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Criteria Development and Résumé Review

    5.2 Criteria Development and Résumé Review

    Learning Objectives

    1. Be able to explain why criteria development is an important part of the selection process.
    2. Give examples of types of criteria that can be developed.
    3. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of internal and external candidates.

    Before we begin to review résumés and applications, we must have a clear idea of the person we want to hire for the position. Obviously, the job specifications will help us know the minimum qualifications, such as education level and years of experience. However, additional criteria might include the attitude of the potential hire, the ability to take initiative, and other important personal characteristics and professional abilities that may not always be demonstrated in an application or résumé. A specific score on a personality test, quality of work samples, and other tools to determine qualifications should be included as part of the criteria. In other words, knowing exactly what you want before you even begin the process of looking through résumés will make this process much easier. In human resources, this is called KSAOs, or knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics that make a person successful on the job. Some organizations, such as the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, require applicants to address each one of the KSAOs listed in the job position within their cover letter1.

    Criteria Development Considerations

    Many HR professionals and managers develop the criteria for hiring, as well as the interview questions, before reviewing any résumés. This allows for a streamlined process with specific guidelines already set before reviewing a résumé. For example, criteria for a project management job might include the following:

    1. Two years of experience managing a $2 million or more project budget
    2. A bachelor’s degree in business or closely related field
    3. Ability to work on multiple projects at once
    4. Problem-solving ability
    5. Conflict-management ability
    6. Ability to manage a team of five to six diverse workers
    7. Score of at least a 70 on cognitive ability test
    8. Score of excellent from most recent employer

    By setting criteria ahead of time, the hiring team has a clear picture of exactly what qualifications they are looking for. As a result, it is easier to determine who should move forward in the selection process. For example, if someone does not have a bachelor’s degree, given this is a criterion, their application materials can be filed away, perhaps for another job opening. Likewise, the HR manager can include those résumés with two or more years of experience and bachelor’s degree in the interview pile and then develop interview questions that show the candidates’ problem-solving, multitasking, and conflict-management abilities.

    Résumé parsing or résumé scanning software is readily available and can make the initial screening easier. For example, Sovren software allows the HR manager to include keywords such as bachelor’s degree or management. This software scans all received résumés and selects the ones that have the keywords. While it still may be necessary to review résumés, this type of software can save time having to look through résumés that obviously do not meet the minimum qualifications.

    Validity and Reliablity

    The validity refers to how useful the tool is to measure a person’s attributes for a specific job opening. A tool may include any and all of the following:

    1. Résumé-scanning software
    2. Reference checks
    3. Cognitive ability tests
    4. Work samples
    5. Credit reports
    6. Biographical information blanks
    7. Weighted application forms
    8. Personality tests
    9. Interview questions

    Biographical information blanks (BIBs) are a useful part of the application process. A BIB is a series of questions about a person’s history that may have shaped his or her behavior. The BIB can be scored in the same way as an interview or a résumé, assuming the organization knows which types of answers are predictable for success in a given job. Similarly, a weighted application form involves selecting an employee characteristic to be measured and then identifying which questions on the application predict the desired behavior. Then scores are assigned to each predictor. Of course, the development of the scoring should be determined before any résumés and application forms have been reviewed. In other words, any tool you use to determine someone’s qualifications for a job should have validity to determine they are the right fit for the job.

    Reliability refers to the degree in which other selection techniques yield similar data over time. For example, if you ask the same interview question of every applicant for the project management position, and the “right” answer always yields similar, positive results, such as the hiring of a successful employee every time, the question would be considered reliable. An example of an unreliable test might occur with reference checks. Most candidates would not include a reference on their résumé who might give them a poor review, making this a less reliable method for determining skills and abilities of applicants.

    Fit Issues

    Fit includes not only the right technical expertise, education, and experience but also fit in company culture and team culture. For example, at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, engineers are selected based on their willingness to take risks, as risk taking is nurtured at Facebook (McGirt, 2010). In addition to this component of their company culture, the company looks for the “hacker” personality, because a hacker is someone who finds ways around the constraints placed upon a system. At Zappos, profiled in Chapter 4 “Recruitment”, the company culture is one focused on customer service and the willingness of people to provide the best customer service in all aspects of the business. At Amazon, the huge online retailer, a core value in their company culture is a focus on developing leaders to grow with the organization. If a potential candidate is not interested in long-term career growth, he or she might not be deemed an appropriate strategic fit with the organization. In today’s organizations, most people are required to work within teams. As a result, fit within a team is as important as company culture fit. Microsoft, for example, does an immense amount of teamwork. The company is structured so that there are marketers, accountants, developers, and many others working on one product at a time. As a result, Microsoft looks for not only company culture fit but also fit with other team members.

