Bullet Point to the Head

As a (once and future) corporate recruiter “actively looking for his next opportunity,” (translation: unemployed and hitting refresh on Indeed.com), I’ve had the opportunity, for the first time in my career, to experience life across the desk, as one of the unwashed masses yearning to breathe free.

Interesting paradigm shifts have occurred. An interview has gone from a job function to an event worthy of a phone call to mom; I no longer screen my calls, and in fact, am excited when the phone rings; and, of course, the worst of it all: I’ve become the target of a billion-dollar industry of profiteers who promise to give my search the winning edge, but they’re no longer contingency recruiters on biz dev calls. That, at least, would represent a career opportunity.

Let me be clear: I actually admire those who have figured out a way to monetize providing services to the unemployed. Most marketers would probably, conducting a SWOT analysis, point to the fact that categorically, those without jobs who are “actively looking” likely lack disposable income. But, you see, that’s capitalism in action.

Perhaps the most common service offered is professional resume writing. These services promise that, for anywhere between 400 and 800 dollars, a professional resume writer will not only critique your resume, but also work with you to create a resume guaranteed to “break through the clutter” by using better verbs to craft the “story of your career.” Corporate recruiters, apparently, have very strict guidelines for formatting on a resume, and a secret code known only to them and somehow cracked by the Professional Resume Writer’s Association. I must have missed that workshop at ERE, but I suppose so too did a lot of my colleagues, who I have seen commit such violations to code as cut and pasting resumes off of Monster into Word or forwarding horrifically misformatted LinkedIn profiles to hiring managers.

Since there seems to be an interesting amount of conspiracy theory around how recruiters read resumes (if they do at all, since apparently, talent acquisition systems are to candidates what the Meadowlands are to Jimmy Hoffa), I hope to add to the body of knowledge and present, from first-hand observation, how recruiters read resumes. And we do. Hundreds of them, every day, but there’s a method to our madness: overstaffed, overworked, we’ve developed a short-hand to get through that resume. It involves a few simple steps.

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  1. Recruiter tears off cover letter (or, more likely, doesn’t bother opening the attachment in the ATS). Since most resumes lead with an objective statement (which are always subjective, in a nice bit of irony), we can only handle so much generic doublespeak in one sitting. Recruiters also don’t normally read objective statements, because the objective is pretty apparent when you send in a resume … to get a job. Everything else is window dressing.
  2. Recruiter looks at the candidate’s mailing address. If it’s going to require relocation or there’s any chance the commute is going to come up during salary negotiation, then on to the next candidate. Many resumes do indicate that the person will pay out of pocket to relocate and interview, which raises an immediate red flag as to why. We have enough desperation in our lives already. We’re recruiters, for heaven’s sake. This rule, of course, only applies to applicants, not passive candidates. If you’re top talent with a niche skill set, we’ll relocate you from Zanzibar, if that’s what it takes. Unless, of course, you require visa sponsorship. We have our limits, you know.
  3. Recruiter looks at company name. If we, in our infinite wisdom of all companies, do not recognize the company, we will move on, because there’s so much truth that branding is everything. You’re only as good as your last company, unless you have the letters CPA, MD, or JD after your name. Conversely, if the company has been in the news as either an acquisition target or a source of corporate scandal, on to the next resume (assuming the recruiter reads anything BUT resumes, which most do not). So it goes.
  4. The candidate’s most recent title must be in the same ballpark as the job for which they are being considered. There are some notable exceptions: candidates coming from the financial services industry, for instance, where we well know that interns are Assistant Vice Presidents, or consulting, where the titles are intentionally vague (Analyst, Associate, etc.) and flat so that everyone can be billed out at the same exorbitant rate. Traditionally, though, if you’re a Marketing Manager applying for a Marketing Manager job, then we’re still reading. If you’re looking for a step up, well, best of luck to you, because we promote from within, which will later be transformed into a selling point when offered a lateral move. If you’re looking to gain experience and aren’t title conscious, and are willing to lop off silly corporate constructs such as the word “Senior” or “Executive” from your title for a clearly better opportunity, you are the ideal candidate. But not for our corporate culture, which as a heavily matrixed, hierarchical organization, is obsessed with titles as a designator of worth. Without them, how would you know your place?
  5. If you don’t require relo, work for a brand name company and have the same title as the position you’re applying for, then it’s on to the first listed experience on the resume. Then we become Goldilocks … too heavy or too light? Here’s a rule of thumb. Refer back to the job description. Take the number of years of experience and add two … postings are a lot like dating in reverse. If the job’s looking for five years, the recruiter is looking for seven; 10 years means 12, and so on, until you hit the 20-year mark, whereby it’s onto the next resume because you’re “overqualified.” Besides, anyone who began their career prior to 1985 likely wears cardigans, talks about Andy Rooney around the water cooler, and will complain incessantly about how cold the office is when they’re not using their Dictaphones to compose correspondence. It’s a strange new world out there … and your Facebook page does little to convince the recruiter otherwise. Although interesting Matlock widget … It’s all about millennial now, which is why recent college grads are so successful in finding immediate, meaningful employment.
  6. Education check: Recruiters assign a baseline value of zero for a bachelor’s degree in a related discipline, which is to say, none of you crazy liberal or fine arts majors who spent your way doping through college while the rest of us were studying differential calculus need apply. We’re still bitter. A.A. on a resume? Take 12 steps back. Add one point for a Master’s, add two points for an M.B.A. (2.5 if it’s from a top-25 program), and subtract one point for a PhD. You’re probably either too smart to function here, or you’ve come crawling back from the Ivory Tower with a foiled plan B and the debt to prove it. Subtract the term “viable candidate” if secondary education has come from an institution whose admissions criteria involve clicking through pop-up ads or calling an 800 number on the side of the bus. While you’re obviously easy to close, we’ve got our shareholders to think about, and you’ve demonstrated little knowledge of the concept of “ROI.” The Phoenix will rise from the ashes only in myth. In reality, you should have saved those 30k for the premiums you’re about to pay on our “comprehensive” health benefits package. Oh, yeah. And we offer tuition reimbursement. Eh, too late.

