With 60% of candidates abandoning a long, complex recruiting process halfway through, HR departments need to move quickly to keep their top choices from jumping ship. Resume screening is one area that can slow the entire recruiting process down. One study found a recruiter takes an average of seven seconds to review a resume. That may not seem like a lot, but consider all of the extra time it takes to open emails or messages, download the resumes to your desktop, open each one and then organize and rate them. Now the task seems much more time-consuming.

For businesses dealing with regulatory compliance hurdles, recordkeeping on pre-employment screening and applicant tracking need to be not only efficient but also accurate. A simplified pre-employment screening process, one that includes resume management and background checks, is essential for HR departments and businesses.

What is Resume Screening?

Resume screening is a critical part of the hiring process. It involves looking at submitted resumes and determining if a candidate is qualified for an open position. To further break the process down: An HR or hiring manager uploads a job posting to a job board and that listing garners multiple applications and resumes, maybe even hundreds. HR must then look at each of those resumes and determine which candidates are qualified for the position. If a candidate is qualified on paper, then more time needs to be taken to determine if the candidate should move forward in the hiring process, i.e., into the interview phase.

A good resume screening process should be efficient and maintain compliance. Recruiters must quickly determine if a candidate’s qualifications meet those set for the position; highly-qualified candidates aren’t likely to stick around if the hiring process takes too long. SHRM estimates typical time to hire at 36 days. Resume screening is also especially critical for companies that are Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) employers as they are required to report on all applicants to maintain compliance. Every resume sent to your company needs to be tracked and stored in the event of an audit.

How to Screen Resumes

Resume screening involves several steps to record all submissions and separate the resumes of qualified candidates from those that need to be discarded or filed for future use. Hiring managers will need to:

  • Sort all candidates into groups, i.e. candidate batching, for easier reviewing and reporting. If you have multiple open positions posted, resumes must be sorted into their respective positions.
  • Manually respond to all candidates letting them know you received their resume. Keeping the lines of communication open keeps candidates engaged in the position.
  • Take each resume and screen candidates based on your own set of questions, criteria and position requirements. Typically, qualifications will include work experience, education, skills, personality traits and competencies.
  • Filter the most qualified candidates to the top so you only need to review the best applicants. If you don’t have enough candidates that meet your preferred requirements, you can also filter resumes that meet the minimum requirements and determine further potential based on a pre-screening phone interview.
  • Focus on recruiting those high-potential candidates, reaching out to set up an interview, and involving the entire team to help explain company culture.
  • Set up a system to save all resumes in your database. This allows you to report on the candidates who applied for the position.

Challenges with Screening Resumes

The first challenge with screening resumes manually is minimizing its impact on your time to hire. Time to hire is the number of days it takes to hire a new employee. It begins when a candidate responds to your job posting and ends when he or she accepts an offer, spanning the length of time a candidate is in your talent pipeline. If the resume screening step of the process is too lengthy, you risk candidates becoming disinterested or worse, sharing their negative candidate experience with others. With time to hire averaging about 30 days, you can easily identify how much time resume screening takes and evaluate if it is too long. Use this chart as an example of how to measure time to hire:

time to hire chart

Another major challenge to resume screening is maintaining compliance while controlling volume. Any HR department can easily get overwhelmed sifting through an excess number of unqualified applicants. Yet for those companies that must maintain EEOC compliance, dealing with a high volume of candidates can lead to costly mistakes. As stated above, organizations that have Affirmative Action Programs (AAP) and/or must meet requirements set by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program (OFCCP), must report on every candidate that applies for a position. If your resume screening process doesn’t track applicants and support back-end reporting, some applications could be missed, leaving the door open for potential fines and penalties.

A third challenge is ensuring you receive a high number of qualified applicants. According to SHRM, while time to hire metrics identify the speed you hire a new employee, quality of hire metrics reveal the impact those hiring decisions have on a company. In other words, you can fill a position quickly but if the candidate doesn’t fit with your existing culture, was it an efficient hire? Measuring quality of hire typically comes down to analyzing turnover rates, job performance, employee engagement and cultural fit.

How Technology Can Ease Challenges

While the challenges surrounding resume screening may never completely be eliminated, technology and tools can certainly ease their effect. An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can make the entire hiring experience efficient and can help your reach your goals.

Time to hire is streamlined with a centralized system that organizes every step to make HR’s job easier. Paperwork is simplified with automated job postings and offer letters, application templates that allow jobs to be posted quickly, AI-aided communication to help ensure you don’t lose touch with candidates, and lastly integrations with background checks and drug screenings so your new hire can start sooner than expected. Arcoro’s ATS also features an expedited application process for candidates as it gathers all the necessary information in as few steps as possible – making applying for a new job easy and painless. Candidates can apply in as little as three minutes, and managers have a real-time view of how their job postings are performing.

