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How to Read a Resume Like Sherlock Holmes

Resumés are such a standard part of the job application process that most hiring managers and recruiters intrinsically develop a sixth sense for resumés that are trying to mislead them or otherwise obscure weaknesses in the candidate.

But resumés can also begin to run together over time, and resumé reviews can turn into a perfunctory process where red flags get missed. Every resumé tells a story that is deeper than just the words printed on the page. They potentially contain secrets that can be spelled out only if you read between the lines. But how do you do that?

Think of it this way: how would a sharp and investigative mind like Sherlock Holmes read a resumé?

Has the job applicant left salient facts unsaid?
When reading a resume, attention is naturally drawn to the information stated on the document. Sometimes, however, job applicants can use this fact to draw the recruiter’s attention away from things that have been left unsaid. One example is leaving months off of dates. There’s a big difference between someone working at a company between December 2018 and February 2019 (3 months) and someone working from January 2018 to December 2019 (24 months). Yet both potential applicants could simply write 2018 to 2019. Look for what goes unsaid.

Follow the applicant’s footprints closely. Does their job path make sense?
As you look for what has been left unsaid, try to determine if there is a story that the job applicant is trying to gloss over. For example, do the dates and job roles line up with duties and accomplishments? This is how you understand a job applicant’s career trajectory. Have they seen consistent promotions and increasing job responsibilities over time, or is there unevenness here? This is where you might be able to spot some misleading information. Do they have more significant accomplishments earlier rather than later in their career or in job roles where those accomplishments don’t make sense?

Do the applicant’s claims check out?
Most recruiters will spend some time trying to verify information that’s on the resumé, e.g., by contacting references. Another good idea is to look at the applicant’s LinkedIn profile, if they have one. Make sure you scrutinize different sources of information to ensure that everything is consistent and in alignment. It’s not necessarily nefarious if it’s not; for example, the applicant might not be an active user of LinkedIn, so their LinkedIn profile may not be up to date. But if there are inconsistencies, it’s worth investigating.

Is the job applicant searching for work on their current employer’s time?
Pay attention to off-page details. For example, what email does the job applicant use to submit the resume? Is it a company email or a personal one? At what time of day that they submit the resume? If they’re spending time submitting a job application in the middle of the day while they’re currently employed, that suggests they’re job hunting on their current employer’s dime. They might be inclined to do the same thing to you.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.

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