How Your Resume Is Reviewed In 15 Seconds

Oct 5 2011 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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You’ve heard me speak (or write) about how hiring managers/recruiters/HR reps decide if you’re getting an interview in an average 15 seconds (see:

It’s critical for you as a candidate to understand how your reader decides who to interview, and how quickly they make the decision.

It’s a recruiter’s job to find candidates that are exact fits (or close) to a hiring manager’s needs. They aren’t interested in candidates who meet some of the criteria, or career changers, or those who’s close experience happened 20 years ago. It’s not a recruiter’s job to help you – if they help you, it’s because they feel they can place you (and make money from you).

Recruiters find close fits very efficiently – they are subject matter experts in finding and delivering close fit candidates … fast.

So recruiters have to go through candidates quickly. You’ll want to note, that this recruiter explains how he quickly reviews and eliminates candidates who aren’t close fits. You’ll also want to note, that this recruiter explains what happens after they’ve used an Applicant Tracking System to pre-screen resumes … so they’re doing this quick review only of the top 20-30 (or so) resumes, ranked based on how many words on your resume match the 7-10 search criteria the recruiter uses.

It’s interesting to see how a recruiter looks at this issue.

“The 10 or 20 seconds it takes to read a resume seems to always generate a lot of controversy. Candidates comment on how disrespectful it is, how one can’t possibly read a resume in that time and some get angry at recruiters when we talk about this. I hope this article will help everyone understand how we do this. I realize that some still may not like it and will still be angry, but at least you can understand how it works …

  1. Location: If the client is in Los Angeles, CA and you aren’t – goodbye. Few if any clients want to relocate anyone in this economy, and I believe most shouldn’t have to. Especially in a huge metropolitan area like Los Angeles. If they do have to consider relocation the position has to require some very unique experience that few jobs do. I can do this in about 1 second.
  2. Industry: If my client is in banking and your background is primarily manufacturing – goodbye. These two often are so different that the client isn’t open to considering such different industries. This works both ways, if you have a manufacturing background I’m not going to consider someone with banking. 2-3 seconds to determine this.
  3. Function: If I’m doing a sales search and your background isn’t sales – goodbye. Generally companies are paying recruiters to find them a perfect fit. We never do find a perfect fit, but we have to be very close. They don’t need a recruiter to find them someone in a completely different function. 2 seconds to figure this one out.
  4. Level: If I’m doing a VP level search and your title is “manager” and you have never been a VP – goodbye. There are exceptions to this, but again it is the 80/20 rule. Again, clients pay me to find them the perfect fit. It is generally way too big of a jump from manager level to VP level, all other things being equal. It works the other way too. If I’m looking for a manager and you are a VP – goodbye. I know you are qualified to do a manager level role, but it is clear you have grown past. Most clients and recruiters aren’t willing to take the chance that when a VP level position comes along that you won’t be gone. Less than 5 seconds to figure out.
  5. Recent Experience: There is some overlap on this one. If I’m searching for someone with international sales experience in the aerospace industry and the last time you held an international sales position in this industry was 20 years ago and since then you have been in retail – goodbye. I can find people with more relevant experience and that is what my client expects me to do. 5 seconds to do this.
  6. Education: Like it or not, I will only work with people that have a college education and most of the time a master’s degree. This is mainly because, as I indicated before, I need to find the very best for my clients. I realize an education doesn’t mean by itself that the candidate is the best, but it is one qualifier of many. Also all of my clients require at least a BA.
  7. Turnover: If you have had 6 jobs in the last 4 years, or have a track record of high turnover – goodbye. I realize there are good reasons for turnover and that falls into the 20% of the 80/20 rule. I can’t define high turnover, but I know it when I see it. 3 – 5 seconds.
  8. Functional resume: I don’t read them. It is obvious when one has a functional resume they are trying to hide something and I’m rarely going to take the time to attempt to figure it out. 1 second.
  9. The obvious: Things such as, spelling errors, poor format, errors in grammar, too long, verbose and rambling. If after reading it I still can’t figure out what you do, goodbye. 5 – 10 seconds. “

Original article by Brad Remillard published at

Notice that nowhere does this recruiter mention reading a cover letter – it’s because 97% of your audience makes interview decisions based on your resume … not your cover letter.

So now that you know how your audience chooses who to interview and who to put in the discard pile, how will you change your job search strategy to get more interviews?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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