Maintaining compliance is effortless with an ATS that supports your AAP plan through job postings and back-end reporting. An ATS should be able to automatically post to VEVRAA veteran-specific job boards and include the required “Equal Employment Opportunity” tagline in all job listings. Arcoro’s ATS constantly updates as new Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regulations are put into place, so HR never has to worry if they have the latest information. And with batch candidate features, the ATS only shows a batch of candidates at a time, eliminating the potential need to report on hundreds of candidates.

As far as improving your quality of hire metrics, an ATS gives employers the ability to set parameters on job postings that only allow qualified candidates to move forward with the process. Plus, a faster application process reduces drop off, ensuring you receive more high-quality applicants. Providing a great hiring experience gives candidates an idea of what they can expect if they choose to work for your company.

Do’s and Don’ts for Screening Resumes

You need to get the best resumes to the top of the pile. Going back to that seven seconds time frame, there are things you can quickly scan for to find the most qualified candidates that shouldn’t add on too many more seconds. Here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts.

Do –

  • Check education, experience and skills to make sure the candidate meets your minimum requirements.
  • Look for accomplishments that support the candidate’s competency claims.
  • Match the information between the candidate’s resume and any information he or she has provided online.
  • Look for gaps in the candidate’s work history and ask for further explanation if large gaps exist. Large gaps could point to job hopping.
  • Note typos and grammar errors. If a candidate doesn’t pay attention to correctly formatting his or her resume, you should consider what level of attention they will give to their work.
  • Record salary requirements and/or relocation needs, especially if the candidate is on your short list of possibilities.

Don’t –

  • Disregard a lack of experience. Candidates fresh out of college or technical training can bring a lot of energy to a position.
  • Focus solely on hard skills. Hard skills, like software proficiency, can be learned. Give more emphasis to soft skills, like communication and teamwork, instead. Soft skills are harder to learn and can help you determine if the candidate will be a good fit with your organization.
  • Expect to find personal details, unless your job postings allude to company culture that’s focused outside of work, like a focus on community service or work/life integrations. A good candidate will pick up on this information in your job description and refer to it in their resume or cover letter.

Going Beyond the Resume

A resume is just the first tool used to screen candidates. The entire screening process involves much more, including the actual job posting plus phone, in-person and remote interviews, pre-employment testing and verifications. All of these steps and tasks are integral to finding a candidate that will not only be qualified for the position but also will be a productive, long-lasting employee.

Why Your Business Needs a Strong Screening Process

A strong workforce starts with the best candidates, pure and simple. Just as a building needs a strong foundation, a company can’t be successful and grow without a strong worker base. Aside from reducing turnover, which can cost roughly $4,000 per new employee, a good screening process can help build a talent reserve for the future. As an ATS keeps records of all applicants and resumes, great candidates who may not be perfect for one position are reserved in case they are ideal for a future role at your company. As hiring practices get more competitive, having a bank of talent can give your company an edge in recruiting.

The Tools of a Strong Screening Process

A strong applicant screening process includes:

  • Posting job descriptions to job boards that align with your targeted audience.
  • Setting parameters on applications so only qualified candidates can move forward with your process.
  • Assessing candidates that meet minimum requirements to determine if they should continue to move forward.
  • Selecting your top candidates and setting up initial phone interviews, in-person or virtual interviews as well as scheduling any job performance tests.
  • Verifying your top candidate is eligible to work and administering any background or drug screenings.

The Application

An employment application should include questions that provide the hiring company basic information about the candidate (name, address, contact information and work eligibility). It should also ask questions that give the recruiter the ability to determine if the candidate meets the requirement for the job. This information includes employment history and education but also if the candidate can perform the essential functions of the job as listed. This last part is where employers need to take care to remain compliant. State and federal EEO laws prohibit pre-employment inquiries that disproportionately screen out candidates. To remain compliant with EEO standards, the application must include a statement such as: “All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.” It also needs to refrain from asking questions that bear no relevance to the job qualifications as listed, i.e., the year they graduated from high school, or their country of origin.


Once resumes are submitted, use an ATS to import the documents into your recruiting software where it can extract specific pieces of information into a singular format. This type of resume parsing can identify keywords and organize candidates by predetermined skillsets, education levels and more. Resume parsing and subsequent ranking of candidates saves a significant amount of time for hiring managers. For high-consequence industries, such as manufacturing or construction, resume parsing can identify certifications and licenses to ensure the candidates meet company, state and OFCCP requirements. Since everything is done digitally, all of the information is saved for reporting or in the event of an audit. Once the resumes are sorted, the ATS can batch the resumes according to the best candidates, based on custom-set criteria.

