By Jason Blais
According to the January Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine (HWOL) report [PDF], just over 2.5 million new jobs were advertised online in January - an increase of 16.1 percent from December, and a jump of 12.1 percent over one year ago.
If you're among the job posters, you've probably already received more resumes this year than you care to think about... and they're still flooding in.
While most recruiters and hiring managers I've known have associated resume screening with reading the dictionary from front to back, and have pushed this down to the most entry-level administrative staff, how you manage this process is critical.
Some important keys to keep in mind from both a strategic perspective and an administrative one:
Close your door, shut down your email, and turn off your phone. When you're screening resumes, only screen resumes. This is the first step in bringing great new employees onboard to help your organization be productive and profitable. Give it the time and attention it deserves.
Require an online application from every applicant, even if it requires that you assist an applicant with the process. Capturing applicant data in a database allows you to efficiently search the applications and resumes for keywords, phrases, education requirements, etc. With online resources, you can also sort applicant data to help you keep track of great candidates that you didn't hire this time around.
Read every resume. This may require the most time, but it's also the most effective method of ensuring that you're making the best hire for every position every time.
Be inclusive in your screening process. Don't focus on eliminating candidates, focus on what each candidate can add to the job. In today's ever-changing business climate, you can give your organization an advantage by hiring candidates with skill sets that allow for growth and adaptation. Look for auxiliary skills that could potentially add value to the current job opening or to your organization as a whole.
Build a talent community. As you screen resumes and build a list of applicants worthy of a first-level interview (or phone screen), invite those finalists to join your talent pipeline. You may have five great candidates for one open position, and while you can't hire them all, you can stay connected and keep them interested for future opportunities. This is a great way to keep your recruitment advertising costs down over the long term.
Set up realistic expectations for all applicants regarding your response to their resume. If you accept resumes in person, make sure your signage indicates that you won't be calling every applicant back. When accepting resumes online, send an automatically generated email that both acknowledges receipt of the submission, and sets realistic expectations of your follow-up process. This will cut down on subsequent emails and phone calls from applicants, wondering whether you've reviewed their resume or filled the position.
Don't bother separating out unsolicited resumes in your filing system. While there are different regulations governing the retention of resumes based on whether they are solicited or unsolicited, this distinction is often too difficult to prove one way or another. Save yourself the heartburn, and treat all your resumes the same.
Make it easy on yourself. Keep every resume you get for two years, and make a regular practice of purging older resumes. If you have more than 20 employees, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to you, and dictates that you hold on to every resume for at least one year. If you are a federal contractor, you are required to retain these documents for two years.
Use an applicant tracking system (ATS) or other database system to save all applications and resumes online. This is always the best practice as you can search resumes more efficiently, and can group them by any number of criteria. Or...
File resumes and applications by Month and Job Title. This is by far the safest and most efficient way to file resumes so you can find them quickly in the event you need to defend a hiring decision, especially if you don't have an ATS. Example: If you post a job opening in January for a Java Developer, and accept resumes from January until March, file all the resumes under January, then under Java Developer. If you post a second opening in June for the same position, you'll want to file that in June- this way you are grouping all resumes in relation to the job posting they applied to.