Comparing Apples to Apples Applicants

Improve Your Hiring Process: Compare Apples to Apples

Now that you’ve narrowed your initial list of applicants to a more manageable number, it’s time to look at those remaining candidates in more detail. So, what’s the best way to do this? As with the first step of your candidate management process (see my prior blog: “Improve Your Hiring Process: Thin the Herd”), you have options.

Resume Review: Are You Getting the Info You Want?

Let’s look at how this has typically played out to this point. For most recruiters or hiring managers, this is commonly the time to examine resumes in much greater detail. As a result of this review, live interviews are scheduled for the “best” candidates. But…how do you know these are the “best”?

It’s not that resumes are bad or evil — they aren’t. In fact, they contain lots of good information about applicants. At the same time, there’s lots of information they don’t contain, too. Some applicants tell you way more than you really care to know. More often, they may not tell you enough. Think about whether or not most resumes you review answer these questions:

  • Why are they interested in a position with your firm, in particular?
  • What specific skills do they feel they bring to the table (as they relate to your available position)?
  • How did they hear about your opportunity?
  • What were their start/end dates with prior employers? Are you able to obtain references from those prior employers if you get to that point in the process?

My Resume is Better Than Your Resume

The other challenge with resumes is that we tend to look at them very subjectively. If two applicants have very similar backgrounds/qualifications, but one has a much more physically attractive resume, it becomes an easy tiebreaker. On the other hand, what if the candidate with the more attractive resume paid to have it done by a professional? What if one applicant is better with Microsoft Word…but that isn’t necessarily critical to success in this job? You probably see where I’m going with this.

Finally, resumes promote inefficiency. Because each applicant is trying to outdo the next, resumes tend to be very different. When you start trying to compare candidates to one another, it becomes difficult to recall why one looked better than another.

The simple fact is that resumes create bias. It’s become an arms race to see who can put together the resume with the best keywords and eye-pleasing layout. In my opinion, that shouldn’t carry as much weight in the process as it does in most cases today.

The question, then, becomes…how do you really compare apples to apples? The answer lies with data. Data is used to make decisions in every facet of our business lives. Why should a process as important as hiring be any different? Resumes contain data, but it isn’t always complete and is often in very different formats. You need complete data in a consistent format to improve results.

Use Application Data to Drive Employment Decisions

“So, what does that mean?”, you may ask. Personally, I favor the use of online employment applications. This trend has been gaining momentum for several years and is used by thousands of organizations (both large & small) across the country. The key is utilizing a solution that allows you to gather what you want the way you want it.

For example, you may want to implement a full application with more information submitted from people applying for entry-level positions — or those positions that tend to generate a higher applicant volume than you’d like. Emailing a resume is easy, so often applicants throw their hat in the ring for these openings, even if they know they’re not really a good fit. This creates additional screening burdens for you. Asking applicants to instead complete an online application for these positions requires just enough effort to ensure they look more closely at the position requirements. In turn, this typically helps to curb the number of unqualified applicants for these jobs.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may want to streamline and/or shorten the online employment application for those positions for which finding qualified applicants is difficult. This scenario provides an excellent opportunity to balance the screening question tips from my “thinning the herd” blog with our topic here of getting consistently-formatted applicant data. If you find yourself with many of these positions, it doesn’t mean an online application won’t work for you. Instead, you may want to choose a solution that allows you to either break the application process into two steps, or one that allows candidates to auto-fill the more mundane sections of the application (employment history, education, etc.) with information from social media profiles like LinkedIn. Either option maintains a very “applicant-friendly” process, while still providing you the consistent data you need to make good hiring decisions.

Regardless of whether you partner with an applicant tracking software vendor for this solution or develop it yourself internally, the end result should be the same. Having your candidate data in a consistent format is another significant step forward in streamlining and improving the overall results of your hiring process.

Be on the lookout for the next blog in my series where I look at the importance of protecting your employment brand.

Could you use an ATS solution to help bring consistent data into your hiring process? Contact us to discuss our applicant tracking system. – See more at:

Image credit: Green-Red by It’s All about Rock (: (contact)

Comments are closed.