Resume Screening: A How-To Guide for Recruiters

Rohit Rajpal

Senior Writer

Resume Screening: A How-To Guide for Recruiters

The essence of any good recruiting process lies in efficient and effective resume screening. However, it is one of the most time-consuming tasks and can take 23 hours to match an applicant to a role. Another report suggests that each job offer attracts 250 resumes on average, and only 12% meet the requirements.

Looking for Resume Screening Software? Check out SoftwareSuggest’s list of the best Resume Screening Software solutions.

Reviewing each resume manually takes too much time in today’s fast-paced hiring environment. The good news is that modern recruitment software helps automate, streamline, and enhance resume screening. And that’s what we’ll talk about today!

Whether you’re just starting your career as a recruiter or want to enhance your resume screening skills, this blog is for you. We’ll discuss everything from the basics of screening resumes to advanced guidelines. Let’s get started.

What is Resume Screening? 

Resume screening aims to locate the most qualified candidates for an open job. It involves sorting through resumes, manually or through resume screening software, to identify candidates who may be eligible to fill a role.

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Prioritize the 'must-haves' over the 'nice-to-haves' in your resume screening process. While it's tempting to seek candidates who tick every box, be flexible in assessing whether a candidate possesses the core skills and qualifications required for the role. Don't let minor gaps or deviations from the ideal candidate profile automatically disqualify someone. By focusing on essential criteria, you'll increase your chances of identifying talented individuals who can excel and grow within your organization.

This is done by matching the job requirements with the qualifications of the candidate, which may usually include but are not limited to, factors such as

  • Work experience
  • Educational qualifications
  • Skills and knowledge
  • Competencies
  • Personality traits

You can decide whether to proceed with a candidate’s interview process or reject them based on these factors. That said, let’s understand the resume screening process.

Resume Screening

How to Screen Resumes? 

As mentioned above, manual resume screening is an essential step in the hiring process that helps employers identify the most qualified candidates for a job opening. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to effectively screen resumes.

1. Establish Clear Job Criteria

When screening resumes, carefully review the job description and extract all required and preferred qualifications, skills, experience, and other attributes critical for success in the role. Align the criteria with overall business goals and prioritize must-have qualifications. Ensure the hiring team is fully aligned on the criteria before beginning screening.

2. Create a Resume Screening Checklist

Develop a checklist outlining structured criteria for resume evaluation, with sections assessing work experience, skills, achievements, qualifications, cultural fit, etc. Use a consistent rating scale to grade each section based on expectations. Ensure critical skills hold more value in the screening process.

3. Review Cover Letter and Resume Objective

Read the candidate’s cover letter and resume objective to gauge their enthusiasm, goals, and understanding of the role and company culture. Assess their motivation and interest in the opportunity based on the cover letter content and messaging.

4. Assess Relevant Work Experience

When screening CVs, focus on the candidate’s work experience. Look for positions and responsibilities that closely align with your hiring job. Pay attention to the duration of employment and the relevance of their roles.

5. Skills and Achievements

When screening resumes, evaluate the candidate’s skills and achievements. Look for specific accomplishments, quantifiable results, and relevant skills that match the job requirements. Pay attention to any achievements that demonstrate the candidate’s ability to excel in the role.

6. Gauge Cultural Fit

Look for indicators of work styles, values, interests, and soft skills that appear aligned with company culture and environment. Assess critical soft skills like communication, integrity, problem-solving, teamwork, etc., vital for high performance.

What are the Guidelines for Effective Resume Screening? 

Apart from the abovementioned tactics, you must also follow these tips for screening resumes more effectively.

Guidelines for Effective Resume Screening

1. Talk To The Hiring Manager

Have an in-depth discussion with the hiring manager to ensure you understand the role and ideal candidate similarly. The hiring manager may share additional insights beyond the job description about must-have qualifications, critical skills, and preferred experiences that will help guide your screening. Align closely on criteria before reviewing resumes.

2. Look For Resume Red Flags

Carefully review employment timelines and watch for resume red flags like frequent job changes, long gaps between roles, and inconsistent or questionable dates. However, avoid making assumptions – follow up diplomatically during interviews to allow candidates to explain any concerns.

3. Identify Potential Keyword Stuffing

Be alert for candidates who may have stuffed resumes with irrelevant keywords just to pass through tracking systems. Look for fluency and consistent use of key industry terms related to their legitimate skills and experience. Beware of keyword stuffing that doesn’t align with the rest of the resume.

4. Incorporate Testing Into Screening

Consider introducing short tests as part of the resume screening process to evaluate abilities and skills beyond just listed qualifications. Alternatively, tests can be used after initial screening to vet top candidates further before interviews. Well-designed tests provide an additional layer of validation.

5. Look Beyond Minimum Qualifications

Keep an eye out for details that give a candidate an edge, like foreign language skills, specialized certifications, published research, or other achievements that show they go beyond the minimum or preferred requirements. Additionally, check how well they align with the job and company culture to ensure they’re the right fit. 

6. Pay Attention To Details

Look for spelling and grammar errors that may signal proficiency, accuracy, or attention to detail issues. Quantifiable facts and figures on achievements add more validity to claims. Recognitions and awards can indicate proven performance. Hobbies may provide insights into the candidate’s personality and cultural fit.

What Are The Benefits of Using Resume Screening Software? 

If you are skeptical about implementing resume screening software, let us look at some of its benefits. It includes reduced turnover rates, a more cost-effective process, and confident hiring decisions. 

