Tips for Screening Resumes

Below are tips on screening resumes that will help in the assessment of new immigrant applications. In addition to the tips, be sure to check out the Resume Review Centre where you’ll find examples of different new immigrant resumes and instruction on how to interpret different elements.

Why are resumes critical to the screening process?

The resume is your first impression of a candidate. It is your opportunity to take a step back, objectively assess the talent that is interested in your role, and take the opportunity to screen in high quality candidates. Resumes from new Canadian candidates may produce questions or challenges related to the time and complexity of screening the candidate’s past credentials and experience, and fear around being politically correct in all interactions. This section is devoted to helping you to overcome these barriers.

First, some quick tips.

Unproductive Practices

Best Practices

Discounting resumes because they are different in appearance or have content variations to which you aren’t accustomed (e.g., include a picture, information about the candidate’s family, etc.). What and how information is communicated, including on resumes, varies widely across cultures. Focus on content, not the style of the resume.
Screening out based on mastery of English language (e.g., equating grammar and spelling errors with intelligence and/or ability to perform). Perfect English is not needed to perform any role. Determine and assess for the level of language needed to perform the role. See Assessing Language Proficiency
Assuming that academic credentials obtained overseas do not have value, or equivalent value, in Canada. Many overseas academic programs are extremely well respected and even more comprehensive than those in Canada. If a certain level of academic achievement is essential to the role, have a credential assessment service evaluate the credentials received overseas. See Assessing Academic Credentials
Assuming that because a specific qualification or experience you are looking for is not listed, the candidate does not have it. New Canadians may not be aware of exactly what information you want to see on a resume, and the requirements your job posting implies may not be clear to someone from outside of Canada. If the overall resume is strong, use a screening interview to verify missing / ambiguous information prior to making decisions regarding in-person interview candidates.
Deeming Canadian experience as essential to performing a job in Canada. While certain on the job experience may be necessary, the country where it was performed is not likely to be a specific requirement. Assess for experience (e.g., how something was done and results achieved) rather than where the experience took place.
Creating assessment processes that are too rigid to recognize experience outside of Canada. Use flexible assessment methodologies which provide for multiple forms of evidence of skills and experience.
Assuming you can’t check references that are oversees due to a language barrier, so there’s no point in moving forward. Ask if there are English speaking references that you can speak with. Use a translator to conduct a call or skype reference check, or ask for a written reference and have it translated. There are a variety of options.
Discounting a New Canadian, because they’re a New Canadian. All candidates should be held to the same standards. Create a job specific tool which allows you to review each candidate against the job you have posted for. Use this same tool to objectively review all resumes. Here’s an example tool.

Perhaps one of the most important tips is that all candidates resumes should be assessed against the same criteria. You may want to modify / use a tool such as the one below to support you. Alternatively, you can create a similar tool of your own based on the job description that you have for the role.

Culturally Competent Screening Tool – You may have used this tool to help identify essential vs. non-essential skills during the job description process. If so, you can continue to use the tool to facilitate the resume review and interview processes.

Tips for screening resumes

There are a number of resources that can support you to effectively screen resumes. Specific tools related to language proficiency, academic credentials, professional credentials, and experience can be found in each respective page. General tools are below:

Overcoming common challenges

CHALLENGE: I’m not sure whether I should screen this person into the next phase of the selection process or not?

In reviewing the resume you are seeking to determine if the candidate meets the minimum requirements set for the role. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does this person demonstrate the core requirements of the role in the areas of language proficiency, academic credentials, professional credentials, and experience?
  • Are there any gaps or points of confusion that could be resolved through a short phone screening interview?
  • Have I taken all steps required to ensure an objective and equitable process for all candidates?
  • What might I gain by interviewing someone with experience from other parts of the world?
  • How could this help our business?

CHALLENGE: There are a few points of confusion or things that require clarification on an otherwise great resume that I’ve received from a New Canadian. I want to make sure that our recruitment process is fair to all candidates. Phone screening is not typically a part of overall recruitment process. Do I need to phone screen all candidates in order to be fair, or can I just phone screen for this specific resume?

The resume review portion of the screening process is intended to ensure that candidates meet core requirements for the role prior to moving forward.. If a candidate has a strong resume but there are certain points of confusion or outstanding questions (e.g., perhaps you are unfamiliar with an English training program the candidate references on the resume), you can contact the candidate to ask for clarification in order to determine if the candidate meets the requirements to move forward in the screening process. This is a fair practice as all candidates are being measured against the same core requirements.