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How To Review Applications: A Complete Guide

Asavari Sharma

December 02, 2022

So you had a job vacancy in your organization. You dutifully drafted a job description, identified the most effective sourcing channels for promotion, and started advertising your ad. Now the applications have started rolling in! Quick, what do you do?

You do not want to toss promising resumes in the bin just because you were in a hurry or overwhelmed and did not screen the applications properly. You also do not want to waste time going through irrelevant ones.

The best way to review applications is to have a plan even before you receive your first application. Yes, that is right! Objectively evaluating resumes is a crucial step that typically speaks volumes about your hiring processes.

Several companies lean on a set of defined criteria being met in order to screen job applications. However, there are tell-tale signs that double up as dead giveaways to indicate whether an applicant makes the cut for further review.

They could be as simple as an application laden with errors that may indicate lack of attention to detail or a resume supported by graphics and visuals indicating a creative mind.

Beyond these aspects at face value, what are some mandatory items you need to check before you schedule that interview with a prospective hire? Let us explore a few on our blog:

1. Ability to craft an impactful first-impression on you

A complete and error-free application in itself is a standing testimony to a great candidature. If all requested information is inputted to a tee without ambiguity and glaring errors, and it aligns with all the information on the resume; that makes for a great first impression!

Not just that, it also indicates effort and sincerity on part of the applicant if the necessary information is backed by adequate research and sound understanding of what the role demands.

Additional brownie points if there are zero typos, banal grammatical errors, and thoughtless puns. In fact, Richard Polak of American Benefits Council considers typos as crucial deal breakers, and there is absolutely no wiggle room there!

2. Using a resume as a talent showcase

A tastefully done resume is one that goes beyond mentioning the bare skeletals of educational details, references, and work history. Applicants that want to be seen and heard will go beyond this by tapping a resume to its fullest potential. Wondering how?

By going into comprehensive detail about their contributions, team working skills and how it mattered to the larger goal of meeting company objectives, you could enable a more objective and transparent application review process.

When facts and numbers well support this, the resumes can do the talking themselves and will not come across as shallow or make the case for ‘blowing the trumpet.’ Plus, these become interesting talking points in interviews.

3. Ability to tie back value and show unique proposition

A great candidature is one in which applicants do not take the shortcut cookie cutter approach to sending all applications. When an applicant can map how they can add value to the organization they apply for by carefully curating their application to show fitment, it helps gain valuable insights on the applicant’s effort.

It offers a meaningful peek into how sincere they have been in seeking the job. Taking the time to provide insightful responses to resume screening questions or providing precise information in cover letters are two talking points that help applicant processes easier.

4. The one that goes the extra mile with personality

Typically, in a standard application, it is not entirely obvious to see an applicant’s personality reflecting through out and out. But when it happens, you are happy beyond measure.

An application review process helps you take a call on aspects such as culture fit and other workplace relationship dynamics. This tiny nuance demonstrates an applicant's thoughtfulness, creativity, and intention to start a career at your organization.

5. The skill of following instructions laid out by you

The ability to follow instructions indicates a fair amount of diligence from an applicant’s part, and this one thing can be used as a filter to screen for further rounds of interviews.

  • Do applicants complete all sections of an application form and submit documents in the right formats?
  • Do they spend time reading instructions and filling out details without leaving scope for assumptions?

Such aspects offer a fair deal of perspective on how keen and committed applicants are about getting the job besides providing helpful direction in how they would behave during the entire recruitment funnel. Additionally, the ability to answer open-ended questions directly offers insights on their ability to fit into your organization.

6. A clean track record with consistency

Evaluating resumes compels you to deep dive into the applicant’s employment history. Check their job titles and primary duties to see if these experiences match what you need. Besides, carefully review employment dates.

A long career stint with one organization is a good indicator of a successful candidate. A possible red flag could be extremely short stints (less than two years) across several places that are not really backed by genuine reasons.

Additionally, candidates can be evaluated for consistent past performance as they are a precursor to future behavior. Drawing a pattern is useful in deciding if an applicant will make the cut as it helps you identify tinier details such as alignment with the current and future priorities of the applied role.

7. Demonstration of competitive spirit and innovation

A key consideration to look for when evaluating resumes is the following:

  • Is the applicant focused on simply landing the job?
  • Or, do they go a step further to show keenness in building a career at your organization?

This is a crucial indicator of them demonstrating innovative spirit and the ability to grow along with your organization. It would be best if you leaned towards choosing problem-solvers as it is common knowledge that innovation is part problem-solving.

So instead of focusing on just bagging the job, applicants need to be able to showcase their willingness to build a career through innovation.

8. The positioning in a skill assessment grid

Think of the skill assessment grid as a skills matrix; the only difference is that it is for applicants, not employees associated with your organization.

An assessment grid can help you compare applicant resumes systematically and make the resume screening process more objective and human error-free. To build a grid, include the requirements you have laid down in the job description.

In the example below (for recruiting a software engineer), place the job description criteria in the LHS column and rate the applicant based on whether or not they have the skills and experiences you are looking for. You could rank them on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest.

Skill Assessment Grid

9. How the applicants position themselves on LinkedIn

Why not? This is the digital age! Even if you have job applications in front of you, the quickest way to check their legitimacy is to go online and visit the applicants’ LinkedIn profiles. You could check the type of content they post, like and share, and the pages, people or companies they follow.

LinkedIn helps paint a picture of who they are. If they use profanities or post material that is borderline racist or anti-semitic, then they may not be as professional as you first thought they were. That is OK. This is why screening LinkedIn profiles is such an essential part of the process.

Alternatively, you could also bump into applications who like blowing their own trumpet at every opportunity. Such posts can give you an idea about how much they have achieved and whether what they have mentioned in their resumes checks.

In addition, you could also look for recommendations and/or recommendations they have received from their LinkedIn connections. Make this step a part of your application review process.

10. Having enough time to review resumes - pronto

It is all in the process. If you already have a number in mind, multiply it by how many applications you potentially need to review. Allot enough time for processing all resumes accordingly. Your Applicant Tracking System could do most of the parsing on your behalf. But you still need to further filter the resumes at hand.

For that, turn off the ringer on your phone and dedicate all your attention to this task. Distractions could compel you to rush the process, which is precisely what we want to avoid.

Besides, you must determine whether the applicant qualifies for the next phase. After you have screened the resumes, analyzed their skills, qualifications and employment history, it is vital to move the applicant to a phone interview and a pre-employment assessment round.

Those who do not make it pass these stages should be filed away for reference if there is another opportunity in the future.

Over to you

The average length of time it takes for an applicant to hear back from a prospective employer is one to two weeks. Some government bodies can also take as long as eight weeks to get around. The point is - the amount of time it takes to hear back from an organization varies but often depends on the latter’s urgency to fill a vacancy.

Therefore, having a process for reviewing job applications helps. You do not want to waste time as soon as you start getting applications. Hopefully, the steps mentioned earlier will help you review resumes efficiently so you can quickly recognize which applicants are the best fit and move along to the next phase in recruiting.

And if you are looking for a robust pre-employment assessment tool for your organization, check out Adaface. You could test applicants for their coding skills, aptitude, personality, and more. For more information, check our website.

Asavari Sharma

Asavari is an EiR at Adaface. She has made it her mission to help recruiters deploy candidate-friendly skill tests instead of trick-question based tests. When taking a break, she obsesses over art.

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