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Jul 15, 2021

Are you shortlisting the right resumes?

As anyone who has recruited knows, sifting through resumes can be time-consuming and anxiety-inducing. In fact, in a recent straw poll of 200 business owners in a room, recruitment was listed as one of the top three ‘things I hate doing and dread the most’.

So, if you are an employer hoping to find the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack’ in 2021, here are some handy hints from the experts to help you when reviewing resumes.




Pre-COVID, there was a generally held view that a candidate presenting with dozens of short-term jobs was a risky choice. Employers would have a view that they want someone ‘stable’ with a ‘good’ work history and tenures of less than three years in one spot were viewed with suspicion. 


Post-COVID, the reality is that contract work is surging. At the moment of writing, only 51% of the ‘Accountant’ roles in Melbourne were permanent, 49% are a contract*.  In Auckland, there is slightly more stability, with 64% of them being listed as permanent, but the reality is similar. For an active job seeker who wants (and needs to) work, taking a contract role is often the only option. As businesses pivot and look for flexibility, the rise of short-term work is inevitable. Whether it’s three months or two years, this means we are going to be seeing a lot more resumes with short tenures. As an HR Manager, being aware of this is important to ensure you don’t screen out great talent. Look deeper.  




Following on from point one above, according to research firm McCrindle, the average length of time in a job in Australia today is 3.4 years. Today’s school leaver is expected to have 17 different employers and 5 separate careers in their lifetime. Even in the over 45s age group, the statistics over the past 30 years are showing a steady decline in tenure too. The average amount of time older workers will stay with the one employer is reducing.


If ‘I want someone long term’ is in your hiring brief, looking for other indicators of loyalty and commitment beyond previous job tenures is recommended.   




A key benefit that comes from completing a series of short-term contracts is the ability to learn fast. Walking into a new workplace and picking up their systems helps develop social skills, problem-solving and self-learning initiative. Candidates with a lot of short-term contracts on their resume can often list exposure to different software programs and apps, many of which they’ve had to learn on the job.


When looking at a resume and assessing how likely it is that someone will adapt quickly to your environment, look for evidence of regular upskilling. For example, your hiring brief may only ask for MS PowerPoint skills, but a candidate who lists experience in a variety of other presentation and proposal programs has the potential to bring new skills that can help take your business to the next level.




Think broadly about how ‘industry experience’ could be transferrable and resist the urge to take a linear view. For example, if you work in a sustainability organisation, your first instinct might be to look for resumes showing experience as a corporate environment or sustainability manager. However, a 3D perspective might highlight that the role includes managing compliance, liaising with government clients and building relationships with industry bodies. Your applicant could have gained these skills from a variety of areas including not for profit, an industry association or higher education.


As COVID has disrupted the job market, there are talented job seekers who may never have considered working in your area who are now available for consideration. They could tick those boxes from a ‘transferable skills’ point of view. And maybe even surprise you.




Many employers believe that a cover letter on an application is a given and dismiss any resume that arrives without one on the basis that the candidate ‘isn’t serious’ or ‘hasn’t tried hard enough’.


It may interest you to know that out of the thousands of applications we review here at Talent Propeller each month, only around half these days include a cover letter. This is driven by the rise of applications via mobile phones: customising a letter on a small screen is a painful process. Instead of a cover letter, many candidates now include their LinkedIn profile, which includes arguably more useful information than a letter could, including endorsements and examples of their previous work.


If you really want a cover letter that addresses the selection criteria, then specify that in your advertisement. If they don’t follow instructions, then you have a valid reason to decide that this candidate is not right for you. 




Here at Talent Propeller, we are advocates of effective screening for POTENTIAL. We recommend using tools like skills tests and application forms, to quickly highlight useful skills and experience that relate to each role. If you are still reading every single resume and screening the old-fashioned way, talk to us about our simple and cost-effective services that make life easier for busy SMEs.