Reading Between the Lines: What a Resume is Really Telling You

This is part two of a series. Learn how to identify when it’s time to add to the team in part one.

So your business is doing well, and all the signs show that it’s time to start adding new heads to the team. Finding the best people means you will soon be reviewing a stack of resumes, and it’s not a step you want to breeze through or approach haphazardly.

According to one study, the average recruiter spends only 6 seconds reviewing a resume. But that’s not nearly enough time to identify the stand-out candidates.

If you know what to look for, resumes can tell you much more about a candidate than just a list of jobs they’ve had in the past. All you need to do is look past the simple list of jobs for signs of what kind of employee this applicant really is.

Here are some of the valuable qualities a resume can reveal about a candidate that might not be immediately apparent.

1. Organization, attention to detail, and preparation

The first thing to look for are resumes that are well formatted and that tell a clear story. If the ideas flow naturally across the page and the information categories are meaningful, it speaks volumes about how a candidate thinks and organizes their priorities.

Typos aren’t just a nuisance; they can be a sign that the applicant is careless. When you’re looking for just the right person to make life easier for your business, details matter. We’ve all fat-fingered a typo or two on an email or direct message, but a resume is a formal document that the applicant should have spent time meticulously putting together. It should look like it!

Does the candidate care enough about the job to read through the job description, or are they just playing the numbers game and mass-emailing applications to every job opening they find? If the resume is targeted directly to your job posting by highlighting the skills that are pertinent to it, you know they took the time to look through what your business needs and tailored their resume to demonstrate that they have what you’re looking for.

2. The soft skills: communication, teamwork, and integrity

Soft skills—qualities that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people—are key for employees who will be dealing with customers and teammates frequently.

In fact, a recent study from researchers at Harvard, Boston College and the University of Michigan found that soft skills training, like communication and problem-solving, boosts productivity and retention by 12% and delivers a 256% return on investment based on higher productivity and retention, and these skills are expected to become more important for employers in the future.  

Spotting these soft skills on a resume isn’t easy, so what can you look for to identify them? Start with the understanding that the foundation of these skills is consideration and empathy.

This can mean doing something as simple as giving credit where credit is due. Is the candidate presenting their wins as solo efforts or as the result of collaboration where each member played an important role?

At any rate, even if they did…

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