There is a skill to reading a resume beyond a simple reference to positions, experience, and education. When filling your loss prevention job openings, this document holds a wealth of information and opportunity beyond the basic limits of a career summary.
In today’s competitive job market, employers are often overwhelmed with the number of resumes that are received for loss prevention job openings. Especially in a new age of technology, applying for a position may require little more than attaching a resume file and clicking “send” on a home computer. This can lead to a surplus of candidates that aren’t close to qualified for some positions, some that might be considered a “stretch” for a particular role, and those that are often considered over-qualified for a particular opening.
In the same light, the flood of applicants that can be part of an initial resume review process can also lead to overlooking potential, and therefore missing out on quality candidates by rushing through the process and eliminating those that might be a better fit than we initially thought.
There is a reason that this is called a “hiring process.” We’re not simply pulling a name or a paper out of a hat, but rather making a decision on a new member of our team—one that can have a lasting impact on the success or failure of our collective efforts. By the same respect, we don’t typically have spotlights shine or choruses sing when we select a quality resume from amongst the pool of potential candidates, indicating we’ve found the “perfect” person for our loss prevention job openings. As a result, we have a responsibility to the company, the department, the candidate, and to ourselves to take the steps to do it right.
Start with the Basics
Screening through the resumes that are initially received when loss prevention job openings are posted typically begins with some common techniques that most follow when reviewing applicants. Some of the more common guiding principles would include:
- Location: If the position is in Los Angeles and the candidate is in Peoria, Illinois, this can clearly influence the individual’s candidacy. While higher level positions may have a budget for relocation, many don’t. If relocation is a possibility for the position, make sure that those involved in the initial screening process are aware of that possibility.
- Relevant Experience: Certainly, this depends on the position and level of experience necessary to successfully meet the needs of the position. However, an individual with a wealth of experience driving a bus—while a fine profession—doesn’t necessarily qualify them as a regional loss prevention manager handling 100 stores.
- Level of Experience: Similarly, an individual that has served for 15 years as a loss prevention manager may be doing a fine job, but that doesn’t typically qualify them for a position as director of loss prevention for a major retailer.
- Functional Experience: Some positions, especially those that demand specific technical expertise, require very specific training and experience.
- Recent Experience: An individual that served as a store detective twenty years ago and has moved on to do other non-related positions isn’t likely to have the necessary skills needed to run a loss prevention program or department.
- Resume presentation: In today’s world there are a large number of programs and services available to help candidates build a functional and acceptable resume. While a well-conceived resume isn’t necessarily an indication of an individual’s abilities or skill sets, a poorly presented resume— spelling errors, poor format, errors in grammar, too long, verbose, rambling— is a flag that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Depending on the organization, a preliminary resume screening may take place prior to the hiring manager seeing the pool of “qualified” applicants for a particular position. Human resources, third-party sources, or other internal resources may be responsible for the initial screening process. This can save considerable time and effort for the hiring manager and greatly expedite the candidate search. However, when this occurs it is critical that those involved in the initial screening serve as an extension of the hiring manager, and are well-versed on your considerations and expectations for the position.
Those assisting in the search process need to have an understanding of what you’re looking for in order to provide the best possible candidate pool, and it is the responsibility of the hiring manager to communicate any additional information and/or clarification that can help expand or narrow the search process. The objective of a successful search is to find a match—not just a candidate. Open discussions and candidate reviews can help build a strong partnership that leads to the best possible hiring solutions.
Let’s keep one general principle in mind: When individuals are good at what they do and comfortable in their positions, they don’t typically spend a great deal of time looking for new and different opportunities. We may seek options that can help us learn, grow, and develop; or there may be circumstances beyond our control such as company downsizing and similar situations that put us in a position to seek a new job opportunity. Whatever the case, a job search isn’t something that we get involved with every day. It’s not something that even the best will have a great deal of experience managing. In fact, if you’re dealing with someone that has extensive experience involved as a candidate in the job search process, it’s not likely to be a good thing. As a hiring manager, this is something that we must keep in perspective as well. Keep an open mind, and take the time to evaluate the individual and their candidacy.
Once the pool of candidates has been narrowed, each resume must be thoughtfully and objectively evaluated. An initial assessment will offer an overall impression of the candidate, to include experience, positions held, education, skill sets, company background, and similar information that gives us a starting point to evaluate the candidate.
Examining the candidate’s most recent employers and validating experience, accomplishments, and contributions is a common exercise; looking for an acceptable cross-over between the applicant’s resume and your position requirements. There is a skill to building a quality resume and presentation and attention to detail are important factors to review.
To learn more about the qualities that go into putting together a better resume, click here.
By the same respect, it’s important that we make sure that we are evaluating the candidate, and not a person that was paid or a program that was used to make the candidate appear larger than life, or even qualified for a position.
Watch for the Flags
There are several common flags that we learn to look for when reviewing the resume, and a few that are more subtle but just as important when assessing a candidate. However, an important skill to develop as a hiring manager is learning to evaluate the flags. What is the nature of the concern? Is there a pattern of behavior? Is there an attempt at being deceptive with information? How might this impact performance? How might it impact your ability to manage the prospective employee? How does the information fit in with the rest of your assessment of the resume?