Average time for these steps for an experienced corporate recruiter: 15 to 20 seconds. If you pass this initial scan, maybe then we’ll drill down past the keywords, unless you’re so impressive you’re out of our price range.

Alternatively, if you have a funny name, or if there’s obvious irony (a “Lean Executive” at Krispy Kreme, for instance, or the recent Monster headline, “Desperate Single Mom Willing To Do Anything”) or mention your work as a runway model or professional athlete, prepare to have your resume circulated to the entire staffing department.

Of course, what do I know? If I was such an expert, I’d have a job. Like being a professional resume writer.

As a veteran of the HR and recruiting industries, Matt Charney has served in marketing leadership roles for companies such as Monster, Cornerstone OnDemand, and Talemetry, overseeing online, social media, content marketing, and press/analyst relations. He developed expertise in recruitment advertising and strategy, online employer branding, social recruiting, and direct sourcing while an in-house recruiter for companies including the Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment Group, and Amgen. A highly sought after writer and speaker on recruiting, marketing and technology, you can follow him on Twitter @MattCharney or connect on LinkedIn.


77 Comments on “Bullet Point to the Head

  1. Matt – that is funny – your rough sort technique is strangely familiar but I only give them about 3 or 4 seconds to make the initial cut. When the recruiting business went away after 9/11(sound familiar), I switched gears and my new quest became to change the way resumes were conveyed. Started http://OptimalResume.com, which is a service sold mostly to the higher education market (over 600 universities). The bottom line is we wanted to help people with their resumes which as you know in many cases are really bad. We also assist recruiting companies with a turnkey career services function so they can in turn help their clients. May as well tap into that wealth of employment industry knowledge and put it to work.

  2. What a great sense of humor. Maybe your new career could be as a writer. Most of what you say is true, unfortunately. As an agency recruiter, I have had to convince people that certain companies are well known or that certain job titles should be considered.

  3. I think you purposely over estimated the 6-step scan time (15 Seconds) by an order of magnitude (1.5 seconds i more like it) in order to save “recruiter face”.

    The bottom line is that the resume screening method you describe is just as likely to result in a quality candidate as every other method used to screen resumes.

  4. Very Funny Stuff. I happen to be a Recruiter and a Certified Resume Writer. Trust me, people need help with their resumes and it’s worth their money. You should see some of the stuff I read. YIKES.
    I think I differ on the resume review approach. I’m always looking for transferable skills between differing industries. I’ve been able to add a breadth of knowledge that way to several teams that were previously lacking in certain areas.

  5. GREAT POST MATT! I’d love to say that I have NO IDEA what you’re talking about… but unfortunately, I cannot.

    This, coupled with my post about recruiters’ lack of communication on CruiterTalk today, may be a deadly combination! http://www.cruitertalk.com/2009/07/30/jennifer-scott/

    You have a great sense of humor, and this is very well-written. Nice job! And, here’s to changing the way some recruiters go to business…

    Jennifer Scott

  6. On so many levels this article is great! Your tongue-in-cheek humor spices up the straightforward truth.

  7. I agree with your analysis of the professional resume writers. I find it hard to believe that anyone worth hiring would pay the $600 or more to reimage themselves. Of course, those who do are probably the ones that can least afford it. I feel it is ethically no better then the predatory lending practices of sub-prime lenders.

    It looks like the job boards think that it will be their saving grace to replace all the revenue they lost from employers who are not advertising. Take a look at the latest offering from Jobing.com: http://phoenix.jobing.com/career_services.asp

    You would think that a company that can afford to put their name on an Arena could think of a better way to replace their lost revenue then by charging the unemployed for a service that most corporate recruiters will tell you are a complete waste. In fact, they hired a professional writer; not a recruiter to write the resumes. Most corporate recruiters I know can spot a “professional resume” a mile away and immediately put it in the discard pile or click “reject” on their ATS.

    I guess the job boards like Jobing.com could concentrate on customer service and consultation instead if they had not fired many of their best employees. They did try to start a new division called Outplacing.com headed up by two people with no experience in the matter and then did nothing to help all of their riffed employees gain new employment.

  8. Matt,
    Great satirical analysis. Is there a plan for a script on a reality TV show about a recruting department or company? That would be PURE comedy. I want in!

