Resume Screening Guide For Recruiters

by Staffer Team

Resume screening is still the most time - consuming part of recruiting: screening resumes is estimated to take up to 23 hours for just one hire.

When a job opening receives 250 resumes on average and 75% to 88% of them are unqualified, it’s no wonder the majority of talent acquisition leaders still find the hardest part of recruitment is screening the right candidates from a large applicant pool.

Advances in recruitment technology have added automation to candidate sourcing with recruitment marketing and to candidate interviewing with video interviews. However, technological innovations to address the biggest pain point in recruiting—screening resumes—has been frustratingly absent until recently.

The time spent on screening resumes often takes up the largest portion of time-to-fill. With today’s competitive candidate-driven talent market, top talent only stays on the market for 10 days on average.

To help you solve the biggest bottleneck in recruiting, we created this how-to guide on resume screening and how technology is changing how recruiters screen candidates.

What is resume screening?

Resume screening is the process of determining whether a candidate is qualified for a role based his or her education, experience, and other information captured on their resume.

In a nutshell, it’s a form of pattern matching between a job’s requirements and the qualifications of a candidate based on their resume.

The goal of screening resumes is to decide whether to move a candidate forward – usually onto an interview – or to reject them.

How to screen resumes

Screening resumes usually involves a three-step process based on the role’s minimum and preferred qualifications. Both types of qualifications should be related to on-the-job performance and are ideally captured in the job description.

These qualifications can include:

  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Skills and knowledge
  • Personality traits
  • Competencies

Step 1: Screening resumes based on minimum qualifications

Minimum qualifications are the mandatory qualifications that a candidate must meet to be able to do the job. A simple example of a minimum qualification is whether the candidate is legally able to work in the country.

These types of qualifications are often considered knockouts because either the candidate has it and can move forward or they don’t and gets screened out of the process.

Candidates that meet the minimum qualifications move onto the second step of screening resumes.

Step 2: Screening resumes based on preferred qualifications

Preferred qualifications are non-mandatory characteristics that would make someone a stronger candidate for the job. A common example of a preferred qualification is whether the candidate has prior related work experience.

These types of qualifications are often called nice-to-haves and are generally more qualitative than minimum qualifications (e.g. strong communication skills).

Candidates that meet both the minimum and preferred qualifications move onto the shortlisting step of resume screening.

Step 3: Shortlisting candidates based on minimum and preferred qualifications

Deciding which candidates gets shortlisted for the interview phase depends on your recruiting needs.

For high volume recruitment, generally all candidates that meet the minimum qualifications move forward to the interview process. For low volume recruitment, generally only the top few candidates that meet both the minimum and preferred qualifications receive an interview.

You can determine how many candidates you should shortlist using your recruitment conversion rates.

Based on recruiting data, the average recruitment conversion rates are:

  • 12% for application to interview
  • 17% for interview to offer
  • 89% for offer to acceptance

That means for every 100 candidates you screen, you need to shortlist 12 of them to interview, two of them will receive an offer, and one candidate will accept to result in one successful hire.

The important thing to remember is that your screening process is applied consistently and objectively across all resumes.

Screening Challenges

According to a recent survey of talent acquisition leaders, the most important recruiting KPI is quality of hire followed by time to fill.

Both quality of hire and time to fill are influenced by your resume screening process.


The biggest challenge of screening resumes by far is volume.

The number of resumes received is one of the biggest factors that increases time to fill. An average job opening receives 250 resumes and up to 88% of them are considered unqualified. This means a recruiter can spend up to 23 hours screening resumes for a single hire.

The usual solution for the volume problem is using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS is a must-have software for recruitment and talent acquisition departments, because it organizes all the resumes received for each role.

An ATS usually allows for some measure of automating resume screening through keyword matches or knockout questions.

However, an ATS has some well known weaknesses.

For example, an ATS can screen in a candidate as a false positive based on keyword stuffing or screen out a candidate as a false negative because he or she doesn’t meet the keyword filters but has strong qualifications otherwise.

Quality of hire

60% of talent acquisition leaders’ top recruiting KPI is quality of hire:

  • 50% measure quality of hire through new hires’ performance
  • 49% measure quality of hire through turnover
  • 43% measure quality of hire through hiring manager satisfaction

While an ATS may be effective for reducing resume volume, traditional ATS software isn’t designed to measure quality of hire. Because an ATS doesn’t have a way to learn which candidates who went on to become successful and unsuccessful employees, it can’t improve its screening function.

An ATS’s limited functionality means recruiters need different software tools help them achieve their most important KPIs including quality of hire.

In conclusion, review this summary of resume screening tips:

  1. Definition: Resume screening is the process of determining whether a candidate is qualified for a role based his or her education, experience, and other information captured on their resume.
  2. How to screen resumes: First, screen resumes based on the job’s minimum qualifications. Second, screen resumes based on the job’s preferred qualifications. Third, screen resumes based on the shortlist of candidates you want to move onto the interview phase.
  3. The challenges recruiters face while screening resumes: The high volume of resumes received – up to 88% of them are unqualified – greatly increases time to fill. Recruiters face increased pressure to show quality of hire but lack tools to link their resume screening to post-hire metrics.

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