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Do Recruiters Really Read a Resume?

May 15, 2010

   The 10 to 20 seconds it takes to “read ” a resume always seems to always generate a lot of discussion.  Potential Candidates comment on how disrespectful it is, how one can’t possibly “read” a resume in that amount of time, and some actually get angry at Recruiters when they talk about this.  I hope this article will shed some light on the process.  I realize that some will still not like it, and will still be angry, but at least you can understand how it works.

First, let me say I’m a Job Seeker, not a Recruiter for a while.  (Did you notice I didn’t put the number of years on my effort?)  I’m sure, over the years, I have created 1,000’s of resumes.  During my last 6 month transition, I actually created 208 different resumes to accommodate 208 different positions.  I can prove this, and I just figured it out at about an average of about 1 resume per calendar day.  That’s a lot of resumes to create!

So for the record when you hear, or read about, “Reading a resume in 10 to 20 seconds,” that isn’t completely true.  No kidding, huh?  🙂  It is more than likely, “Reviewing in 10 to 20 seconds.”

For a Job Seeker to succeed with the process, you must think as a Recruiter.   For a Recruiter to “review” literally 100’s of resumes for every position, there is a process for getting through them in a short period of time, just like the same way you “look” for positions.  Others may have different ways, and I would welcome your comments at the bottom of the article.

This is box checking exercise to achieve a 90% match or above, so if you don’t address the issues below, during the scanning process of your resume, you will be excluded (NEXTed).   [tweetmeme source=”@Aidan_Foley” only_single=false]

  1. Format:  Make it look professional.  Don’t even read it; just place it on the floor.  How does it look?  If you don’t like it, they won’t either.  It’s a visual thing.  Do you have enough “white space”?  How does the spacing look?  Are things centered?  Do you use “full justification”?  Do you keep it to 2 pages or less?  If not, you’ll be NEXTed.  A couple of seconds to check this.
  2. Location:  If applying to a local position, include your address.  If the Client is in Phoenix, AZ, and you aren’t – NEXT.  Few, if any, Clients want to relocate anyone in this economy, and they don’t need to, especially in a huge metropolitan area like Phoenix.  If applying to something out-of-state, don’t include your address, but do include your other contact information, such as Phone (specify type), Email, and LinkedIn.  They can check the location issue in about 1 second.
  3. Industry:  If a Client is in Manufacturing, and your background is primarily in Banking – NEXT.  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, they are not going to consider someone within Banking.  It takes about 2 – 3  seconds to determine this.
  4. Function:  If the Recruiter is doing an Engineering search, and your background isn’t Engineering – NEXT.  Generally companies are paying Recruiters to find them a perfect fit.  They typically never do find a perfect fit, but they have to be very close.  They don’t need a Recruiter to find them someone in a completely different function.  About 2 seconds to figure this one out.
  5. Level:  If the Recruiter is doing a VP level search, and your title is “Manager,” and you have never been a VP – NEXT.  There are exceptions to this, but again it is the 90% rule.  Again, Clients pay Recruiters to find them the perfect fit.  It is generally way too big of a jump from Manager level to a VP level, all things being equal.  It works the other way too.  If  they are looking for a Manager, and you are a VP – NEXT.  I know you are qualified to do a Manager level role, but it is clear you have grown past that level.  Most Clients, and Recruiters aren’t willing to take the chance on you.  Less than 5 seconds to figure out.
  6. Recent Experience:  If they are searching for someone with international Sales experience in the Aerospace industry, and the last time you held an international Sales position in this Aerospace was 20 years ago, and since then you have been in Retail – NEXT.  They typically can find people with more relevant experience, and that is what the Client expects.  Also, only include positions within the last 15 years maximum.  If you have schooling to include, but is more than 15 years since, leave the dates off.  Maybe another 5 seconds to do.
  7. Education:  Like it, or not, they may only work with people who have a college education, of course depending on the position. This is mainly because, as I indicated before, the Recruiters need to find the very best for their Clients.  If a certain level of education is a requirement, then it is a qualifier, or a disqualifier.  Most Clients require at least a BS.  Usually about 1 – 2 seconds to check.
  8. Turnover, or Gaps:  This will be different depending on the field, such as IT who get hired for a particular short-term project, or the placement, such as Contractor versus Direct Placement.  If you have had 6 jobs in the last 4 years, or have a track record of high turnover – NEXT.  I realize there are good reasons for turnover, and will fall into the formula of recruitment.  They may not be able to define high turnover, or what constitutes too long of a gap, but they’ll know when they see it.  About 3 – 5 seconds to scan over the dates.
  9. Functional Resume:  Most won’t read them.  They expect a Chronological resume, so give them one.  It’s painfully obvious when one has a functional resume they are trying to hide something, and most are rarely going to take the time to attempt to figure out why.  1 second.
  10. Obvious Things:  Spelling errors, errors in grammar, too long, too short, verbose, rambling, no quantifiable results, etc.  If after scanning it, they still can’t figure out what you do, NEXT.  5 – 10 seconds.

After all this, 80 – 100% of you have been eliminated.  If you did make it through all 10 steps, that took any where from about 27 – 36 seconds.  If there are any left, then the Recruiter will take the time to actually “read” them in “more” detail.

If this was helpful to you, please pass it along to help others in your network.  Consider adding this blog to your status on LinkedIn, posting on Twitter, or emailing the link to your network.  Please help others if this helped you.

I’d welcome your thoughts, and/or comments.  Thanks, and good luck!

Aidan Foley

Twitter:  @Aidan_Foley


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