  9. Jerry – right on! I had one candidate pay $2K for a resume rewrite and what he got out of it is a bunch of bullets that mostly started “Responsible for… yadda yadda”. Sure, it was pretty but it read like a job description.

    Recruiters understand the employment process for the most part and are sensitive to what works and what does not work on a resume. Ask a recruiter about your resume and you will get an honest yet critical answer.

  10. Matthew,

    Great job, very FUNNY and oh so very true. I have either hired or placed hundreds of recruiters for clients, on RPO projects or internally for large staffing / recruitment shops. The major challenge always is finding the recruiter who is NOT brain-washed to this approach! The sad fact is this practice, as a result of technology, has bled into HR as people have left the true profession for more corporate roles and thus habits now exist with even hiring manager who have been infected by these individuals. Why do you think there are so many “recruiters” on the street now or unemployed, most were not professionals so the economic hiccup weeded them out.

    I will have to disagree on seeking professional help with your resume “8 Musts for an Effective Resume.” While the vast majority of services offer no real value besides a template a true resume writing professional will spend time with you to develop that first piece of introduction to HR, a recruiter or hiring manager. They should help you get noticed in that split second a recruiter is doing his / her analysis of your resume. As Napoleon Hill said “A resume should be prepared as carefully as a lawyer would prepare the brief of a case to be tried in courts…If your “case” is properly prepared and presented, your victory will have been more than half won at the onset.” Cover letter are for people still using a typewriter and if you don’t have a social networking profile that reflects your resume, well you might as well keep looking as it hard to find you.

    Keep up the great writing and best of luck in your job search.

    Chris Wellington, TSC, CSP, CRSP

  11. Matt,

    A well written, funny (and true!) article. When I land my next talent acquisition leadership role, I’ll certainly be calling you. Your passion, energy and humor would be a great addition to any recruitment team.

    Best wishes!

    Carlos Adame
    949 633 2706

  12. Well written and amusing. The commentary regarding the Ph.D’s is troublesome. It is precisely this attitude that keeps our youth out of science and math, and especially pursuing doctorates. I work with only Ph.Ds, have for 28 years. I like them, they need me,and I can always find them jobs. The reason most ads read Masters degree is because they have given up on finding the PhDs that they really want.

  13. Matt, kudos on a hilarious post . . . I do, however, admit cringing as I went from step to step. It’s like looking at a train wreck!

    As of this moment, I’m sitting here scratching my head because what you’re presenting is accurate and real. I imagine it’s extremely efficient as well – that’s if we’re measuring efficiency by how fast you can forward 3 resumes on to the Hiring Manager. But is it effective? How does this method do anything to create any kind of value? It’s a lazy screen, heavily assumptive, and more biased than any rational shareholder would like. However, as you mention, it’s largely brought about by volume and being overworked. Volume goes up (as does stress) and quality screening and selection goes down.

    I’ll be honest that I can’t relate to this – I don’t work in HR or Internal Recruitment and I never have before. Personally, I focus more on selected accomplishments within the resume (if, in fact, there are any). Then again, I don’t see 100 resumes a day, so whether or not I can relate is a moot point!

    What I find myself asking myself, Matt, is why there is a human being needed to do what you’re describing in your article. The recruiters of yesteryear (aka “The Resume Clearinghouses”) are finding themselves trolling the unemployment line more and more often.

    So can’t technology do what you’re describing above? Simply program the screening out logic:

    1. No PhDs’,
    2. Certain schools on the “banned from employment list”,
    3. Location [<= 50 miles] restrictions,
    4. Only certain companies on the ‘Allowed List’ (i.e. the companies that the recruiter in question “recognizes”),
    5. Only allow certain titles, perhaps only those titles containing the prime keyword (i.e. “marketing”)

    While we’re at it, it could also be programmed to screen out any resumes that show employment dates of less than or equal to 1980. We’ve all seen that before.

    So here’s my thought: Assuming technology can do the resume clearing, then what? Or is it that we can’t program in much of the above because it violates the OFCCP . . . so we’ll always need humans to do it? If so, we should change the title of Recruiter to ‘Screening Consultant’ (which sounds better than ‘Resume Clearinghouse’). 🙂

  14. Great article! I can relate to the part about being excited if the phone rings, after spending years of hiding from it…LOL!

  15. Thank you to everyone who took time to read and comment on this article! There’s been a lot of talk about ‘laziness’ among recruiters, which assumes a fundamental falacy about recruitment: that all recruiters do is related directly to filling open positions, and that since our job is to fill jobs, reviewing resumes should, for all intents and purposes, be a more intensive process.

    Yes, recruiters recruit. Accountants account. Salesmen sell. Bankers bank. But as many of my counterparts often tell me, “I wish I had time to recruit.” It’s a matter of simple math, assuming, like most of us “lazy” recruiters, you work a 10 hour day, and it’s always a working lunch. Most of us carry about 10-20 open jobs at any one time. Ballparking from experience, the average experienced, non manager posting receives around 250 applicants, averaging out the executive jobs (think, Cecil B. DeMille and a cast of thousands) and extremely niche searches (think, self-distributed indie film with no marketing budget).

    Let’s take a typical 250 applicant position. I like to screen around the top 10, and present the top 5 to the hiring manager. That means 25 resumes per phone screen, with one of 50 making it to the hiring manager. Now, in no case do those top 10 come exclusively for the position in question: direct sourcing, referrals, cold calling and pipelining require hours of intense work for each and every search.

