Recruiting new staff is a big responsibility. You want to know that you’ve chosen the right candidate for the job, first time, every time. While this is not always guaranteed, certain guidelines exist for making this more likely. 

As the resume is the first introduction to job applicants, you need to know what to look for. Depending on the position being filled, different factors come into play. There are, however, some universal ideals when it comes to resumes. Here’s what to look for in a resume, when screening candidates.


Is the resume legible, and neatly formatted? If you could quickly scan through the resume and pick out all the relevant info, it has probably been well formatted. Good formatting and high legibility are signs of organizational skills and should not be overlooked. 

Job seekers have access to thousands of free templates online, like Canva, Google docs resume templates, etc. There is just no excuse for poor formatting. Resumes should be easy to read, uncluttered, and relevant to the job being applied for. If they didn’t take the time to put together a professional resume, how committed will they be to their duties? 

what to look for in a resume
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Can you easily make sense of all the information? Disorganized ideas and illogical or abbreviated sentences in a resume could be warning signs of disorganized thinking, too. 

A candidate with good organizational skills will generally be clear in their resume and cover letter and get to the point with ease. Logical thinking skills are crucial for any workplace environment. Look out for signs of clear and logical thinking, right at the start, in the resume.

Not all candidates have excellent language skills. Unless they’re applying for a job as a copy editor, this isn’t necessarily a problem. But with so many proofreading apps online, anyone can turn their resume into a legible document. Once again, if they didn’t bother, you may want to move on to the next candidate. 


Every job has certain required qualifications and skills. If your team has done their job well, this will have been clearly outlined in the job posting. Unfortunately, there will always be a few resumes that don’t quite meet those requirements.

Is all the information on the resume, relevant to the job posting? If you have to wade through tons of supplementary and irrelevant info then they may not be the right candidate for the job. Hobbies and interests have no place on a resume unless they are relevant to the skills needed for the job.

This is also a way to pick up on logical thinking skills. Someone with these skills will get to the point, and stick to the point. Information supplied will be factual and relevant to the job they’re applying for. 


Does the applicant have a confident tone? As soon as you read anything like “I think I might be right for the job”, you needn’t continue. A confident applicant is more likely to be qualified enough, and skilled enough, for the position. 

This is not always true, of course. Even unskilled and unsuitable candidates may be overly confident. But low confidence and self-esteem are usually easy to detect. It can be a sign that the applicant is not the right one for the job after all. 

Of course, a newcomer to the working world will not have the confidence of a CEO. That is why succession management generally relies on recruiting amongst existing staff. Use your own judgment to decide on this issue, but if the position is in management, confidence is vital. 


Are you able to detect a hint of their personality in the resume? And do they seem like a good “fit” for the company? Any business, unless you’re in the habit of employing robots, relies on people to make the wheels turn. These people all have to get along, for the sake of workplace harmony and team success.

There is, however, something to be said about personality diversity in the workplace. While people with similar personalities may work well together, it is in their differences that the magic begins. Every candidate has their own unique traits. And together, they can achieve great things for the company. 

That said, a suitable candidate will appear professional, yet engaging. They should make you want to know more. If you aren’t excited about interviewing the, they have failed to win you over with that personal touch. This one factor alone can be what sets the best candidate apart from a sea of similar resumes.