Benefits of Using Resume Screening Software

1. Decrease Turnover Rates

Implementing resume screening software can help organizations dramatically decrease turnover rates and costs. These tools optimize the screening process through features like automated matching algorithms, skills assessments, and integrated scoring rubrics. The software can parse through high volumes of resumes and identify the strongest candidates for open roles much faster than manual screening.

2. Eliminate Costly Screening Calls

The initial screening stage is exceptionally critical in the entire hiring process. The traditional recruitment process can be tedious and time-consuming. Hiring managers who use phone calls to screen their candidates spend significant time interviewing every applicant. 

This is where recruitment software can help. Automated resume screening ensures that only qualified candidates are shortlisted so that recruiters and hiring managers do not have to spend vast amounts of time on the phone to screen candidates.

3. Make More Confident Hiring Decisions

Recruiters can administer various tests to assess a candidate’s problem-solving, logical reasoning, and interpersonal skills using resume screening software. This might give a good idea of whether the candidate fits your company culture well. 

4. Seamlessly Integrate With In-house Talent Management Solutions

The best resume screening software solutions can help you with every aspect of the hiring process, including attracting applications, sourcing resumes, screening them, coordinating interviews, extending offers, and managing the onboarding process. 

Most resume screening software solutions can easily integrate with your existing HR management technology stack and further streamline the process.

Challenges of Implementing Resume Screening Software and How to Overcome Them?

Even though implementing AI-driven resume screening software can be immensely beneficial, recruiters must be careful about certain things. The most common challenges of implementing resume screening software solutions include reliability issues, parsing errors, biases, and language barriers.

Challenges of Implementing Resume Screening Software and How to Overcome Them

1. Reliability

Reliability remains the most significant concern, as AI-based recruiting tools may have several inconsistencies and flaws. AI-powered recruitment technology is still in its initial stages. It might not recognize patterns in a resume as well as you might expect. 

For instance, an applicant tracking system might reject a resume because the applicant might have used a different font. The scanner might be unable to read an unusual format, page orientation, or picture placement. 

The only way to solve these challenges is by feeding more and more data into these tools. AI uses data to analyze patterns and combinations. To get more accurate predictive analysis with the help of AI, they need a massive amount of data to derive reliable conclusions. 

2. Biases

AI recruiting tools work by analyzing old patterns. One of the main reasons we use AI tools is to reduce human biases in selecting candidates based on their name, age, gender, nationality, and more. 

However, these resume screening software solutions might unknowingly bring bias into the system. When you feed your company’s recruitment data for the last ten years into the system, it learns from it. It picks up the previous patterns. 

This challenge was faced by Amazon’s recruitment system, where they found that the system was biased against female candidates. This was because the last ten years’ data showed a bias against females. 

The algorithm had no idea that it needed to ignore that pattern. Thus, hiring managers need to be extra careful about the algorithm being deployed.

3. Language Barriers

A key challenge is that resume screening software relies heavily on natural language processing (NLP) to parse and interpret resume content. However, AI currently has limitations in comprehending human language’s nuances, contextual meanings, and emotions.

For example, an algorithm that matches resume details to job criteria may misinterpret idioms and cultural references. This can result in qualified candidates being overlooked if the NLP cannot fully understand their accomplishments or skills as written

However, rapid advances are being made in NLP and contextual language understanding. With further development, AI will become more adept at analyzing the deeper meaning and intent within words and phrases. Rather than just commands, it can recognize and interpret emotions, opinions, cultures, and linguistics.

In the meantime, the best way to overcome language barrier challenges is by ensuring resume screening criteria and job descriptions use clear, simple language free of cultural references or colloquialisms that could trip up the NLP algorithms.

4. Parsing Errors

Another common challenge when using a resume screening service is inaccurate data extraction during resume parsing. Most screening software uses AI-powered parsing to extract relevant details like a candidate’s employment history, skills, education, and other qualifications from resumes. However, if the algorithms misread key information during parsing, it can impact candidate matching and scoring.

For example, work tenure may be parsed incorrectly if non-standard date formats are used. Uncommon job titles and skills can also trip up parsing algorithms. Any critical details misinterpreted during parsing can cause qualified candidates to be overlooked.

Careful upfront optimization of the parsing models and extensive QA testing on sample resumes of varying formats can help minimize errors. Some software also allows manual correction of parsed resumes to improve the parsing engine over time through machine learning.


Hiring the right people at the right time is critical for organizational success. Streamlining the entire process of screening resumes through automation and technology is vital to achieving this efficiently. Resume screening software provides an excellent solution to help companies standardize, accelerate, and optimize how they evaluate high volumes of applicants against open roles.

Frequently Asked Questions

The goal of resume screening is to efficiently filter a large pool of applicants to identify the most qualified candidates for a given role. It aims to surface the best candidates for interviews. An effective screening process is critical for minimizing time-to-fill and ensuring candidate quality.

Screening resumes involves manually reviewing each resume and evaluating the candidate's skills, experience, and education against pre-defined criteria. This can be slow and inconsistent. Manual screening lacks scalability and makes it difficult to compare candidates objectively.

Common screening criteria include required qualifications, years of relevant experience, education, key skills, achievements, awards, certifications, etc. The criteria depend on the role requirements. Criteria should be directly tied to bonafide occupational qualifications that predict success.

Yes, manual screening and subjective evaluations can lead to unconscious bias. Structured processes and AI tools help reduce bias in screening. Additionally, providing screeners with anti-bias training and blinding demographic information also helps combat discrimination.

Optimize screening by establishing clear criteria, using ATS to parse and match resumes, creating screening checklists, standardizing questions, and training screeners to avoid bias. Also, take a data-driven, structured approach and regularly conduct adverse impact analyses to detect disparities.

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