    Almost all recruiters allow 30 minutes for a phone screen (which still never seems to be enough time!). That’s 300 minutes (5 hours) of phone screens alone for a position; add another 30 minutes to update notes and activities within an applicant tracking system, write up a profile for submission to a hiring manager, and you’re committing fully 10 hours a week to the simple task of screening and prequalifying, which, optimally, is 1/4 of the work week alone. But we’ve got our five candidates after 10 hours of prescreening (adding on another 10 hours or so for sourcing, a figure that is ostentibly far too low, but I’ll use because I’m terrible at math. Thanks for understanding, I’m a recruiter). This is also assuming a 100% hit rate with the hiring manager, which , if it ever happens, will be my clue that we’re arriving at the Rapture.

    So far, in my optimal and theoretical example, using very conservative estimates, to get to the ‘second round,’ we’ve already invested 20 hours on a search before the hiring manager gets to review candidates. There’s another 5 hours for in-person interviews, another 5 hours or so for feedback and correspondence from both the recruiter and the hiring manager, and maybe another 10 hours on references, background checks, compensation requests, offer negotiation and paperwork.

    If everything goes smoothly on a search, without factoring in resume review, we’ve got:

    10 hours direct sourcing
    5 hours prescreening
    5 hours of ATS/CRM updating and candidate write-ups
    5 hours for live interviews
    5 hours correspondence/feedback
    10 hours paperwork, references, etc.

    In the ‘perfect’ search, there’s your 40 hour week. Of course, no searches are perfect, and again, this is one of 15 reqs we’re working on, not counting meetings, career fairs, metrics reporting, employment branding initiatives, special projects, etc.

    To me, lazy is sending out resumes blindly to every posting on Monster to see what sticks. It’s lack of due diligence on the front end, in short, that forces recruiters to reciprocate on the back end. But hold that thought…I have to jump on a call.

  16. Hilarious! And spot on. Not sure if it’s a good thing or not but I can truly relate. Gotta love recruiting! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Great article! The one thing that you left out is the fact that providing a functional rather than chronological resume is a quick way to get passed on as well. We recruiters want to know not only what you have done, but where, for how long and how recently.

  18. Hi Matt,

    Good piece, and well defended in your comment above. kudos. I truly hope that you find that next role soon.


  19. Matt, you’re a straight-shooter and I like that. So here she goes: There’s always something to complain about. Everybody is overworked and underpaid. It’s the new reality.

    Some even believe recruiting is as difficult as pulling a 24-hour patrol in Baghdad or conducting a double bypass surgery (standing on your feet for 10 hours with no breaks, poor lighting, and no “lunches at your desk” while you’re making sure you don’t lose the patient).

    Newsflash/Reality Check: This job is cake. The groupthink that it’s not needs to be returned (to wherever it came from) like a bad Christmas present.

    “Lazy” is doing a value-less job of screening when there is technology that can easily replace you (and/or already has.) It’s “lazy” when recruiters don’t acknowledge the reality that screening is now commoditized . . . and as a result, don’t creatively destruct themselves.

    If the Phoenix won’t rise from the ashes, it’s because it doesn’t really want to fly. Rather, it wants a screening admin job that it can coast along on instead of expending the energy to flap its wings.

  20. Nicely said……only I would add to the “do recruiters read resumes?” answer with the following: They used to…when they had JO’s to work. Oh….and for the resumes on monster, cb, et al…….those aren’t being read beacuse the login activity by account holders to view resumes is off an astounding 78%!!! from this time last year. Show’s over…..please leave the theater

  21. Matt, your article is smartly written and there is a lot of truth in it. I really enjoyed it–kudos to you. You are gifted enough that you might be worth the $800 if you get into the resume writing business!

    Your comment about everyone wanting the Millennials is not matching what the press is reporting… Younger workers lack the experience to compete with more experienced laid-off workers for the good jobs (anything with benefits). Personally I know newly minted nursing and teaching grads who cannot find employment in their fields.

    Terrific post! Thanks!

  22. I recognize many of those steps, and find the article to be funny, entertaining, and mostly spot-on. Thanks for the great read.

  23. Great, confirmation for the masses on the intellectual void in the recruiting function. Forget exceptionalism and creative insight, let’s just find a title and job function closely resembling the requisition and, voila, done! Better yet, add into the mix age discrimination and my bonus should be in the mail!!

    Not having to worry about the 1980 cutoff, I still find it reprehensible that those experienced in most every imaginable business environment can be cast away – yes, laughed at, by some snide-assed punk that has finally realized that (oh my God) real estate and the stock market can actually go down.

    I’ve had my share of interviews with these “Einstein’s” whose inability to comprehend the skills required for the position req. and my experience makes me wonder how they are employed. As for the hours (cry me a river), its called “work” for a reason. Now I know why the best qualified don’t get the jobs, the least qualified are doing the search. (Don’t worry about the candidates ability to “perform” in the job, they have the right title and job description – HURRY!! Oprah’s on!!)

