8 Best Practices for Reviewing Resumes: An Employer’s Guide (+ Resume Review Checklist)


Did you know that only 35% of candidates applying to an open position will be qualified? There are an average of 118 applicants per open position, giving hiring managers a lot to sift through with few truly qualified candidates.

With that in mind, hiring managers need to be able to review resumes effectively. Given the complexity of doing so, this is no easy task.

Don’t fear! Here’s everything you need to know about reviewing resumes to ensure you find the best candidates. We’ve also included a resume review checklist at the end.

Step 1: Know Who’s Truly Qualified

The first part of reviewing resumes is figuring out who’s qualified and who’s not. Inevitably, part of your review process will include looking at resumes that belong to underqualified candidates. As a hiring manager, you’ll need to be able to disseminate this quickly.

To help prevent an abundance of underqualified candidates from applying, write thorough job descriptions. Giving candidates a clear understanding of who you’re looking for helps them self-select. 

Step 2: Know What to Look For

Considering 52% of talent acquisition leaders feel screening for the correct candidates from a large pool is the most difficult part of their job, you want to do everything you can to simplify the process. Thus, create a resume evaluation matrix or resume review checklist.

Here are some aspects to watch out for:

  • Work history (impact, revenue gained, new processes, etc.)
  • Specific skills demonstrated
  • Work gaps (candidates should be able to explain these)
  • Moments of leadership, initiative, or collaboration
  • Promotions or career shifts
  • Errors in the resume

Step 3: Understand the Hiring Market

Reviewing resumes is a process that should be contextualized. The state of the job market determines how strict you can be on requirements and the breadth of candidates you’ll consider.

The job market is experiencing a weird set of circumstances in the US. On the one hand, the labor shortage still exists; on the other, we’re seeing layoffs and hiring freezes. 

Despite the potential economic downturn, this is still a hyper-competitive market. Candidates expect excellent salaries, benefits, flexible work, and to be treated with respect. 

Companies can’t afford to be overly picky when reviewing resumes. Consider offering on-the-job training to fill any skill gaps if you find a candidate who isn’t perfectly qualified but has the potential.

Step 4: Look for Red Flags

There are some red flags to look out for when reviewing resumes:

  • Employment gaps: if a candidate properly explains a gap, no problem. If not, this is a major oversight.
  • No upward movement. A long career with no upward trajectory could indicate a candidate lacks motivation.
  • Typos or other errors. Errors can indicate a lack of attention to detail or care. Candidates should proofread resumes relentlessly.
  • Job-hopping. There’s nothing wrong with regularly switching jobs. But too many employers in a short period (a few years) could indicate a lack of commitment. You don’t want to take the time and expense to onboard someone only to have them leave in a few months.

Step 5: Look for Personalized Messaging

A candidate probably isn’t a standout if resumes or cover letters are copied and pasted across multiple jobs. Look for tailored messaging that is relevant to the company and role. 

Does the candidate emphasize skills and qualifications relevant to the role? Do they discuss their excitement for this company? Top talent will take the time to do this.

Step 6: Scan for Relevant Keywords

Whether you use an applicant tracking system or not, look for relevant keywords when reviewing resumes. These are words or phrases specific to the role. Candidates should make these easy to find.

Step 7: Beware Too Many Buzzwords

Buzzwords are essential to a great resume because they help demonstrate impact. However, excessive jargon and buzzwords can be designed to make a candidate sound qualified in place of actual qualification.

Some buzzwords and power words include:

  • Communicated
  • Achieved
  • Created
  • Increased
  • Managed
  • Experienced
  • Improved
  • Decreased
  • Utilized
  • Responsible for

If candidates use more than one of these per line in a resume, that’s too much. If the resume feels stuffed with these words, that’s a bad sign. Be on the lookout for this when reviewing resumes.

Step 8: Keep an Open Mind

Especially in today’s market, reviewing resumes with an open mind is to your benefit. 

Some of your best hires may not be perfectly qualified but are passionate, driven, and willing to learn. Your resume review checklist should be strict but not inflexible.

Know what knowledge can be gained on the job by a smart employee. Tantamount to this is clearly understanding required qualifications and preferred ones. If a candidate’s background is nontraditional, consider pursuing them if they pique your interest.

Your Resume Review Checklist

Now that you know how to evaluate resumes effectively, here’s a resume review checklist you can use.

Contact Info & Appearance

  • Free of grammar and spelling errors?
  • Contact info at the top and updated?
  • Appropriate formatting (font, size, margins)?
  • One page?


  • Included?
  • Evidence of experience or interest?
  • Does this match the skillsets required for the job?


  • Listed correctly with college, date, and major?
  • Does this educational background enhance the candidate’s qualifications?

Professional Experience

  • Are experiences listed in reverse chronological order?
  • Are the correct sections included (title, employer, location, month/year)
  • Is applicable information under each header listed with bullet points?
  • Is the past tense used for prior experience?
  • Is present tense used for the current job?
  • Does this work experience demonstrate impact, leadership, initiative, collaborative skills, or anything else relevant to the job? 
  • Are there employment gaps, and are they explained somewhere?

Other Possible Sections

Are any of the following included, and do they enhance candidacy? These are not necessary but may be relevant for particular roles:

  • Research
  • Technology
  • Certifications
  • Languages
  • Professional associations

Need Help Filling Positions & Reviewing Resumes?

Reviewing resumes is an involved process, but it’s essential to making the right hire. This is especially true when it comes to executive or senior leadership positions.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or need help making the correct hire, Jennings Executive can help. We’re here to match your company with the best senior leadership candidate possible. Learn more today! 

Related: 8 Tips for Conducting Perfect Remote Interviews in 2022 and Beyond

Scroll to top
Updated: Our Salary Guide for 2022
This is default text for notification bar