One of HR professional’s daily tasks is to to go through as many job applicants’ resumes as they can. On average, HR professionals spend 15 seconds checking one CV. Only 20% of those will be selected, while the remaining 80% of job applicants’ resumes will end up deleted. So this begs an obvious question: how can you tell the quality of a candidate’s CV in such a short time?

Resumes are not always easy to deal with. I conclude this based on the ups and downs in the recruitment business during the past 15 years. For instance, before a recruitment consultant sends a candidate’s resume to an in-house HR manager to arrange interviews, he needs to communicate with the candidate on each part of the CV. This way, the consultant can make sure that the candidate is not trying to hide anything. In this regard, I would ask every HR professional to understand the hidden pitfalls in judging applicants’ resumes. From a recruitment perspective, I can offer some help to HR people on how to see what may be hidden on an interviewee’s resume.

Education Background

As far as educational background is concerned, we can look at a university or college name, major subjects and academic degrees. HR staff should be aware that the term

“college” does not necessarily mean a place of higher education. For instance, there are many Trinity Colleges in the UK, not all of which would be classified as quality higher education. Third level universities in China are an example that illustrates how some interviewees can mislead on their academic credentials. Universities are divided into three levels in China, with the third level representing the lowest level. However, some third level universities share the same name with a first level university, so it is important to do some verifying at an early stage.

Job Title

Another pitfall that requires HR professionals to be alert is job titles. In different industries, the same job responsibilities might have different titles. For instance,

“Social Media Executive” might be called “Social Network Consultant” in different companies but have the same job responsibilities. By taking advantage of the job title, some interviewees exaggerate the importance of their job. A typical example of this can be seen in Michael Shermer, the Founding Publisher of Skeptic Magazine, who was drawn into the whirlpool of a fabricated job title in 2010. He claimed in his public lectures that he was the Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University. As a matter of fact, his job was to assist a professor in some occasional courses in the trans-disciplinary study program of the university. He did not hold any appointment in the university, but that didn’t stop him from exaggerating his job title. All in all, every HR person should scrutinize interviewees’ job titles.

Intervals of each professional experience

A third tip concerns the time between each period of work experience. It is important to match the reason for resignation and the interval without work. Under some circumstances the interviewee may not always be straightforward. Therefore, HR people should always scrutinize periods of work experience. For people who claim to be self-employed or working part-time, you can always dig a little deeper. It is up to HR professionals to either filter them out immediately or keep your questions until the interview.

Marriage and Children

The fourth pitfall is a sensitive gender issue. In most countries, laws protecting a woman’s right to motherhood are in place. In the cruel and fierce business world, however, positions might not be held for long if female employees become pregnant. Therefore, some female interviewees are not always frank about their marital status. A few weeks ago, one of my consultants said that his candidate failed to get an expected offer from a client because she had lied about her marital status. She was married without a child, but her resume stated that she was unmarried, as she was afraid that she might lose the job opportunity. On this issue, HR professionals should not discriminate on gender grounds, whereas job applicants should be absolutely honest and forthcoming.

Job Responsibilities

Before accepting a candidate’s resume , HR professionals should check descriptions of job responsibilities. Sometimes applicants simply list their job responsibilities from the original job descriptions. These two concepts are very different from each other. Job responsibilities consist of what a person actually does in a position, while job descriptions are general guidelines for applicants. To be specific, I will take a “Digital Planner” as an example. The job description requires candidates “to perform market research and apply this in their daily work”. Applicants who write this sort of thing on resumes lack creativity and applicants who are more specific on job responsibilities should be prioritized.

Job Achievements

This is the favorite part of every application – the opportunity to “show off”. You can imagine those who wish to find good jobs sitting in front of their computers racking their brains about what they have achieved in their current job. For example, those who attribute a team’s achievements to themselves should not be hired, as they do not value teamwork. On the other hand, some applicants might be neglected because their achievements, while authentic, do not look spectacular. Imagine looking at “improved financial performance in the fourth quarter” or “increased financial performance by 20%” on two different resumes, and think about which one sounds more attractive.

Credibility of Honors or Awards

The last pitfall is the description of honors and awards on an Interviewee’s CV. When I interviewed executive search consultants in the past, I found some applicants put awards such as “Top Biller of an Area in 2012”. Further examination revealed suspicion about the award’s credibility. The honor or award on a resume does not necessarily guarantee the quality of the applicant’s achievement.

By sharing my experience on screening candidate resumes, I hope that HR professionals can re-evaluate the traditional way of selecting applicants based on the quality of the CV. This is important because now basic screening is often done by junior staffers, and all need to adopt a skeptical attitude in dealing with applicants’ resumes.

(Pic via Business Tianjin)