  24. Matt, your post is awesome and it should stand as a warning to all professionals of all kinds: Don’t let this happen to you. The day you wake up hoping your resume will get you a job, you’re screwed. It’s too late for you. Start networking now. Line up potential exits from your great job now, lest you find yourself one day on the wrong end of the resume scan you (Matt) describe in your excellent blog post.

    Ian Alexander
    Cytiva Software

  25. Thanks for the great article. I never realized how much work goes into recruiting. Well, unfortunately it is the young, (I know a young girl with good grades who could not get a summer job) and not just the “older” that have trouble finding jobs and yes in my experience there are 250 people applying for each job. There are just not enough jobs to go around and now that manufacturing and tech are dead it is even worse. I think the majority of us have realized if we have anything on our resume older than 1997, we are not even going to be considered.

  26. Spot on. Don’t forget to pass around the résumés that include pictures or irrelevant info such as hobbies… those always get a chuckle out of me.

  27. Matt,

    Nothing is more amusing than the ability to poke fun at yourself……well done!!

    As someone else mentioned; ditch recruiting and get into writing. I’d be first in line to purchase whatever you have published.


  28. Matt,

    Nothing is more amusing than the ability to poke fun at oneself……well done!!

    As someone else mentioned; ditch recruiting and get into writing. I’d be first in line to purchase whatever you have published.


  29. Excellent read, you’re honesty and wit is refreshing. I look forward to seeing more from you Matt.

  30. Rgarding hobbies. I, too, used to think that info was irrelevant, but I had a recruiter in the UK tell me that it is one of the most important things to look at. The reason is that you can tell if the person is an introvert or an extrovert by looking at the activities, whereas nothing else on the resume can tell you that.

  31. I’m not a psychologist, but I am fairly sure that hobbies are not a reliable predictor of whether is an extrovert!

    In fact, I am very much in the leave-them-off-completely camp. Unless they are relevant to job being applied for, they’re not at all helpful, and in some cases are probably very unhelpful!

  32. Katie,

    I totally agree with you. Some non-work related hobbies or activities included on a resume may actually turn off a recruiter or hiring manager due to personal biases. This is especially true when it comes to personal activities related to religion or politics.

  33. Robert,

    As a European recruiter (and Katie is one too), I don’t tend to consider hobbies important CV content. I can’t remember an occasion where a ‘Hobbies & Interests’ section made the difference between me calling or not calling a potential candidate.

    Just my €0.02 worth.

  34. I agree with you guys that hobbies should be left out. If this article is correct, it seems as if it would be risky to add anything to the resume outside of:
    1. Current address
    2. Previous employers
    3. Previous titles
    4. Education (maybe)
    5. Your name
    Thinking of it this way, imagine how much shorter resumes would get 🙂 One-pagers would be the norm (hopefully).

  35. Actually Joshua, from a candidate point of view, I wouldn’t always use a physical address either.

    If you’re more than 30 minutes or 15-20 miles from a jobsite, that’s usually a distance flag in my book. It’s not an automatic disqualification, but it’s a point lost in my mental scorecard of whether or not I pass you on. There is a definite correlation between distance from jobsite and attendance issues.

    A candidate not listing that information means I can’t mark it positive or negative. I’ll ask during the interview then, but it beats the screening checklist at least.

  36. Good stuff!

    I work IT sales. Couple of comments:

    Companies who are using third party agencies are looking for us to find them something amazing. They all want what they can’t have- the employed competitor who is keeping their options open and not looking for a job.

    In IT, companies will not tolerate extensive job movement. I have to say, the first thing I look at is dates of employment. If there is absurd movement, the resume goes in the garbage. If there is some job movement, then you have some explaining to do.

    If you are in sales, you need to spell out your quota and your performance against quota. It is the most important thing used to evaluate sales people. Example:
    2008 Achieved $2.1M against $1.9 quota. 110%
    2007 Achieved $1.87M against $1.9 quota. 98%
    If this information isn’t on your resume, I assume there is a reason why (i.e. you haven’t made your numbers)

    It is so easy to change your resume, so tailor it for a specific opportunity. Don’t have your objective say looking for a sales management position when you are applying for a sales job.

    As for address, I once had a candidate who didn’t have an address on his resume. His background check revealed there was a warrant out for his arrest in GA. If you don’t a town and state at least, I assume you have something you are trying to hide. Blame Tom in GA for that one.

    As for age, the last 2 people are placed were 58 and 62. Neither resume talked about their very early history. Take it off. Get a foot in the door at least.

    I agree with Ian, don’t worry so much about your resume as much as what you do with it. Network! Don’t be lazy. If you apply to a job, find out who the manager is and call them and email them. Do not sit on the sidelines. Don’t assume your resume will ever be read by internal HR.

    More then anything, don’t say any of the following:
    I am out of work, but think I will wait until Sept. to look.
    I am out of work, but I am going on vacation next week.
    I was laid off but don’t really need to find a job.

  37. This shares common turf with the job sites, etc. that offer background searches, as part of the overall panacea. With background checks in hand, applicants believe they can then take this online report to their prospective employer who will accept it as face value. Yeah, sure they will.

    Resume Bear, avoids promising what it ultimately can’t deliver. A serious job prospect. It tickles you in the great underneath with a lure of perfection and then leaves you as cannon fodder for Recruiters and HR Managers who could care less about flash frozen resumes.

