Inundated with Resumes? How to Screen Hires Quickly

Right now is a bizarre time to be hiring.

We’re at the lowest level of unemployment we’ve seen in 10 years, with the highest number of unfilled jobs, and the longest time to hire (29 days) we’ve ever seen.

And yet, when I talk to employers, some of them are reluctant to post their jobs to job sites. Why?

“We know we’ll get inundated with resumes,” they tell me. Of course, having a flood of good resumes wouldn’t be so bad, but employers are telling me that they’re getting people with absolutely no qualifications applying for jobs.

For example, one told me he had baristas applying for coffee warehousing jobs. Another had construction workers applying to be chefs.


Here’s why you’re getting bad applications

There are several explanations for why. In some states, unemployment requires people to apply to a certain number of jobs each week if they wish to keep receiving their benefits. If they’ve waited until the last minute, or aren’t that interested in finding a job just yet, they may intentionally apply for jobs they don’t qualify for.

That’s probably why you get construction workers applying to be chefs.

The other explanation is people using the shotgun approach to job hunting. They read your job title, and if it’s looks more or less related to what they’re looking for, they jump right to the “apply” button and submit their resume.

This is how you get baristas applying to work at coffee warehouses.

And here’s how you handle all those applications

The first thing I’d recommend is adding a single step to your hiring process.

First, create an email that you automatically send to every single applicant, before you even glance at their resumes or applications.

The email should ask them around 5 specific job-related questions that really make them think. Ask open ended questions that can be answered in many ways. Your questions should take at least 20 minutes to answer.

Here’s what will happen:

The people who are not remotely qualified won’t bother writing you back, either because they can’t answer the questions, or weren’t really interested in the job in the first place.

The qualified candidates will respond. But what you’re looking for are the motivated, energetic candidates. You’ll be able to tell these ones right away by the quality of their answers, and the obvious difference in time and thought they spent answering your questions.

Now you’ve quickly screened that massive pile of resumes down the candidates you actually want to talk to. If you’re worried that your potential hires may not be so inclined toward email or writing their answers, you can also try sending them the questions, and asking them to leave the answers on voicemail.

Additional tips for best results

Quick question:

What do your job posts look like?

If they’re long lists of bullet points with qualifications and responsibilities, this technique may not work so well for you. Since you’re now using this email step of the process to filter applicants, you don’t need to try to scare away bad applicants with such a demanding job post.

The bad applicants aren’t even reading them anyway. The good applicants are, and it’s going to be difficult to get them to take 20 minutes and write good answers to their question if you haven’t convinced them that you’re offering a great job.

So, when you write your post, rather than focusing on all the things you want in an employee, focus on all the reasons a great employee would want to work for you. Keep the qualifications down to the absolutely essential only.

Another tip, if you’re still not getting qualified applicants, is posting in places where your industry is likely to be reading. Here are some top job boards, by industry.