Hiring Employees: Cover Letter & Resume Review

July 29, 2009 at 7:20 am 2 comments

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This week we are talking about hiring.  On Monday, we laid the foundation to finding good people to work for you.  Yesterday, we wrote the ad for your job.  And, now the resumes have started to pour in.  It’s time to meet some of these people!

I have a process by which I review resumes.  It goes something like this:

Scan & Email Review

  1. Email comes in; quickly scan their letter and resume.  Move onto something else.
  2. At the end of the day, there are usually several emails that have arrived (of which I’ve scanned for a minute).  Of those, there are usually a handful that stand out in my mind already from my previous scan.
  3. I go through the emails once more and read in a little more detail their information.  If they didn’t include a cover letter, answer my question(s), or clearly are not a match, I skip them.
  4. For those that answered my question(s) and something about their resume intrigues me, I print out the letter and resume.  (It helps for me to see it and make notes.)

The Cover Letter

What the candidate says in the cover letter is the most valuable piece of information for me.  Think about it: many people can write a resume and make any job look good.  But can you clearly communicate your thoughts in letter form?  Study the cover letter and pay attention to what this person is telling you about themselves.  This is what a good cover letter tells me about the person:

  • I know how to follow directions and have answered your questions.
  • I have taken the time to put thought into my answers.
  • I am confident enough to speak thoroughly about my strengths.
  • I know how to write well (much more important than a superstar GPA!).
  • I can communicate effectively and express my thoughts in an organized manner.
  • I can write a letter, should the occasion arise that I need to write one to a client.
  • I am extremely interested in this job because I sat down for an hour to write this letter.
  • This is not a cookie-cutter letter that I send with every job application.
  • I am passionate; this is evident in my tone.
  • I am detailed; this is evident in my writing.
  • I am a problem solver; this is evident in the examples I have given you of my work.

The Cover Letter is sooooo important!  (Now, you understand the value from yesterday’s exercise of writing the job ad so that people answer some soul-revealing questions in their cover letter?)  By the way, if someone sends me solely a resume (no cover letter) I immediately delete their email.

The Resume

At this point, I generally have 5-8 cover letters that I love.  Now, I take a look at the resumes.  The candidates’ resumes usually confirm what I’ve learned in the cover letter.  The resume acts as a “cross-check” for the letter.  Here’s what I mean:

Cover Letter tells/hints me                     Resume confirms

I am a leader                                               I was President of my Spanish club
I am articulate                                             I have good grades
I am committed                                          I have long histories at previous employers

I circle and mark up the resume, highlighting the things I like about this candidate.  Here are some of the other things I’m looking for on a resume.  (Keep in mind, I’m generally interviewing people that are in college.)

  • Good grades; but not necessarily a 4.0 – I want to make sure this person has work/life balance; it’s important to the culture of my organization
  • Some involvement in an organization – They don’t have to be President of their class, but they should be interested in something outside of their schoolwork.  They should have “real life” learning.
  • Strong job history – I don’t like to see job hopping, but I do understand that college kids generally have a slew of summer jobs, each year it’s different.  Those candidates that have gone back to the same job each summer stand out a bit more than others.
  • “Hard” work – I like to see people who have hard jobs, this shows that they have perseverance and commitment (and that they won’t walk out on me after assembling 1125 invitations by hand in one day)
  • Experience that fits the job they want – If they are going to be doing invitation assembly, it helps if they have “paper” or crafting experience, even if it’s just a hobby.  If they are going to be working with clients, I like to see that they have retail experience or have waited tables.
  • Not necessarily an artist – I don’t necessarily hire people with art backgrounds (for invitation assembly).  I want to be able to train people who want to learn something new.  And, I want to be able to teach them the mmm… paper art, not have someone who is reluctant to learn.  (This is specific to this position; if I were hiring a designer I’d want someone with design experience.)

Scheduling Interviews

I generally have 5 people that I interview.  I schedule the interviews to take place a couple weeks after placing the ad.  I begin setting up interviews within a few days of receiving resumes.  And, continue to set them up as resumes trickle in.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss: The Interview!

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Entry filed under: Human Resources.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Claudia  |  July 29, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Great information! I love your blog!

    Reply
  • 2. calisara  |  July 29, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Am going through this at the moment replacing a Bookkeeper and an assistant! The ability to take direction and write a meaningful cover letter is key. I am receiving lots of “I’m the best, and you want to hire the best” and yet they fail to tell me really why they are they best. If you don’t impress on the resume scan, you won’t even get a chance to impress me in person.

    Good tips!! I like how you give yourself a goal when reviewing resumes and work towards it. Definitely helps narrow your choices without feeling overwhelmed.

    Reply

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