    In the end, there are many ways to take the money out of the pockets of the desperate and unemployed. Some are actually worth it. Some are not.

  38. Love the post (irony, humor, cynicism)…and trying to deal with the reality of the information on your blog. Swallowing hard!

  39. What would you all tell someone that got one of those Phoenix degree, but went on to a traditional college and earned an MBA. Leave the B.S> degree on or off the reusme?

  40. Personally, I wouldn’t ignore a degree from the University of Phoenix, I just don’t score it as highly as I would from a traditional university. I still think it has some value. The traits that make someone pursue an education, and the dedication required to pay for someplace like that are noteworthy, even if the quality of the education isn’t as high as it would be from another school.

    I would recommend leaving it on your resume. It may not help you get past a quick screen like Matt describes, but I don’t think it will necessarily hurt you either.

  41. Matthew:
    I appreciate your frankness. I don’t agree with a lot of what you say. I understand humor was the basis of your posting but so was reality.

    It’s a new era. Many recruiters complain about how bad resumes are that have been “professionally” rewritten by resume-writing companies. I think it’s a waste of money to pay for a rewrite because each resume is tailored for a particular job. One resume may morph into one hundred and yes, the writing may slip. I ignore some of that and just fix it prior to sending the resume on to a company (always with the submitter’s permission).

    We are asking for an ideal person who can perform several roles rather than just one. Yes, resumes are not as cleanly written as they used to be and I understand that.

    Finally, let us not forget about the numerous recruiters not from the U.S. and how poorly worded those postings are.

  42. Wow! First I’d like to thank you for an entertaining insight into the resume screening process recruiters use. Honestly, I’m saddened at the approach described here. While your article is somewhat funny, it has little basis in reality. I’m not an attorney, but I’m thinking this approach may even be actionable.

    • Age discrimination – I’ve worked for people over 55 and never heard or saw anything like you described, the ones I know are sharp and up-to-date on everything

    • A black-listed ACCREDITED school – FYI, University of Phoenix is not just an online school. They have always offered on-campus classes. They are accredited, the coursework is solid (did I mention accredited) and it attended my motivated adults – unlike some of the party hard liberal arts types that you’re still bitter about. I know because I’ve attended on-campus business classes at both Party State U and UOPX. I dropped out of Party U in my sophomore year, got a decent job and have been earning a masters-level income without a degree. As a working adult learner I went back to finish my degree ON CAMPUS at the UOPX because they offered an ACCREDITED DEGREE program that fit my schedule – by the way, I had tuition reimbursement too. The dig you made at UOPX really got me fired up because of how wrong you are. I could go on, but I’ll stop here

    • Black-listed companies – you’re passing on a candidate even though that person likely had nothing to do with the reason for the scandal or acquisition and likely is a talented professional

    If this really is indicative of your profession’s approach, it’s time to re-evaluate! Get a real world education on the traits and characteristics that enable people to be successful and then match the right traits, education, and experience to the traits and knowledge needed to be successful in the position you’re client is looking to fill.

    The type of profiling described here is preventing your clients from getting top talent and giving your profession a well deserved black-eye in the minds of the candidates who never get any feedback – even though they know they’re perfect for the position they’ve taken the effort to apply for. I bet you’ve discovered this in your search now that you’re “one of them.”

    Good luck with your search.

  43. Terse yet a breath of fresh air.
    “I wish I had time to recruit.” It’s a matter of simple math, assuming, like most of us “lazy” recruiters, you work a 10 hour day, and it’s always a working lunch. Most of us carry about 10-20 open jobs at any one time. Ballparking from experience, the average experienced, non manager posting receives around 250 applicants, averaging out the executive jobs (think, Cecil B. DeMille and a cast of thousands) and extremely niche searches (think, self-distributed indie film with no marketing budget).

    What are the odds that we still end up with another 250? for the same title!!

  44. Matthew:
    A) Job seekers are frequently advised to add a cover letter and it’s mandatory. This helps weed out the initial round of people who cannot communicate at basic levels and aren’t smart enough to get someone to write it for them. It takes about 1 – 2 seconds to scan. What exactly is the problem here?
    B) What recruiters look at mailing addresses? Job seekers may be bombarded with postings in Timbuktu. Many recruiters these days haven’t a clue how far a position is from the seeker’s home.
    C) These days, if you insist one’s recent job title be equal to what they’re applying for, you are missing out on many qualified applicants. The market has dramatically changed; you’re living with old-world ideas.
    D) In a market that’s economically unsound, why would you think resume-writing services offer something valuable other than for the R-W company? In addition, seekers are constantly told to tailor their resume to the job specs making their ostensibly initial investment worthless.
    E) You complain about poorly-written resumes. One “baseline” resume may have morphed into 100 tailored ones. I understand it. Job-seekers complain about the borderline illegible (yes, illegible though typed) job postings riddled with poor English and contradictions.

    Your article makes an attempt at humor. I found it offensive and a reason why so many good recruiters don’t remain in the field very long.

