How a Recruiter Can Review a Resume So Quickly
You only have 15 seconds to impress a recruiter!
At a meeting of my state's Technical Recruiters Association we took a poll, and it confirmed
what I had already come to know first-hand: we recruiters can review and eliminate a resume,
on average, in just 15 seconds or less. So how can a recruiter possibly grasp a candidate‘s
back-ground and determine what they bring to the table in mere seconds? How can a recruiter
determine so quickly if a job-seeker is worth looking at, or if instead that candidate will be put
on the TNT ("Thanks, but no thanks") pile? It‘s actually quite simple.
First, a recruiter doesn't actually read your resume—at least not in the first round. What we do
initially is give it a glance to see if it meets the preliminary but necessary criteria:
The first thing I myself usually look at is the job history. Does the applicant have a solid
employment record, or are they changing jobs every couple years? Sure, there may be a very
good reason for leaving a particular job, and we all know there are bad companies, bad
bosses, and bad economies, but what I‘m looking for is a pattern of poor employment history.
This alone is enough to get you eliminated from consideration, so it's critically important to
make solid decisions as they relate to your career, and to develop loyalty and dedication to
your job and your employer. It's also critically important to make your resume very clear in
terms of your employment. For example, if you held three jobs with one company, listing them
on your resume as three separate entries may make it appear at a glance to be three different
jobs. Instead, show one employer, but three entries underneath it. With a recruiter only giving
you a quick glance, it‘s critical that you make everything very clear and concise! Also, when-
ever I see a resume that uses only the years for the start and end dates of their jobs, it instant-
ly makes me suspicious, thinking the applicant is trying
to hide some gaps in employment; instead, use the
month and the year.
If a job is located in Nashville, Tennessee but the
candidate is in Spokane, Washington, I‘ll eliminate
this resume instantly if it‘s a very common job, or
low– to medium-level. On the other hand, there are
situations in which a person may have moved away
from their hometown and now wants to move back;
in that case, make sure you clearly state your desire
to move back so you‘re not instantly eliminated. If
I‘m looking for a candidate with very specialized ex-
perience or one that‘s at a higher level, then the
geographic location becomes less of a factor.
An applicant‘s specific industry experience is often
a factor. An experienced payroll clerk has skills that
may easily transfer to different industries, and while a
purchasing agent with experience in the procurement of ingredients for a food manufacturer
might easily transfer to another food manufacturer, a transition to an aluminum extruder would
be a very difficult one to make, and this applicant might not be considered for that role.
If that same purchasing agent is now applying for a job in sales, odds are this won‘t be a good
match either. Unless there‘s a very strong and compelling reason that‘s made clear in the
resume—and quickly—this applicant will be eliminated. On the same token, a person applying
for the correct job type but at the wrong level will probably also be eliminated. For example, a
junior buyer that‘s applying for a director-level position would be a poor match, and would
certainly be eliminated from consideration.
Not only must your experience match nicely with what a recruiter is looking for, it must also be
timely. Experience that‘s relevant but was a dozen years ago will no longer carry much weight,
and will probably cause you to be eliminated as a candidate.
Oftentimes an employer will say a particular degree is required, when in fact it‘s simply on their
wish list; they may possibly consider an applicant who has very strong experience but that has
a different but still relevant degree, or none at all. In the situation where a degree is actually
required, then this becomes a very quick and easy item to check for, and a cause for quick
elimination of the applicant. Similarly, if the employer wants ten years of experience and the
applicant has three, this is another quick and easy item to check for, and cause for quick
There are a number of resume formats, and a functional resume
is often used by those applicants with a less-than-solid work
history, or that are trying to change careers. In either case, it‘s
probably an applicant that‘s trying to overcome some obstacle,
so a functional resume is often a red flag to recruiters.
Poor Quality Resume
If you're applying for a position such as an administrative
assistant where accuracy is critical, just one or two errors may
be enough to instantly eliminate you from consideration. For
other positions, a poorly organized resume or one that isn‘t
clear and concise may not be enough in and of itself to cause
you to be eliminated; on the other hand, a poor resume will give
the recruiter an instant negative opinion of you.
Poor Career Objective
An example of a very common but worthless Career Objective is
something like: "To find a job that will use my skills, and that will
allow me to grow." That tells a recruiter absolutely nothing about
what a candidate brings to the table, and what it is they‘re look-
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Keep in mind that especially now, in this very difficult economy, there may be hundreds of
people applying to one job. Your resume must catch a recruiter's attention quickly, or it'll
simply be added to their huge pile of resumes. A strong resume is critical!
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