Resource: Processing Applications and Screening Resumes

The Bridgespan Group

Creating a system for reviewing applications and resumes will help you improve your chances of including the most relevant candidates in your interview pool, including uncovering some hidden gems. This piece discusses key steps and shares an assessment tool you can use to evaluate candidate resumes.

You and your team have been thoughtful in defining a position and creating a job description. You have proactively developed an outreach strategy and the description is now circulating widely. How do you prepare to receive an inflow of resumes? How do you screen the resumes you receive in order to select the right candidates to interview?

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This step of the hiring process is one of the most difficult. Each applicant has a different set of experiences and skills; deciding which ones best match the responsibilities and requirements of the position is challenging. Many hiring organizations fear that a gem may be overlooked in the process. Creating a system for reviewing resumes will help you improve your chances of including the most relevant candidates in your interview pool, including those hidden gems. There are several steps you can take to systematically screen resumes to select the best candidates for interviews.

Step 1: Agree on your resume review process and team member involvement.

  • Who will be conducting the resume review? Depending on your organization, the position, and the availability of team members, you may choose to use a professional recruiter, do this solo, involve only a portion of your team, or include the whole team. If you choose to do this within your senior team/search committee, we recommend you have two people screen resumes in order to provide a balanced viewpoint, and that at least one person read every resume so that he or she can provide a consistent perspective on the candidate pool overall.
  • The point person in this process will be responsible for collecting and organizing resumes. If resumes are going to be e-mailed to the point person or recruiter, he or she may want to set up a special email address just for this position (e.g., This allows you to create an automatic reply, which is a timesaver as well as a prompt way to alert candidates that you received their resumes and to give them a sense of the process going forward.
  • Set a preliminary date for reviewers to meet in person or via conference call for the first resume screen. (This resume screening meeting typically takes a few hours). When you hold this session will depend on your hiring cycle, whether your needs are immediate or more long-term, and how many resumes you receive.

Step 2: Organize cover letters and resumes in order to speed the reviewing process.

  • As resumes come in, reply to each candidate (one option is to use an automatic reply for this purpose, because it facilitates prompt acknowledgement, although it is less personal than an individual reply). Let the candidate know you have received his or her resume, will consider it, and will get in touch when decisions are made. Responding is critical (and a basic courtesy); candidates often feel uneasy about being left in the dark. Besides, responding helps promote the organization’s brand.
  • Create a process to review all resumes. As resumes come in, organize them alphabetically by date received saving them in an email file and, if you wish, assign each a number code. A numbering system ensures that the resume reviewing team receives all of the resumes in the same order, and will speed up the communication process.

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