How to shortlist when you’re overwhelmed with resumes

While unemployment is at a 20-year high, job vacancies are beginning to rise once more, after COVID-19 sent many businesses into lockdown.

In August 2020 alone there were 206,000 total job vacancies in Australia – an increase of 59.4% from May 2020. In New Zealand, while the number of jobs advertised online is lower than pre-COVID, the figures from June 2020 onwards have been improving month-on-month.

But while numerous jobs are being re-added to the economy, they are quickly met by a much bigger wave of job seekers trying to re-enter the labour market.

The result? A flood of applications for every position advertised.

What do these statistics mean for employers?

This situation translates into two key consequences:

So how do you shortlist high volumes of resumes?

Screening resumes is time-consuming. In fact, it can take up to 23 hours per hire. Much of this time is spent filtering out irrelevant resumes, with as many as 75-88% of applicants unqualified.

This creates challenges such as longer lead time to hire, and missing out on top talent when the market is competitive. Not to mention the sometimes overwhelming feeling of sifting through hundreds of resumes!

These easy-to-follow steps can help with screening numerous resumes quickly, so you can find your ideal candidate and keep your business moving:

1. Be firm about minimum qualifications and experience in your job post.

Create a decisive list that ticks off the experience, education and skills required for the role. Be firm in your language, and consider including instructions such as “We kindly ask you not to apply if you do not meet the following requirements”.

2. Use technology to review high volumes of resumes.

Once the resumes start pouring in, there’s no need review them manually. Rather, choose an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to manage the process. They are simple to implement and use, and there are plenty of free or low-cost options available to small businesses (explored below).

3. Establish a realistic target for your shortlist.

You will only have the time and resources to interview a certain number of candidates. Establish your shortlist number, and then use your ATS to whittle the resumes down to that target.

4. Screen for minimum qualifications first.

With job seekers applying for roles outside of their expertise, this is a highly effective way to remove unqualified applicants. Minimum qualifications might include:

  • The candidate’s legal work status, such as right-to-work in the country.
  • Any non-negotiable skills, education or experience.

5. Screen for preferred qualifications second.

Once you have a smaller list of candidates that meet your minimum requirements, you can screen for nice-to-have qualifications, which may include:

  • Evidence of soft skills such as creative thinking, or ability to communicate effectively.
  • Qualifications, licenses and experience above and beyond the minimum requirements.

6. Refine your shortlist of candidates to interview.

By now you’ll have a shortlist, meaning it’s time to interview. If you need to reduce your shortlist further, consider the following additional screening strategies:

  • Manually review cover letters for those that stand out.
  • Request work samples or portfolios.
  • Ask shortlisted candidates to complete a company/role-specific exercise.

7. Pre-offer background checks.

Eliminate the risk of moving unqualified candidates to the final stage by automating or outsourcing tasks such as qualification checks, reference checks, child worker safety checks, and police checks. Use a third-party background screening service to affordably verify candidates, saving you precious time.

8. Automate responses.

Every applicant is entitled to a response, whether they are successful or not. Most ATS will allow you to streamline this process with automated but personable emails that are generated as you move through the steps above.

How to choose your Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Also known as a Talent Management System, an ATS is a software program that automates a range of recruitment tasks including posting your job ad, screening resumes, pre-interview testing, interview planning, interview evaluation and candidate communication (via email and sometimes chatbots). An ATS will also provide invaluable tracking data, including where your candidate found your job posting.

The good news is that there are a number of quality free and low-cost solutions to consider.

ATS with free options

Low-cost ATS options

An ATS can be used to screen for minimum and preferred qualifications by scanning for keywords, but be mindful:

  • An ATS may not be intelligent enough to recognise the potential of a candidate from outside the industry with transferable skills.
  • Qualified candidates may be filtered out because they fail to meet keyword filters, while unqualified candidates can be filtered in by including as many keywords as possible.
  • An ATS may also have difficulty reading documents with anything but the most basic formatting.

CVCheck is an integration partner with some of Australia and New Zealand’s leading ATS, such as LiveHire, SmartRecruiters, JobAdder, SnapHire, PageUp, Springboard and LinkedIn Talent Hub. This allows you to streamline your recruitment process and tick off your pre-employment background screening on one convenient platform.

A final piece of advice

You read about our integration partners here, or watch our demo below to find out more. By using technology to streamline the recruitment process, your candidates will be kept in the loop, improving their experience and regard for your business. With the right tricks for managing large volumes of applications, you can be confident in your hiring choice and avoid feeling overwhelmed!

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