By definition, flags are typically indicators—not conclusions. If a decision is made to interview the candidate, these should definitely be points of discussion during the interview process in order to make the best and most informed decision. Here are a few common examples:
- Employment Gaps: While most understand the need to look for gaps in employment, it’s just as important to evaluate the what, how, and why of the situation. In a profession like loss prevention and in an industry that is heavily influenced by the economy, strategic decisions, and other influences, companies will occasionally make adjustments and eliminate positions based on factors that are outside the employee’s control. Is this the reason, or is it something else? Is the candidate open about the reason for the gap and can it be explained, or did they attempt to hide it (For example, by altering employment dates)? Probe for reasons in order to determine the cause, and objectively gather facts in order to make an informed decision.
- Education: An area of frequent embellishment on a resume often revolves around education. For example, a candidate will list a college and indicate that they were enrolled in a Bachelor’s degree program, however they never clarify that they actually graduated or earned the degree. At first glance it may appear that they have earned a degree, but probing the candidate might uncover that they spent a semester enrolled and then dropped out, for instance. If a degree is required, decisions must then be made. But there are any number of reasons why someone doesn’t finish a degree. If not required, learn the reasons and make decisions accordingly.
- Short-term Employment at Several Jobs: Is the candidate frequently changing jobs? A few jobs over an extended period of time can be the result of any number of factors, but a candidate that is changing jobs every 6-12 months may be an indicator of a more telling concern.
- Stagnation: Typically we want to see that an employee is progressing in their career, finding new challenges and accepting new and different responsibilities, even if it is within the same job. Does the candidate have ten years experience in a position, or one year of experience repeated ten times over? This is an area of resume review that should be explored during the interview process.
- Decreasing Responsibility: Once again, this should be considered a flag rather than a conclusion. In a volatile job market, individuals may take on a position with less responsibility following a down-sizing or other employment change in order to get back to work and support a family. If this is a pattern of behavior, however, it can be a more problematic indicator. Place such incidents in context with the entire resume, and ask appropriate questions during the employee interview.
Interpreting the Highlights
Strong candidates learn to highlight their career strengths and achievements as part of their resume presentation. When reviewing the resume, it then becomes the responsibility of the reader to separate fact from fiction, and substance from hype. A well-written resume leaves the reader anxious to meet with the candidate to learn more about what they have to offer. At the same time, there has to be material information that substantiates the information provided by the candidate. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
- The Candidate Summary: Often a candidate summary will provide additional content intended to draw attention to a commitment to career growth and development. While this may in fact be the case, be careful of “No kidding” comments. For example, a comment such as “Seeking a challenging opportunity to utilize my skills with a progressive employer who will provide opportunities for growth” is something most of us are looking for in a job opportunity. But is it a catch phrase, or does the candidate really mean it? This is a good area to explore with the candidate that can provide a great deal of insight into their true character as well as skills and abilities. A simple “What do you mean by that?” is a good place to start.
- Career Progression: A resume is a road map. It tells the reader where you’ve been, where you are today, and most importantly—it should help provide insight into where you’re capable of going. Does the resume show the steps? Is there an indication of potential as well as achievement? There are different, and sometimes subtle ways that this may be shared, but the signs are typically there once you learn what to look for.
- Leadership: Leadership is more than simply supervising a team of individuals. Look for signs of other important leadership traits, such as assuming additional responsibilities, development of subordinates, business partnerships, and other indicators of desired leadership qualities.
- Achievement: Does the candidate offer actual information to substantiate their performance? This may appear in many different forms (commendations, shrink numbers, and other performance metrics), but can provide a more complete picture of both performance and potential.
- Career Emphasis: This general attribute can help provide the strengths of the candidate as well as areas of opportunity. It can help indicate the general approach that the candidate takes to the position as well as their career path. For example, a more obvious indicator may be the candidate’s emphasis on investigations as a measure of success. But it may also come in the form of an emphasis on more global attributes, such as building partnerships, the development of subordinates, or other career qualities.
- Adaptability: In a career such as loss prevention it is critical to have employees that are willing and able to adapt to the dynamic changes of the retail environment and the ongoing needs of an evolving profession. Look for signs that the candidate is willing and able to learn and grow with the position and the business.
- Commitment: How has the candidate demonstrated a commitment to their career? Are there indications of continuing education, progressive thinking, and other signs of professional growth?
Putting it all Together
There are many different elements that are part of a thorough resume review, but each is only a piece of the sum total of the individual that you are evaluating for your loss prevention job openings. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect candidate, and every review should be intended to help make a more complete and educated decision on the viability of your candidate pool.
Matching a job description with the information that appears on the resume is only one step in the process. However, the better we become at interpreting the information that is available, the more successful that we will ultimately become in fulfilling our needs when filling our loss prevention job openings. Once we learn to read these signs, we can then better utilize this information during the candidate interview and throughout the hiring process.
For more tips on the hiring process and how to hire the most talented professionals, read the LP Magazine article “Learning to Hire Talent is Key to a Successful Loss Prevention Career.”
This article was first published in 2016 and updated April 15, 2020.