Social Media

A quick search of a candidate’s social media presence can tell you a lot about them. For example, a LinkedIn profile contains relevant information about the candidate’s professional career. In many cases, a LinkedIn profile lists past places of employment as well as memberships to professional organizations and industry connections. Keep in mind that not all candidates have an open social profile and in others, the information may not be accurate. Despite that, according to SHRM, 84% percent of organizations use social media for recruiting and 43% use it to screen applicants.

Phone Interviews

A telephone interview is typically the first pre-screening step once you’ve selected your top candidates. It is the first opportunity to directly speak the candidate and get a feel for their qualifications, and see if they’d be a good fit with the company. The interview should last only about 10 to 15 minutes, and should ask questions like:

  • Why are you interested in working for our company?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What skills and experience can you bring to the position?
  • What are your professional strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your salary requirements?
  • Can you work the required schedule?
  • When can you start?
  • Do you have any questions about the position or our company?

In-Person Interviews

Candidates who pass the initial pre-screening interview move on to the in-person interviews. The in-person interview not only provides the recruiter with more information about the candidate but also gives the candidate more information about your company. It is essential that the candidate gets a feel for how your company operates. Set a time that works for everyone and stick to it; repeated reschedules create a bad impression and show the candidate he or she isn’t a priority. Be welcoming, prepare questions ahead of time and listen to the candidate’s responses, asking follow-up questions when needed. Introduce the candidate to your company culture by inviting team members to discuss the day-to-day workings of your company. Consider taking our quiz to see if your interview process is up to par.

Online Interviews

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual interviews were typically only used for long-distance workers. Now, HR departments rely on them to safely interview every candidate. And with work-from-home becoming commonplace, the video interview is likely the interview option of the future. A virtual or online interview should cover everything an in-person one would, i.e., allowing candidates to gain more information about your company and the position. Yet because it is done online, other considerations should be made. Set meeting expectations ahead of time, test connections and make sure the candidate has the capabilities to join. Also be considerate of time zones, and create a virtual hangout and invite the candidate to join.

Pre-Employment Testing

Pre-employment tests measure skills, intellect, personality or other characteristics of candidates. According to SHRM, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states any employment requirement set by an employer is considered to be a test. These tests include cognitive ability tests that measure intelligence, physical ability tests, aptitude tests and personality tests. Before implementing pre-employment testing, the employer needs to determine which tests are necessary, what skills, knowledge and abilities the position requires and who will monitor the test. Pre-employment testing can be time-consuming but can also provide valuable information.


Once a candidate passes all the screening, interviews and pre-employment testing, the last step is to verify their employment eligibility and check their references.

Background Check

While companies can’t deem a candidate ineligible based on their having a criminal record, SHRM states background checks may be used to make employment decisions. For example, background checks are used for candidates who will work with vulnerable populations like children, the elderly or the the physically and mentally impaired. For industries that must maintain worker safety, drug screening services can be used to conduct 5-panel and 10-panel drug screens, DOT Look Alike and DOT Regulated Lab screenings, while E-verify can be used to confirm eligibility to work in the United States.


Not all candidates are honest on their resumes. According to SHRM, studies show an increase in the number of discrepancies between education records and information applicants provide. Background screenings can check credentials, and some universities and colleges will also verify an applicant’s education. A recruiter can also ask the candidate to submit a copy of his or her transcripts or ask the educational institution to submit it directly to the employer.

Prior Work Experience

To gauge prior work experience, an employer can contact former managers, with the candidate’s permission, or some candidates may submit letters of recommendation. Talking to a candidate’s past managers can give recruiters an idea of how the candidate prefers to be managed and how they performed at their previous positions.


Contact the candidate’s references. According to Indeed, contacting references helps verify that the candidate has the experience and skills they claim. It also provides information about the candidate’s character and might reveal unique skills the candidate may not have shared. Indeed suggests asking these questions:

  • What was it like to work with the candidate?
  • What are the candidate’s greatest strengths?
  • What were the candidate’s greatest areas of opportunity?
  • What was one of the candidate’s biggest accomplishments?
  • Would you hire the candidate again?
  • Why did the candidate leave your company?
  • How did the candidate handle challenges?

Arcoro’s integrated system is a must for maintaining an efficient applicant screening process. Our ATS can automatically pull a candidate’s information from LinkedIn or an application directly onto the employer’s screening form, reducing turnaround time and data entry errors. A direct integration into the company’s ATS also allows recruiters the luxury of never having to leave their system to trigger the background screen and review the results, as the candidate data flows directly to the screening vendor and back, and the results are stored in the candidate’s file in the ATS.

Our ATS automatically updates to the latest regulations and requirements so you never have to worry about whether your compliance standards are up-to-date. If your screening process is taking too long or you’re not attracting the right candidates, it’s time to switch to a system that works for you. Contact our team to schedule a demo and see firsthand just what our ATS can do to help.