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5 Key Questions to Ask in Evaluating Candidates' Resumes

5 Key Questions to Ask in Evaluating Candidates’ Resumes

The average corporate job opening receives 250 applications, according to Glassdoor, so HR professionals and recruiters in all environments must know how to effectively evaluate a candidate’s competency based on their resume.

The process becomes even more difficult when candidates submit resumes with vastly different formats and styles, adding an extra challenge to accurately comparing them against each other and selecting the right fit.

Job seekers always put their best foot forward, but there are keys to reviewing resumes that help determine which applicants can truly provide long-term value to your organization.

Here are five questions to ask in evaluating candidates’ resumes.

1. Are they a doer or an achiever?

Companies do not just want employees who fulfill a role by completing their assigned tasks day in and day out. Indeed, recruiters should aim to hire achievers who go above and beyond in their role and think beyond the scope of their daily responsibilities.

This quality manifests itself differently in each employee, but it usually involves creative thinking, surpassing professional objectives, or wearing numerous hats in the company. Do not only look for the salesperson who met their quota each month by executing the expected number of cold calls. Instead, search for the candidate who discovered more effective sales techniques and scripts and implemented them throughout his or her department, resulting in other team members exceeding their sales goals as well.

To maintain its edge in a competitive marketplace, businesses need employees who can effect positive change, no matter their position in the organizational hierarchy. Workers who have demonstrated that ability in the past are likely to do the same in their new environment.

2. Do they have hard and soft skills?

Some industries require more of a focus on hard skills over soft skills and vice versa. Recruiters searching for a software engineer would likely pay attention to applicants’ technical abilities, such as platforms, software, and programming languages, whereas a customer service position may demand strong communication skills and an ability to handle criticism.

The best candidates display both types of strengths on their resumes, no matter the industry, though they certainly should highlight the ones most directly related to the position. This means recruiters should find instances of collaboration, team leadership, and creativity but also examples of software programs and skills that required technical training.

Candidates who have mastered the technical side of their work and are equipped with the soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace add tremendous value to the company with their ability to serve on the frontlines as well as effectively collaborate with others and positively influence the company’s direction.

3. Have their responsibilities increased?

The best predictor of future success is past success. In many cases, employees who excel in their current responsibilities are given opportunities to demonstrate their skills at the next level.

Look for career progression that also shows ambition to contribute to the organization in a greater capacity. This connects with the idea of searching for candidates who are achievers and have the tendency to not only complete their assigned responsibilities but also think beyond their current role and how they can further the company’s mission in new ways.

This principle does not always mean promotions and a new title. An applicant could have maintained their same role but been entrusted with new responsibilities, such as serving as the lead on a project or being assigned to train new team members. These examples show the company’s confidence in their employee, even though there was no change of position.

4. Are their accomplishments specific and measurable?

An effective resume balances two key concepts that appear to contradict each other: conciseness and detail. As a recruiter viewing dozens of resumes, you do not have time to read three- or four-page resumes. In response, candidates work to convey their professional history in a way that demonstrates they have the required experience but also presents that information in a concise manner.

That means you should look for accomplishments that are specific and measurable and can be translated into success for the company. Consider the following two statements:

Increased online sales through social media campaigns.
Increased online sales for summer clothing category by 24% through launching Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages that engaged followers and announced promotions.

The first statement leaves the reader with a number of questions. How much did sales increase by? 5 percent or 80 percent? Which platforms did they use? Why was the campaign effective in increasing sales? The second version answers these questions but still presents the accomplishment in a sharp and focused way.

5. Do they come from a similar or different industry?

Companies must decide whether to hire from within or outside the organization. Promoting a current team member ensures the person in the position knows the culture and the way the company operates, whereas hiring from the outside fills the role with someone who can bring both a new style of problem solving and the unique skills they have learned from another organization.

This idea also applies to the industries candidates come from. Does the company want someone who has experience in their specific industry and knows how their expertise operates in that environment? On the other hand, could it benefit from an applicant who has the necessary skillset but understands how those principles apply in other environments?

For example, does an insurance company hiring a new salesperson want someone who has direct experience selling insurance, or would they learn new techniques by hiring someone with a background in medical sales? Just as companies choose to hire from the inside or the outside, recruiters should consider the value of selecting candidates from a similar or different industry.

These five questions provide recruiters an additional filter through which to view resumes and assists in drawing out the qualities needed for the position.
HR professionals know firsthand the difficulty of determining the best candidates simply based off resumes, but using this guide during the review process can help narrow down the list of top candidates.


About the Author

5 Key Questions to Ask in Evaluating Candidates' ResumesJacob Clarke is a professional resume writer and has worked with more than 100 clients to perfect their resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles. He is the founder of Recognition Resumes, where he helps job seekers get noticed and land their dream jobs by accurately conveying their career history through professional career documents. To learn more about Jacob and Recognition Resumes, visit

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