  45. Sheri, you got me thinking in regards to one of your comments about titles. What are your thoughts on the following?
    I’m an Exec Recruiter, so I don’t operate in an Internal Recruitment capacity, however . . . if I was in a leadership position internally, I would see value in utilizing ‘different’ titles than the same jobs at my competitors. Why? Because I would understand that many Recruiters would look right past them in their search for the *same* (or *extremely similar*) title. Simply shifting a title would reduce the probability that someone would be sourced or contacted by the competition. It would take more time and thought to make the association, so ‘screeners’ (who are different than real recruiters) will keep on going and going and going . . . screening for same or similar titles. Screeners aren’t paid to think – they’re paid to screen, which is why the Sourcing industry is dying off; well, I mean the Sourcing industry that doesn’t want to pick up a phone and actually recruit anyone. Technoloyg, in large part, replaced this approach. Screening content on the web is now commoditized and is a fungible skill.
    There are people in our space making good money today by consulting in regards to title permeation . . . within the Defense industry. Large Defense Firms often have somewhat cryptic titles . . . although they are all basically the same role (obviously the applications are slightly different, such as working on a fixed-wing versus rotary-wing aircraft, etc.)
    Just something to think about . . .

  46. P.S. Sorry, I mean ‘Technology’, not ‘Technoloyg’ . . . however, ‘Technoloyg’ sounds a little funnier and could probably a some dual meaning somewhere:)

  47. I’m not sure whether to laugh or scream in response to the original article and the comments. Maybe I will do both and drop a barbed hook in the water…

    In the old days of break-bulk cargo and longshoremen, to get hired for a day’s work you turned up outside the dock gates with everyone else. The gang bosses stood up on soap boxes and picked the people they wanted. Everyone else wandered off home or to the bar. Seems to me that the modern methods differ only in placing the gang boss out of direct reach!


  48. This post seems to have a life of its own!

    If it wasn’t for the fact that employers want people with certain educational backgrounds, years of experience, locations, titles, salary histories, skills, experiences, awesome track records, personal qualities, a super high energy level and whatever other intangible quality that can be imagined, recruiting would be a total piece of cake. Just show up at the dock, point to someone and get a check. 🙂

  49. I performed some recent research on this topic for a book that I am finishing up on Interviewing and it is interesting the statistics we saw.

    43% of 2000 people surveyed said they spend one minute or less looking at a resume and 14% spend less than 30 seconds reviewing them.

    For a document that so many people put so much time, effort, energy and money into, it sure does not create a big leverage point.

    Thanks for posting.

  50. Darrin, not surprising. 57% that responded more than a minute (on average) are either inefficient or reluctant to tell you the truth. I’m of the opinion that 30 seconds is too much for an initial scan ( and that is for the ones that appear from a search of the ATS that they have all the criteria requested).

    If you were a recruiter handling 30 openings in your in-box in some stage of closure(assume you fill 120 openings a year) and a flow of 300 resumes per opening is average 9conservative), how would you structure your initial scan of approximately 40,000 resumes a year into your daily full life cycle tasks? Remember to leave some sourcing time to woo various passive candidates with no resume to submit and application.

    Assuming you can digitally search the stack, most build a set of hurdles so that the final candidates get serious time devoted to their profiles.

    I’m surprised your data is so high. Whenever I “watch” someone work, it never takes that long.

  51. Gerry – I completely agree. I was shocked at the outcome of the survey. Out of the 2000 surveyed some people consisted of recruiters, HR professionals and actual hiring authorities. My assumption of the data was that hiring authorities may invest more time into a resume when they are about to interview a person. Obviously they are not looking at 40K per year but more than likely 10 – 30 per year / give or take.
    Does that make sense? That is my take on it. But I do agree with you, any more than 10 second on a resume is time wasted.
    Thanks for you insight.

  52. well it just keeps on…

    I just had a screening interview and it brought this thread back to mind. The screener told me she had 6 people to talk to and that there would be a real interview for those that got through the screen later this week. Now I can believe that there are 5 other people as qualifies as I am for this job (technology startup, marketing, exploration industry, Canadian) – but can any of you professionals help me understand what value the screener brought to the process? As far as I can see, all that happened was a paid impediment to the company principals getting to talk to the real talent.

    OK I am biased and bitter, but the thread makes me believe that resumes are a waste of time – if they are more than 20 words long – and that the fate of industry often rests in hands that are very poorly qualified to direct it!


    (p.s. – on the subject of hours – any job I’ve ever excelled at required MINIMUM 60 hours per week, being paid for 37.5 of them…)

  53. To the last comment (John Hennessy)– I can understand your frustration, but the screener’s value is to the client, not to the candidate. Now a screener/recruiter who is doing their job well won’t treat you like a commodity, but nevertheless, our job is to find the right talent and simply filter out the rest.

  54. Well, I would agree, except that the post in question requires a knowledge of a lot of technology, a lot of marketing, a lot5 about the oil business and a lot of start-up experience. If there are only 6 candidates abd each gets a ten mi8nute call, what value is thsi (external, consultant) screener adding? Believe me the person in question has no knowledge of any of the fields I listed – so why on earth are they between me and the company? I am asking this in all honesty – I simply cannot see the value.

    As an aside, to counter my questioning value, I will also tell you that I think the true value of consulting in my game – marketing – is $75/hour and that anyone asking for more will soon be in for a shock!


