Craft Venture: screening your resumes

By phydeaux • Updated on 10/23/2021

Happy May and welcome to Craft Venture! Im Brenda from Phydeaux Designs, talking with you about how to hire super star employees for your small business. Last week, we went over how to write an effective and engaging job posting. Today, lets talk about what to do with the resumes you’ll receive!

The very first thing I told you was to hire only self motivated people with the proven ability to learn. You might have wondered how the heck you were going to be able to tell if someone is self motivated. And I’ll bet that some you assumed you would simply ask folks if they’re self motivated.

Well … people usually believe the best of themselves. Very few will tell you they’re not self motivated, even if you they know that they’re not. You might even hire one of those folks, exhausting yourself (and losing precious time) by trying to keep them motivated every day. So how do you make sure you’re hiring a super star?

Three things:  (a) put the onus of responsibility on the applicant for proving their qualifications, (b) let the applicants do all the work during the process, and (c) make sure that every step of the application and hiring process tests your applicants’ abilities and skills.

You’ll accomplish these three things by thoroughly screening applicants and interviewing only the finalists. You’ll find the process a little foreign, sometimes even uncomfortable, but you should have one or two very strong finalists to choose from.

So let’s talk about screening applicants. You’ve already taken the first step in the right direction by telling applicants exactly how to apply in the job posting – their first test!

“Come on,” you’re saying. “That’s overkill for my little job!” It’s not overkill if you want to hire a stellar employee. Super star applicants will read and retain your directions. They “get” that every interaction with you is an opportunity to dazzle.

If you posted your job with your phone number, you now have anywhere from dozens to gazillions of voicemail messages. You’ve lost hours and days to interruptions from unqualified applicants. Letting your applicants do the work allows you to do actual, revenue-generating work.

By posting your job with application instructions, you accomplish all three steps in hiring super stars:  you’re setting up the screening process (requiring applicants to prove they have the necessary skills and abilities), you’ve set the expectation from the start that applicants do all the work, and you’ve set up the first test for screening.

As emails flood in, you’ll be tempted to read every single email in great detail. Instead, you are going to scan and file each email immediately based on your application instructions. Each email gets several seconds. That’s it. Depending on your email program, you will move emails into folders (e.g., outlook) or label them (e.g., gmail) and not look at them again until you’re done.

You told applicants to forward their resume with cover letter stating their professional goals. Most of the applications will not include any of this. Instead, most of your emails will point you to a website with CV/resume (which you don’ t have time for) OR won’t include a resume and/or cover letter. Don’t give those emails more than two seconds (it’s amazing how quickly you can scan an email). Instead, immediately file or label them as “not qualified.”

“That’s not fair! They might be qualified! I just need to talk with them/read their website/answer their questions!” Don’t succumb! This may be uncomfortable, but these applicants failed the very first screen:  the application. You told them exactly what to do and they did something else. Is that someone you want working for you? This already shows lack of ability to learn. Be strong – I know you can do this!

Some emails will follow or kind of follow your instructions. For those that included a resume but didn’t include a cover letter, which is a crucial part of the process, file as not qualified. For those that included both, file as “qualified.” And for those that you’re not really sure about, create a new label – something like “not sure,” “maybe” or “???” The key is to spend no more than a couple of seconds on each email, file and move on to the next.

When you’ve completed this, you’ll go back to those who actually followed your instructions. They passed the very first screen! We don’t know how well they passed it yet, which is why we’re going back for the next level of screening. Now you need your job description and required qualifications! Highlight or outline the qualifications and put them right in front of you, before you open a single email.

“Why?” To keep you on task. I used to screen hundreds of resumes for just one job. It’s very easy, I know, to get sucked into reading every resume in detail. I didn’t have the time. You don’t have the time. So keep your qualifications in front of you! We’re now going to screen out those without the required qualifications.

If you’re not sure what a resume should look like or where to find the qualifications, just do a quick google search.

You’re going to give each email no more than 15-20 seconds, just to verify that the applicant is qualified. Some won’t really follow the directions – if so, refile under “not qualified” and move on. You’ll find that a few are seriously overqualified (particularly in our current economy) – file under “overqualified” and move on. And you’ll find some that aren’t qualified (you know where to file) and some that – yay – are qualified (file under “qualified”). Not sure? File under “not sure” folder or just keep them where they are.

Go back to your qualified folder and read resumes and cover letters in more detail. If someone’s cover letter doesn’t include what you’d asked, but it’s incredibly well written and tells you that this is a potential super star, keep it under qualified. If the application is sloppy with typos and misspellings that spellcheck should have corrected, file under not qualified. You may have some stunningly brilliant resumes, combined with horrendous cover letters (those persons likely paid for resume writing services, which is why I always insist on cover letters).

With a pile of qualified applications, you may already be reaching for the phone. Wait! You want to learn about your applicants’ self motivation by having them do all the work!

Email each qualified applicant, thanking them for their interest in your position and asking for their top three open spots from predefined blocks of time for a 10-15 minute phone conversation). For your blocks of time, include one or two hours in the morning and one or two hours in the afternoon. This is just a 15 minute phone call, but bunch them together so that you’re not interrupting your work flow.

First choice goes to first responders. For those who insist on meeting in person, they’re too pushy and failed the test. Others will give you one 15 minute spot with their phone number for you to call; they failed the test, but you might give them a chance at redemption. Give them the spot if it’s open, but ask them to call you. As you schedule each phone call, ask them to call you and to confirm the scheduled time via reply email.

“Why don’t I just call them?” We want applicants to demonstrate self motivation. Requiring them to do most of the work is an excellent way to show that. This also shows their ability to follow instruction (you’ll be amazed by how many wait for your call, despite email confirmation). Also, this sets up an expectation, from the beginning, that they will do the work, not the other way around.

Next week! The phone screen and interview!

Have you hired staff before? Is this a familiar process to you? What makes sense and what has you a little uncomfortable?

Image Credit: Shine Dorydevlin; Loula M; Pedro Emanuel 3; Princess in Boots; Butterfly Food

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[…] you about how to hire super star employees for your small business.  Last week, we talked about how to screen resumes.  This week I’m going to briefly talk about actually talking with applicants. And will leave […]

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