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A more efficient alternative to resume evaluation


How much time do you spend evaluating resumes? According to a 2018 study by Ladders, recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds per resume.

That’s 1.4 seconds more than reported in earlier Ladders study, but not by much! Of course, there’s a reason for that. There are too many other important hiring tasks that have to be done to spend days on resume evaluation.

The resume evaluation process is broken

According to research by Glassdoor, the average job application attracts 250 resumes. And that’s just the average. At TestGorilla, we regularly work with companies hiring for roles that can receive that many resumes in a single day! That makes the resume evaluation process a grueling endeavor, especially for smaller teams.

Out of all those resumes, Glassdoor’s research indicates that only 2% of applicants will actually be invited for an interview. That means that out of 250 candidates, only five are invited to the next stage of the process. 

Why are so few applicants invited for interviews? It could be that only five candidates possess the experience and skills necessary to warrant an interview. On the other hand, hiring managers receive so many applications, it may be that they just didn’t have time to interview every promising candidate, so some qualified candidates had to be left out.

If only five out of 250 candidates are qualified, wouldn’t it be better to make that determination before evaluating all 250 resumes? Perhaps more importantly, if there are more than five qualified candidates, wouldn’t you rather find a way to identify each of those candidates more efficiently, so you could interview all of them?

One-way video interviews won’t help

It’s not uncommon for employers to request that candidates submit a video along with or in lieu of a traditional application in order to weed out applicants who aren’t serious about the role. In fact, a whole new software category has emerged to support the practice. By requiring a video, employers can get a better sense of what a candidate is like, and the extra effort weeds out resume spammers.

Some employers ask for very short videos (e.g., ten minutes or less), but it’s not unheard of for an employer to ask for a greater time investment. Some companies utilize software that conducts an entire interview by video, prompting the applicant with questions and giving them a time limit for each answer. This is called a one-way video interview.

The case against video one-way video interviews

First, these do not automatically determine a candidate’s skill level. In other words, you still must watch the videos, which takes time. And even after you have watched all of the videos, you don’t truly know if the candidate has the skills they claim to have.

The number one complaint from candidates about video applications is that they are impersonal. And unlike a traditional interview, these videos are a one-way street. The employer gets information from the candidate, but the candidate does not get anything in return (i.e., they’re not able to ask any questions about the company).

And just imagine how they will feel when you invite them to a more traditional interview after all that!

Lastly, requiring video opens the door to conscious and unconscious bias. Rather than assessing a candidate on their skills and experience, you may find (or fail to realize) that you are letting irrelevant considerations factor into your decision-making process without meaning to. Should having a nose ring or looking like your ex-boyfriend play a role in whether or not someone gets the job?

Resume screening tools won’t help either

Many companies turn to resume screening tools to evaluate resumes more efficiently. These tools are conveniently included with most ATS software, but there are a number of problems with this approach

The case against resume screening software

First, you surrender any competitive advantage you could gain over other employers competing for the same talent because you’re using similar software that is likely screening for similar keywords.

Second, many qualified candidates aren’t skilled in resume writing. That means they may leave out some keywords that would have helped them make it through the screening process just because they didn’t know any better.

But an increasing number of candidates are learning how to game the system.

Google the phrase ‘resume scanner’ and you’ll see that all of the top results are dedicated to instructing candidates on how to beat resume screening software to win an interview.

Just because a candidate knows (or can Google) what keywords to use doesn’t mean they actually possess those skills. 

The best alternative to resume evaluation

Instead of basing your hiring process on who knows what keywords to add to their resume, select candidates based on who possesses the skills you need for the role. 

The way to do that is by using an online skills assessment tool earlier in the hiring funnel.

Typically, candidates will be asked to take an assessment at some point after the resume evaluation process (if at all). You can hire much more efficiently by assessing skills earlier in the process. 

How much earlier? Right away!

Develop an assessment and instead of asking for resumes, provide a link for candidates to take the assessment.

The benefits of using skills assessments at the top of the hiring funnel

This approach offers benefits to both the hiring manager and the candidate.

  1. Candidates don’t have to worry that they’ll miss out on an interview due to a faulty resume screening process. Instead, they will have a fair opportunity to showcase their skills.

  2. The hiring manager doesn’t have to go through hundreds of resumes (many of which are typically submitted by resume spammers who didn’t even read the job description).

  3. Rather than selling themselves in a resume and cover letter (which isn’t usually the strong suit of candidates applying to jobs outside of the sales or marketing industries), the candidate knows that they will be judged on their skills alone.

  4. Instead of relying only on the skills and experience listed in a candidate’s resume, the hiring manager can see quantifiable proof that the candidate does in fact possess the skills needed for the role.

  5. Anonymized online skills assessments reduce the impact of conscious and unconscious bias, which will increase diversity at your company and reduce the risk of future lawsuits.

There’s also research to suggest that a more intensive application process could lead the employees you do hire to value their jobs more highly. This is explained by the effort heuristic, which holds that an object’s perceived value is tied to the amount of effort that went into attaining that object.

The primary study shows people are willing to undergo more effort than might seem reasonable, and that the additional effort seems to affect their perception of the object of their effort once it is attained.

As the study notes, “all else equal, people tend to believe that a painting that takes two days to paint is better than one that takes two [hours].”

It’s also important to remember that an assessment doesn’t have to require a huge time commitment from candidates. For example, a TestGorilla assessment can be as short as 10 minutes. 

So you could choose a single test from our Test Library that will assess your candidate’s skill level in one of the areas you feel is most important (e.g, attention to detail, culture add, Shopify, Google Analytics, or Leadership & people management). That way, you can significantly reduce the number of candidates you need to evaluate by removing resume spammers and people who are weak in that particular area.

Now instead of a big stack of random resumes, you can prioritize the remaining candidates by skill level.

But what if good candidates aren’t willing to take the assessment?

Some recruiters worry that they will miss out on good candidates by requiring an assessment. This may be a legitimate concern if you aren’t receiving a large enough number of candidates to make resume evaluation a challenge. But if you’re receiving so many applicants that you don’t have time to go through them all, then you’ll have to consider the trade-offs.

You have three options:

  1. Rely on resume scanning software that rewards people who know the right keywords over people who actually have the right skills.

  2. Get through as many resumes as possible and toss the rest. But then a lot of great candidates won’t even get a look just because they submitted their application later than the others.

  3. Use something like an online skills assessment so that everyone gets a chance to showcase their skills.

Which sounds like the best option for your organization? Which would you prefer if you were a candidate?

Hire more efficiently by holding off on resume evaluation

The best way to evaluate resumes is not to evaluate them at all—at least not at first. Aside from the time required to review hundreds of resumes, research suggests that resumes aren’t even predictive of on-the-job success. A study conducted by the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa found that “top resume ‘boosts’ like years of relevant education and experience, interests, and GPA had little to no correlation to later job performance. In other words, a century of data tells us that the candidate with the highest number of degrees, straight A’s, and work experiences — even in the “right” industry — isn’t always the ‘right’ candidate.”

So, instead of focusing on resumes at the beginning of the candidate selection process, use a well-crafted online skills assessment to find the most dedicated candidates and prioritize them by skill level. Then you only need to evaluate the resumes of qualified candidates. 

That way everyone who has the necessary skills gets a fair shot at the opportunity, and you don’t waste any time on the vast majority of applications that aren’t a good fit.


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