Select Page
SaaS startup owner contemplates pricing

Review resumes fast to find the best applicants.

If you’ve done a good job on your job posting, the resumes will come pouring in – even in this tight job market that favors the candidates. How can you separate the wheat from the chaff? An oft-cited 2012 study from The Ladders holds that recruiters spend, on average, 6 seconds on the initial resume review deciding fit/no fit. How can you get the most out of this initial resume scan?

Below is Growthwright’s expert guide to quickly sorting resumes in order to determine the best candidates.  Our quick-scan guide will help your candidate screening process go much smoother.

Sorting Resumes? Start with the Basics.

There are a few basic pieces of information that every resume should have. When sorting resumes you can quickly differentiate applicants based on the following information:





Current Title/Company



Previous Title/Company



Current Position Start and End Dates



Previous Position Start and End Dates





According to the study we referenced, most recruiters spend 80% of those crucial 6 seconds scanning the basic information listed above. Speaking of scanning resumes, it’s easy to get drawn into a resume simply because the design is easier on the eye. This can be misleading, as some superior applicants may have resumes that are less visually pleasing. Get great tips on how to scan a resume like a pro here.

Scan for Target Keywords

A highly effective strategy to quickly sort resumes is to scan for target keywords focusing particularly on certain sections. During a resume review, you’re most likely to find target keywords in:





Job Functions & Accomplishments



Degrees and/or Certifications


Note that level of education isn’t on this list. According to Workopolis, only 1% of keyword searches on resumes correspond with an applicant’s education level. Most target keywords are found in other areas of a resume.  Since we’re on the topic of keywords, if you get the feeling that every resume you’re scanning is all fluff, you aren’t alone. Some keywords are all bark and no bite, indicating a candidate’s willingness to brag but not the substance to back it up.

Did the candidate pass the 6-second review? Give them 60 seconds on a second pass.

By now, you’ve likely narrowed the field significantly. Quickly sorting resumes has left you with a smaller pile of qualified applicants. Now it’s time to give each candidate’s resume a closer review, spending 60 seconds to look closer at the details.

Here’s where a great cover letter can come in handy. In a cover letter, an applicant should tell you why they applied for the job. Because your 6-second scan determined essential qualifications (like a degree or prior relevant experience), you can now formulate an understanding of why they might want the position. Have they been following your company closely, waiting for an open job role? Are they interested in a job role that will expand on their talents? Whatever an applicant’s motivation take this time to see if their reason for applying aligns with the needs of the job.


If your resume pile wasn’t as high as you like, consider referencing our article on the difference between recruiting, head hunting, and job posting.

“Soft” Skills: The Differentiator

So you’ve narrowed the field down significantly, sorting resumes and ending up with a few candidates that really stick out. Unfortunately, you still need to weed out some resumes before inviting candidates to an interview. This is where a truly skilled recruiter can come in handy because, chances are, they understand “soft” skills.

“It turns out that what actually separates thriving organizations from struggling ones are the difficult-to-measure attitudes, processes and perceptions of the people who do the work,” writes Seth Godin. These “soft” skills can be hard to identify but are often overlooked in a world where technical skills meet check-boxes. These harder to perceive skills are expected to become even more vital by the year 2020 according to this article.

Recruit Help

Many companies outsource HR tasks, such as sorting through resumes to determine top applicants. When you’re looking for the next great star to propel your B2B technology startup forward, you need an experienced recruiter on your side. Learn more about Growthwright’s recruiting services here.

Bridgette is the Director of Human Resources at Growthwright, with 12+ years of experience in all areas of Human Resources including: Benefit Administration, Employee Relations, Performance Appraisals and Compensation Management, New Hire Orientation and Onboarding and Recruiting.

Growthwright  © 2018