The Expert’s Guide to Narrowing Down Your Applicant Pool

Susan Levine

Susan Levine Founder and President of Career Group Companies

Friday, August 2, 2019

Every hiring manager’s double-edged sword – receiving a few hundred resume submissions to an open job posting. On one hand, this is great. You have so many candidates available at your fingertips, and one of them is bound to be the perfect fit for your team. On the other hand, you have a laundry list of other projects to work on, and only a small amount of time to narrow down this stack of applications to the candidates you’re going to reach out to for a phone interview.

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To help alleviate some of this stress, we sat down with a few top recruiters within our firm to get a sense of how they go about narrowing down a large applicant pool. See their expert tips below!

Must-haves

When it comes to looking at multiple resumes at once, some can be ruled out based solely on proximity or experience level. Right away, you can disregard applicants that don’t live in the country you’re hiring within. And if your company doesn’t want to compensate a relocation or wants to hire local candidates only, out-of-state resumes can be rejected as well, unless they live within commuting range of the job you’re hiring for.

When asked about the resume “must-haves” she looks for, Account Executive Melanie Carroll says she looks at technical skills right off the bat. “If they don’t have the hard skills needed to do the job, I can’t move them forward to the next step,” Melanie says. This is where experience with things like project management tools, design software, and CRM databases will play a huge part, depending on what position you’re hiring for.

Work experience

Now that you’ve narrowed down your stack based on location and hard skills, you can get into the nitty-gritty of it, which usually boils down to the candidate’s professional experience. But what to focus on?

When Melanie looks at a candidate’s resume, she looks for specific job titles and responsibilities, and makes sure that the candidate has an established growth path in their chosen field. Senior Account Executive Jenna Nicholas does as well, and goes a step further to say, “I want to know the unique duties of each job and how their experience grew with each position.” She also throws out resumes with vague or generic language, saying “I’m looking for someone to be clear and concise, but thoughtful about what they put on the page. Every word counts.”

On the freelance side, it’s good to focus on the specific companies that the applicant has worked for in the past. In the freelance world, diversity is key - you want to see that they have experience working in a wide range of industries and work environments.

Quick tips

While a candidate might not have the experience required to fill a current opening, it’s important to remember that a good resume is just that – a good resume. While her priority is always the current search at hand, Jenna always contacts candidates that stick out to her, saying, “I’m always open to keeping someone for the future. You never know what other positions are going to come up.” Melanie agrees: “I’ll always reach out to them to see where they want to move their career and how we can work together. A good candidate is never worth passing up.”

When looking at resume submissions, Jenna also says to trust your judgment. “You can immediately - even with a quick glance at formatting, grammar, and content - tell if a candidate is a star. As you go through resumes, you’ll start to differentiate the high-quality candidates from the rest.” In other words, trust your gut, and let the candidate pool guide what you’re looking for.

In conclusion

When you’re making a significant hiring decision, a thick stack of resumes can seem daunting. But if you focus on what you need, effectively evaluate candidate experience, and trust your gut, you can find the candidates worth moving forward with – for now, and the distant future!

And if you’re a candidate looking for some guidance on how to craft your resume, check out our post on resume do’s and don’ts, as well as our open roles.

Meet the experts

Jenna Nicholas

Originally from Dallas, Jenna graduated from the University of North Texas, where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, with a minor in Business Management. Since joining Career Group in 2010, Jenna has become an integral member of the team. She’s incredibly passionate about people and has an innate ability to connect with others and build lasting relationships. In her spare time, Jenna serves on the board of the Young Professionals Rotary of Beverly Hills. She also enjoys networking, volunteering for local non-profit organizations, and spending quality time with family.

Melanie Carroll

Melanie is a Los Angeles native that found her way back to the West Coast after living in New York for 4 years. She received her degree in Sociology and Communications from Lehigh University in PA, and worked in Operations for various startups. She loves getting to know her clients and candidates at Syndicatebleu to better understand and accommodate their needs. When she’s not at the office, Melanie enjoys live music, trying out new restaurants, and meeting new people!

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