A Run on Resumes

By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2009

It’s an occupational hazard: Business owners posting employee-wanted ads these days find they’re receiving a couple of hundred resumes for every open position.  

“Job seekers are desperate, which means they’re submitting resumes for anything and everything whether they’re qualified or not,” says Sue Gutek, sales manager at Staffing Professionals and president-elect of the Sarasota-Manatee Human Resources Association. “It poses challenges for the job seeker and for the employer.” Gutek says she speaks from personal experience: “Here in our office we receive over 700 resumes a week. I’ve been doing this for 14 years and I’ve never seen it like this.”

There’s no doubt the tough economy and high unemployment rate are fraying accepted business etiquette, Gutek says. Job applicants are getting aggressive in their follow-ups (“too many phone calls with too desperate a tone,” she says); and employers hit with high volumes of applications are not keeping those applicants informed as they should. “If the employer can keep [applicants] informed, it helps keep the anxiety down,” she says, and it’s a good reflection on the company.  “People are desperate and behaving in ways they wouldn’t usually behave—on both sides.”


How to read a resume—and beyond

Job history. “The first thing we look at is longevity: How many employers have they had in the past eight years,” says Gutek. “You’re looking for a solid, stable individual, and that reflects in their job stability.

Education and certification: Screen the resume to seek the level of education and certification appropriate for the particular job. Employers are finding some Ph.D.s applying for administrative assistant positions, and over-qualification can be a problem. 


Grammar and spelling. Sloppy resumes tell the prospective employer the applicant didn’t take the time to spell check or have someone review their resume, says Gutek. ”It means they’re not conscientious.”

Conduct a pre-screen phone interview. “Ask them what they’re looking for in a position, what’s important to them in their job search, the responsibilities they had in their previous jobs,” advises Gutek. “You’re looking for proper phone etiquette, articulate preparation—whether they’ve prepared for the phone interview—and making sure the TV’s not playing in the background. You’d be surprised!” 


The in-person interview. After you’ve narrowed your candidates to two to three, conduct an in-person interview. “Make sure they have the skills required for the job, the personality to fit the culture of the company and good references—always check the references,” says Gutek. And that first impression does matter. Appropriate interview attire at a minimum for men is a collared shirt with a tie, she says, and for a woman, either slacks or a skirt. “Look for grooming, another area employers have a challenge with,” she says, “whether it’s unkempt hair, too much makeup or jewelry, tattoos and body piercings.”

Good manners. A follow-up thank-you card from the applicant after an interview is crucial, says Gutek. “When they send me a thank-you, I move them to the top of my list.”

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