ALICE BREDIN

I recently recruited a staff member who did a lot of hiring in her last job. She has taught me a great deal about what to look for in a resume, and these lessons have saved me time and money in my hiring process. I now glean more from resumes than I ever did before and have cut down on interviewing people who would not fit with my home-based business.

The other benefit of this careful resume review is that by focusing on traits as well as experience, I sometimes discover diamonds in the rough who can be hired at a reasonable cost and polished to meet my needs. I have also learned to review resumes for clues about how potential employees think, as well as for signs about their professional standards.

Despite recent stock market gyrations, many home-based businesses are expanding rapidly, and this expansion often requires adding staff. Use the tips below to read between the lines on the resumes you receive:

? Look for a pattern of promotion. Promotion often signals a solid performer, especially if the timing of the advancements suggest the employee was promoted quickly and/or frequently.

? Look for a lack of promotion. If a candidate has been in the same position for an extended period of time, he or she may not have performed at the level necessary for promotion. If you're interested in an applicant whose resume reflects this situation, request the name of a previous supervisor who can offer a reference for him or her, then ask this person why the employee was not promoted.

? Analyze the way candidates organize thoughts and ideas. If applicants creatively solve resume challenges, they may possess fresh thinking that can benefit your business. As an example of this, I recently reviewed someone's credentials who held a position that was difficult to define. Her ability to translate this role into an easy-to-understand description was enough to encourage me to meet with her.

? Look for signs of former employers' feelings about the candidate. Scan resumes for mention of proposed initiatives that were adopted, committees applicants chaired or evidence that they were asked to work closely on projects with upper-level management. These are signs that applicants' supervisors trusted them to fuel initiatives and manage change.

? Look for flawed judgment. If candidates made poor career decisions, they may not have good judgment. An example of this is an applicant who joined a failing company, then soon lost the job. This suggests the candidate did not thoroughly research opportunities. If you find signs of poor judgment on a resume but are still interested in the applicant, run some decision-making scenarios by him or her.

? Analyze the candidate's longevity at previous positions. If an applicant has switched positions every year for a number of years, chances are he or she will leave your company after a short time. Even if a candidate offers you good reasons for leaving previous positions, exercise caution. Training costs add up quickly, so you may want to keep looking when faced with a potentially fickle employee.

? Check the candidate's previous work environments. People who have spent many years working with corporations often have trouble adjusting to the flexible structure and limited resources of a home-based business. If you're interested in an applicant with a corporate background, be sure to explore work environment issues such as phone use, kitchen privileges and interactions with children or pets with him or her.

Finding the perfect candidate means your job is only half done. The next step is to make the applicant as interested in your home business as you are in the applicant.

The good news for anyone hiring staff for a home-based business is that small business is hot right now. While it is true that home-based business is at the small end of the small-business spectrum, many people in today's workplace are interested in unconventional work arrangements that will help them balance the demands of work and home.

When you are preparing to woo a candidate, keep in mind that many people are not looking for a big office and large company perks anymore. For plenty of people, the perks have lost their luster, as has the big-company experience. In my interviewing, I have been pleasantly surprised to meet loads of people who are simply looking for interesting, challenging work and the chance to make a difference in a business.

Here are some features of working with a home-based business that you can highlight to land the candidate you want:

? Emphasize the opportunity to develop diverse skills. In a home office, a few hands cover a great deal of ground. For example, your employees may find themselves learning bookkeeping, interviewing skills and client-management techniques.

? Stress the applicant's ability to impact your home business. Many employees will be attracted to the opportunity to mold a young company's practices and philosophies.

? Point out the potential for rapid advancement. Career growth happens more quickly in home-based businesses than it does in large corporations, which means that as your home business grows, your employees will likely grow with it.

? Underscore that the candidate's voice will be heard. The massive size of many corporations often leaves their employees patiently struggling to be noticed. In a home office, the business leader can hone in on workers' ideas immediately.

? Reinforce how quickly things get done in your office. Bureaucratic hoops can be one of the most frustrating characteristics of large offices. Home offices are often red-tape-free. Approval processes are direct, require little paperwork and often occur instantaneously.

? Highlight positive aspects of your work environment. Compared to the cookie-cutter facilities of some corporations, home offices can be refreshing environments. If yours is fluorescent-free, sports a large porch for eating outdoors or is filled with soft classical music, use these plusses to woo your candidate.

? Find something extra you can offer. Since you're competing with other businesses for the applicant's attention, you'll need to do everything you can to make the sale. Fortunately, as a home-based business owner you are in a unique position to tailor job offers to each candidate. For instance, if you learn that an applicant cares about health and fitness, attach a membership to a nearby gym to your offer. As an added incentive for identifying such perks, you may find that some of these add-ons are tax deductible.

Alice Bredin is author of the "Virtual Office Survival Handbook" (John Wiley & Sons) and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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