How to Read a Resume

When you’re interviewing potential candidates for a position, it’s essential that you not let their interview skills color your opinion too much. The same is true when you’re reading a resume. In fact, it may be even more true of a resume. 

Some candidates may use professional resume writing services and so give you a very different opinion of them than is accurate. Knowing how to read between the lines makes it much more likely that you’ll choose a great pool of candidates to interview based on their resumes. 


It shouldn’t be counted against a candidate if they have wandered a bit in their professional careers, but overall, the decisions that a candidate has made and the education they have pursued should be in preparation for a job like your’s.

If there is an objective section to the resume, it can be helpful to tell you what a candidate wants, but make sure that the rest of the resume seems to agree with the stated goal. If a candidate seems to have been preparing for a different career, they may not be as satisfied with your job as another candidate. 


Does the candidate have the sort of experience that will help them to excel in the position you’re trying to fill? Experience in the actual role you’re hiring for isn’t the only kind of relevant experience. 

Examine everything that a candidate has done to see if they have gained the skills and experience to excel in your position. This can also help you see if they seem like they have the right kind of personality for your company. 


This is the most obvious category, and the one that can sometimes overwhelm the others to an unhealthy degree. It is, of course, very important for the candidate that you hire to have the skills necessary to do the job. 

However, don’t be carried away by a resume well-padded with skills that you may or may not need. It may be impressive that a candidate can speak four languages, but if you don’t need them for communication roles, that skill may be a detriment, since it may make the candidate more desirable to the competition who could steal them away down the road. 


Don’t just look into the degree that a candidate obtained. Consider where they went to school. If you don’t recognize it, look it up. A great GPA from a less difficult school doesn’t mean as much as a lower GPA from a more challenging one. 

See how they did in school, whether they completed the programs they enrolled in, and whether they have any extra-curricular achievements from their school career. Sometimes candidates who excelled in clubs or teams may actually be a better choice than those who received excellent grades. It depends on what you need the hire to do and what kind of candidate you’re looking for. 

Interests and a Sense of a Person

A candidate isn’t just the sum of their work and school experience. You also want to see a sense of the human being who you’ll be interviewing. Do they have hobbies? Have they traveled? Are they involved in clubs, not-for-profits, fraternities or sororities, or other organizations? Company culture is an important part of your organization, and employees with interesting and well-rounded portfolios can add a lot to your culture. 


A diverse workplace is better-insulated against changes in the market, more able to find new customer bases, and more able to come up with creative solutions to problems. When you are perusing resumes, don’t just think about the credentials of the candidate. 

Also consider the employees that you already have and how a new hire can bring diversity to your team. If you mostly have employees from a particular age, racial, or socioeconomic classification, make an effort to hire applicants from different backgrounds. 


Whatever career history your candidate has, look for their history there. Did they get promotions within the company? How quickly did they get promoted? Did they leave positions to pursue better options, or are the reasons for leaving left unclear? 

Contact the references provided and find out if the applicant made an impression on employers. Ask whether the applicant sought out opportunities for increased responsibility or whether they just settled into their positions. Also, look for projects that applicants took on and performed well. You want a candidate who can take responsibility and seeks out opportunities for advancement. 

Choose the Best Resumes

Understanding how to read a resume is the first step to choosing the best candidate for any position. Choosing good resumes will save you a lot of time in interviewing candidates and make it less likely that you’ll make a hiring decision that you’ll regret. 

Be sure to keep an open mind and not become too focused on any one aspect of a resume. Considering the resume as a whole is the best chance you have for success. 

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