If you attended our recent webinar on how to develop the ideal recruitment process for your SME, then you’ll know how important it is to write a great job description and create a compelling EVP for your small or medium sized business in order to attract really great new staff.

But what happens when you’ve attracted all that amazing talent, and you’re faced with deciding who to carry forward to interview stage?

Our next webinar is all about how to conduct a professional job interview, but until then, I want to share some tips on how to decide who to interview for your SME.

1. Screen resumes

Reviewing resumes for interview is such an important part of the hiring process, but it’s also one of the most admin heavy.

Some roles will get hundreds of applications, others far fewer. You’re probably time poor, so interviewing every applicant just isn’t an option either way. In our recently conducted SME hiring challenges survey, 20% of respondents indicated that they spend more than 10 hours screening resumes and interviewing. This makes it the lengthiest stage of the recruitment process for small and medium sized businesses who haven’t engaged external recruitment services.

So, what is resume screening?

It’s really two phases – first is a process of elimination; anyone who isn’t qualified for your role, based on education, experience and any other factors you must consider, goes straight in the ‘no’ pile. These are the resumes you shouldn’t spend too much time on.

The second phase is selecting, from the pool of suitable resumes, which ones have the most relevant skills, experience and competencies.

In a small or medium sized business, where cultural fit is so important, I would recommend looking closely at the types of organisations the applicants have worked in previously – this is usually a good indicator of how well they’ll fit into your company.

Remember to stay open-minded in this phase – not everyone gets their personality across on paper and a lot of your applicants might prove better face-to-face in the interview.

2. Create, then cut down your shortlist

When you’re down to less than 10 really great applicants, this is your shortlist. Two or three rounds of interviews with 10 people is still fairly unrealistic, so now is the time to concentrate on who your top choices are.

Depending on your business and the role, you should look at various factors, including:

  • Previous experience – they might have had the same job title, but is their experience really relevant?
  • Skills – consider skills that can be learned on the job vs. those which can’t be taught and ensure they have the latter on their list already
  • Education – does your role require any formal qualifications or does the applicant’s skills and experience mean more to you?
  • Location – does it matter where the applicant is based in comparison to your office?
  • Interests section – while many people don’t include this on their resume, it’s a good indicator of personality and values

It’s good to have a few back-ups, but to make your life easier, just choose the best three for interviews initially.

3. Go back to the job description

Never forget what you actually advertised for. Throughout steps one and two, keep referring back to your job description and advertisement.

Of course, if you have decided the original brief has changed and you need someone with a different skill set, then you need to start from scratch. If not, the requirements you laid out initially are exactly what you should be picking out from resumes.

As a last note, it’s worth saying that when you are as close to your business as you will be in an SME, you should use a decent amount of common sense and ‘gut feeling’. If an applicant really stands out to you but their resume doesn’t have enough details on their past experience for you to make a call, invite them for an interview and factor in more questions about their last role.

Find out how to prepare for your interviews, how to write the questions and how to conduct the interview itself in our next webinar, ‘How to conduct a professional job interview’. Alternatively, find out more about how we help small and medium sized businesses recruit.


Here are the three steps to follow when you decide who to interview for your SME:

1. Screen resumes - don't try to review hundreds of applications, just the most relevant ones

2. Create, then cut down your shortlist - go from your top 10 to your top three

3. Go back to the job description - always keep a copy to hand when you're reviewing applications

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