costly mistakes if hired to work for your company.

How Many Previous Positions Has This Person Held?

Generally speaking, you want to see evidence that a candidate is capable of staying in the same position for more than a year. This is because it generally takes that long to truly establish yourself within an organization.

At best, those who frequently change jobs often lack the commitment needed for an individual to become a key asset within your organization. At worst, a checkered job history may indicate that a candidate has been terminated several times in the past.

Of course, there are many reasons why a person might be let go from a position that has nothing to do with his or her professional competency. For instance, that person could have had an undiagnosed learning disability that made it difficult to retain information. Furthermore, a candidate could have been wrongfully terminated by an employer after failing to take part in illegal activity.

How Do You Evaluate Those Who Have Spent Time Working for Themselves?

Those who work as independent contractors will likely have multiple clients who they work for on a short-term basis. In some cases, a wide circle of clients might indicate that this person is in high demand. Ultimately, your company could benefit from the connections that this individual already has.

In most cases, evaluating someone who is currently self-employed is no different than evaluating anyone else who applies to work for your company. As long as that person has the skills, experience, and education that you’re looking for, you shouldn’t hesitate to hire that individual.

Does a Resume Look Outdated?

Resumes that are sent out by workers today look much different than those that were sent to employers 20 years ago. For instance, they typically don’t contain an objective statement or an applicant’s date of birth. Furthermore, they generally don’t say that references are available upon request.

If you see any of these things, it could be a red flag that an individual hasn’t really put a lot of thought into his or her sales pitch. It could also indicate that an applicant doesn’t really understand what it means to present him or herself as a modern professional.

It’s important to note that those over the age of 40 may be protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Therefore, you can’t use age as the primary basis to exclude a person from consideration for a position. This is critical to keep in mind if applicants do include their birthdates, graduation dates, or other information that may indicate how old they are.

Does Anything Seem Off About What a Candidate’s Story?

One of the challenges of the hiring process is verifying the accuracy of a candidate’s resume. Unless you have a prior working relationship with this individual, you won’t know if he or she actually went to Harvard or spent time as a top executive at a Fortune 500 company.

In addition, previous employers are limited in what they can tell you about a prospective hire. Generally speaking, companies can only disclose that a person was previously employed there. Therefore, it can be hard to rely on your investigative skills to uncover the answers to any questions that you have about a person’s background.

However, there are some things that you can do to learn more about a candidate prior to moving that person along in the hiring process. For instance, you can do an online search for evidence that backs up a person’s claims. It may also be possible to look at an applicant’s social media profiles to enquire more about them.

As a general rule, you’re free to review any information that an applicant has made available for public viewing. However, if you want access to private information, you will need an applicant’s permission before obtaining it.

It’s OK To Be Flexible

What to look for in a resume depends on a multitude of factors that aren’t always explicitly listed. In some cases, the best person for a job maybe someone who doesn’t have a degree or recommended experience. In some cases, that person might not have experience in your company’s industry at all.

Let’s say that a resume indicates that a person has been self-employed for the last few years. In such a scenario, you may be able to infer that this person has developed quality customer service skills. You may also be able to infer that this individual has marketing, sales and other skills that could benefit your business.

Finally, anyone who has spent time running their own company could be an ideal leader. In the event that this person isn’t a fit for the position that you’re looking to fill, he or she might be an asset elsewhere. Ultimately, keeping an open mind can make it easier to find people who can help grow your organization.

Did the Applicant Follow Instructions?

One of the easiest ways to determine if someone is a good fit for your company is by testing their ability to follow directions. For instance, you might instruct an applicant to submit a resume using a certain program, by a certain date.

You might also ask an applicant to highlight certain words, use bold headings or make other subtle requests. If these instructions are not followed, that is usually a good indication that this candidate isn’t a fit. These techniques are an easy way to sift through applications if you have a large pool of applicants.

Make Sure That the Hiring Process Is Fair and Transparent

Regardless of the criteria chosen for candidates, it’s important the same rules apply for all applicants. It’s often a good idea to have a committee review applications. This ensures that the hiring process is conducted in a fair, legal, and ethical manner.

What are the criteria that you use for hiring workers? Be sure to check out our other Zoho Recruit articles on similar topics.

Billy Bates

Senior Web Developer

Billy is a Wordpress Developer with an eye for design. His knowledge will help our company website and client sites meet their goals. Billy and his young family have just moved to Ashland Oregon, and are looking forward to exploring the area’s amazing beer, wine, and food. He also has a passion for synthesizers and drum machines.

Lucas Sant'Anna


With a background in Operations Research and Data Analysis, Lucas is a Brazilian programmer that likes to get stuff done quickly and reliably. In previous jobs, he implemented industrial job scheduling, fleet management and detailed long-haul route optimization – among other data-driven processes – to reach objectives of increased profit and reduced wasted resources. His goal is to make Zoho fully automated and with more meaningful data for spot-on decisions.