Much of this information is excerpted from ADP Screening & Selection Services, Inc. – the company we use to do our criminal and driving background checks.
The checklist below will help you keep in mind what to look for when reviewing resumes and employment applications. This list will highlight areas that might be a good reason to outright reject the applicant or might indicate that you need to get more information either during reference checking or during an interview with the applicant.
Appearance and organization of resume – Watch for resumes that make little or no reference to prior employers and length of employment, sloppy resumes, and resumes without cover letters. A preferred resume contains the applicant’s employment in reverse chronological order.
Cover letter – All resumes should be accompanied by a cover letter. It should introduce the applicant, state the position for which he or she is applying, and mention some highlights of his or her background relative to the position for which the resume was submitted.
Spelling & Grammar – Check for errors in spelling and grammar because this shows sloppiness, carelessness, and an inattention to detail. If someone knows they aren’t great spellers or knowledgeable about proper grammar, they should enlist a friend or family member to review the resume for spelling and grammar.
Experience – Does the resume show the experience that fits the company’s needs? An applicant with previous experience with the same or similar job duties will need less training than an applicant without experience.
Education – Does the applicant have too much education for the position? Will they be looking for a better job very soon? When education is a requirement, make sure you check the applicant’s level of education. Words to watch out for are “studied” or “took courses” or “attended” because these words might signal that they did not graduate.
Transferable Skills – If an applicant lacks experience in the specific job they applied for, they might have skills that would transfer between jobs. For instance, if they were in customer service at a store, they could easily be a great guest service (front desk) attendant.
Abilities that can’t be trained – In some positions, no amount of training can replace a natural ability or quality such as people skills. However, be careful not to use these types of ability as your sole basis for selection.
Gaps in employment – Employment gaps are not always bad, they could be a result of a layoff or family issues but they could also signal a prison term or a job that the applicant doesn’t want you to ask about. Get the gaps filled in during a phone or in-person interview.
Jobs held for less than 2 years – It might be common in some lines of work to hold jobs for less than two years but a pattern of many jobs lasting less than two years might also signal a record or poor performance, instability, or unreliability.
Frequent changes in career paths – Has the applicant changed career paths often? This also can indicate instability and an inability to make decisions and stick with them.
Descriptions of positions – Did the applicant list duties rather than responsibilities? Be aware of the difference between what the applicant actually did versus what they were supposed to do.
Organizational vs. Personal Accomplishments – It is important to find out how the applicant contributed to the accomplishments of the organization.
Progression UP or ACROSS the career ladder – It might indicate a problem employee if they have many jobs within one organization but the moves don’t indicate advancement.
Career stepping stones – Is the applicant interested in this position or is it a stepping stone to another position?