It's not your fault. You've been told that scrutinizing resumes is the best way to figure out whether or not someone is worth calling in for an interview.

Sadly, the resume is often full of fluff that really doesn't tell you very much. Do you really care where the candidate went to school, or how many years he or she spent at the last job? Do those qualities really help you predict this candidate's potential to succeed at your company? Or do they only tell you whether or not this person was capable of warming a seat in relatively inoffensive fashion for the past 5 years?

There are better ways to tell if you should spend any time with this person.

The cover letter

Anyone can write a form cover letter. I look for people who dump the form in favor of showing me that they understand my problem. I also appreciate it when people tell me exactly how they're going to solve the problem. If the cover letter mentions past successes I want to know exactly how those successes were achieved, and whether they'll be able to duplicate those successes for me.

I also appreciate it when people make some additional effort to be seen. This doesn't mean that they turn campy or unprofessional. I don't want a cookie cake with the words 'Hire me' on it in pink icing. Sometimes standing out is as simple as calling in the person who went the extra mile to dig up my name and e-mail address so they can send their cover letter and resume directly to me, rather than simply shooting it off to the main company email address.

Online thought leadership

I appreciate people who have taken the time to give themselves a strong online presence. People who blog about their fields or who have active, lively social profiles centered around their area of expertise are always of interest to me. Yes, I do Google candidates, and I do look for those who are making an effort to stand out.

Work doesn't have to be your life, but I do appreciate people who are passionate enough and knowledgeable enough about what they do to join the vast online conversation. Incidentally, that also shows me that they understand the value and the mechanics of developing a good online reputation, something that's an asset for people who are joining my company in particular.

Their job search is an interview!

A resume is just a brochure. It's useful, but it's a marketing peace. It only shows you what the candidate wants you to see.

By contrast, looking at the methods the candidate chooses in order to conduct his or her job search tells you so much more about how they act and think. Are they passive candidates who take a scattershot approach, hoping to get lucky? Or do they carefully and thoughtfully pick their targets and their approach in a meaningful way? When you look at it this way, it's easy to see who the worthiest candidates are.