    Reviewing Résumés

    Once we have developed our criteria for a specific job, we can begin the review process. Everyone prefers to perform this differently. For example, all the hiring decision makers may review all résumés, list the people they would like to meet in person, and then compare the lists. Another method might be to rate each candidate and interview only those above a certain score. This is discussed in Section 5.4.2 “Selection Methods”. Obviously, much of the process will depend on the organization’s size and the type of job. None of this process can be done fairly without first setting criteria for the job.

    When looking at résumés to determine whom to interview, a manager should be concerned with the concepts of disparate impact and disparate treatment. This is discussed in Chapter 4 “Recruitment”. Disparate impact is unintended discrimination against a protected group as a whole through the use of a particular requirement. Disparate impact may be present in the interviewing process, as well as other employment-related processes such as pay raises and promotions. For example, a requirement of being able to lift 110 pounds might be considered as having disparate impact on women, unless the job requires this ability. Every criteria developed should be closely considered to see if it might have disparate impact on a protected group of individuals. For example, the requirement of a certain credit score might have a negative impact on immigrants, who may not have a well-developed credit rating. However, if being able to manage money is an important requirement of the job, this requirement might not be discriminatory.

    Disparate treatment in hiring might include not interviewing a candidate because of one’s perception about the candidate’s age, race, or gender.

    The last consideration is the hiring of internal versus external candidates. An internal candidate is someone who already works within the organization, while an external candidate is someone who works outside the organization. A bidding process may occur to notify internal candidates of open positions. This is discussed in Chapter 4 “Recruitment”. Generally speaking, it is best to go through a formal interview process with all candidates, even if they work within the organization. This way, an HR professional can be assured that disparate treatment does not occur because of favoritism. For example, a senior executive of your organization just left, and you believe the manager in that department is qualified to take over the position. Suppose, though, that the manager has been lobbying you for the job for some time and has even taken you out to lunch to talk about the job. While this person has maintained high visibility and lobbied for the promotion, there may be equally qualified internal candidates who did not use the same lobbying techniques. Automatically offering the position to this internal candidate might undermine others who are equally qualified. So while hiring internally can be a motivator, making assumptions about a particular person may not be a motivator to others. This is why it is best, even if you hire internally, to post a formal job announcement listing the job description and job qualifications, so everyone in the organization can have an equal opportunity to apply for the job.

    Once you have completed the criteria for the particular job and narrowed down the field, you can begin the interview process. We discuss this in Section 5.3 “Interviewing”.

    Table 5.1 Possible Advantages and Disadvantages of Hiring an Internal versus an External Candidate

    Advantages Disadvantages
    Internal Candidates Rewards contributions of current staff Can produce “inbreeding,” which may reduce diversity and difference perspectives
    Can be cost effective, as opposed to using a traditional recruitment strategy May cause political infighting between people to obtain the promotions
    Can improve morale Can create bad feelings if an internal candidate applies for a job and doesn’t get it
    Knowing the past performance of the candidate can assist in knowing if they meet the criteria
    External Candidates Brings new talent into the company Implementation of recruitment strategy can be expensive
    Can help an organization obtain diversity goals Can cause morale problems for internal candidates
    New ideas and insight brought into the company Can take longer for training and orientation

    How Would You Handle This?

    Poor Interviewer

    As the assistant to the HR manager, one of your jobs is to help managers get ready to interview candidates. When you offer help to Johnathan, he says he has interviewed hundreds of people and doesn’t need your help in planning the interview process. When you sit in the interview with him, he asks inappropriate questions that you don’t feel really assess the abilities of a candidate. How would you handle this?

    Key Takeaways

    • The first step in selection is to begin reviewing résumés. Even before you do this, though, it is important to develop criteria that each candidate will be measured against. This can come from the job description as well as the job qualifications.
    • Other tools, such as cognitive ability tests, credit checks, and personality tests, can be used to determine qualifications. When developing your criteria for interviewing, determine the level the applicant needs to meet to meet the minimum criteria, for example, a minimum score on a personality test.
    • We should be concerned with validity and reliability of measurement tools. Validityrefers to how valid the test is, that is, how well a test measures a candidate’s abilities to do a job. Reliability refers to which selection techniques yield similar data or results over time. It is important to choose the right measurement tool used to determine whether the candidate meets the criteria.
    • Setting criteria before the interview process starts ensures that disparate impact or disparate treatment does not occur in the interview process.
    • When hiring, there is the option of internal and external candidates. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Internal candidates may be able to “hit the ground running,” but external candidates may come in with new perspectives. Even if an internal candidate seems to be the best hire, it is best to still perform the process of posting the job and interviewing, since other less vocal employees might be qualified internal candidates as well. In other words, don’t assume one person is the obvious choice for the promotion.


    1. Develop criteria for the position of a retail salesperson working in teams.
    2. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of hiring an internal and external candidate. Give an example of when you don’t think an external candidate should be considered for a position.
    3. How can development of criteria or minimum standards help in a case of disparate treatment accusations?

    1“What Are KSAs?” US Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed August 2, 2011,


    McGirt, E., “Most Innovative Companies,” Fast Company, February 2010, accessed July 12, 2011,

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