  55. John, your post here brings up an important point of what the screener is actually doing. Let me provide a high-level overview of what is occurring. As a candidate, you have the right to know how hiring processes play out, and more importantly, knowledge is power. If you know what is being evaluated by the recruiter/screener, you have a stronger probability of positioning yourself properly.

    At screening stage 1, the screener is culling through the resumes that happened to make it through the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) due to keyword filtering logic. In 10 seconds or less, they’re making a determination if the system had a hiccup or not. It’s more QA than anything else. In screening stage 1, the screener’s value is mitigation of opportunity cost in regards to the Hiring Manager. Even if they are paid the same amount (hourly, annually, etc.) as the Hiring Manager, there is opportunity cost involved. As you can tell, it’s not a perfect solution, and in my estimation, screening stage 1 (QA) is in significant decline as technology improves and systems ‘learn’ from themselves (I’m mainly speaking in regards to semantic technologies).

    At screening stage 2, which is where you are currently situated, the screener is providing more value than at stage 1. The reason is because there is actual 2-way communication occurring. Keep in mind that it is at this stage that the screener is trying to qualify candidates based on criteria that may not be listed in the job description. For example, perhaps “Oil Industry Experience” was too broad and many good candidates (on paper, or at stage 1) did not have the specialized Oil sector experience that the Hiring Manager was really looking for. This goes to the validity and accuracy of the initial job description, which is a whole other bag of beans. Most job descriptions are created on the fly, with copy & paste taking a front seat so the Hiring Manager or Recruiter can “knock it out as soon as possible.”

    It’s my humble opinion that GIGO is at play here – the necessity for multiple steps of screening, interviewing, etc., can often be reduced greatly through a proper job description. Kudos to Gerry Crispin for his ongoing efforts to create a standard along with SHRM – I would have liked to have been involved, but am already spread too thin and knew it would be an injustice to be involved with little to no time to spend contributing.

    To get back on track, screening stage 2 is all about identifying what the recruiter/screener is looking for (meaning the competencies and skills not listed in the initial job description). If it’s a highly critical or pivotal role, Great recruiters will have an initial discover session with the Hiring Manager prior to publishing the job description . . . however I see this occurring less and less in our space. Again, GIGO, but I digress. The best thing you can do early in the initial phone screen (stage 2), is to specifically ask “what the organization is looking for in the ideal candidate.” If you don’t do this, John, the probability of you having a ‘super’ phone screen is slim to none. Ask the question and don’t leave this to chance. In fact, once they answer, ask, “What else?” At this point, the recruiter/screener will realize you’re a player in the game . . . and most candidates tell me they can hear a shift in tone and substance as soon as that follow-on question is asked.

    I wish you the best of luck, John. Interviewing is a game, or better, a dance of sorts. If you know the steps, you’re less likely to fumble and step on your own (or your partner’s) feet.

  56. Good article, Matt! Maintaining your sense of humor will serve you well as you continue your search!

    But, it looked (for a moment) like Josh was going to try to contend with you on who put forth the funnier observations. Just as you represented the corporate recruiter perspective, he weighed in on behalf of the ever popular everyone-who-has-never-been-a-corporate-recruiter-but-thinks-they-know-how-to-do-the-job-better types with his witty comments like “Newsflash/Reality Check: This job is cake.” What a funny guy!

    Josh was on a roll (he made a number of other hysterical comments) but lost the momentum with his assertion that “if I was in a leadership position internally, I would see value in utilizing ‘different’ titles than the same jobs at my competitors. Why? Because I would understand that many Recruiters would look right past them in their search for the *same* (or *extremely similar*) title. Simply shifting a title would reduce the probability that someone would be sourced or contacted by the competition.” Funny? Absolutely. But if it sounds familiar, it should.

    It was done (in mass public circulation) several years ago by…Catbert and the Pointy-Haired Boss in Dilbert. In recruiting terms, I believe that’s what’s known as being priored.

  57. David, glad I could make your day. My comment about this job being “cake” is in comparison to positions that are not; positions that I reference such as being a doctor with a dying patient on the operating table and/or a Marine Infantryman on patrol in Iraq. Relatively speaking, it’s my contention that this job is “cake”. That doesn’t mean you have to agree – most Recruiters don’t. We’re adults; We can agree to disagree.

    In regards to Catbert, nobody here is claiming anyone to be an “Evil Director of Human Resources”, however I might ask how why this character was created in the first place. In addition, how did he become so popular? It sure wasn’t my doing.

    Based upon what I can understand about Crosswind Ventures, it would appear that you’d agree with some of my points. I can tell you one of your own that I agree with, posted here on ERE, on the value of actual conversations with candidates:

    “Truly great recruiters are outstanding in how they deal with real people, in live conversations, in real time.”

    In recruiting terms, I believe that’s what known as being inconsistent.

  58. As a career coach (who also writes resumes) and works with candidates rather than companies, I’ll jump in the fray knowing I’m in the minority.

    Matthew, your article was quite funny … and … your flippant and dismissive attitude is also why candidates continually bad-mouth the recruiting industry. You talk about how resume writers are vultures preying on the unemployed; however, please remember we are on the side of the job seeker. I dare say, many in your industry ignore any candidate who can’t ensure they get a big fat corporate commission.

    Now, on to more civil matters. For the record, very few of my clients are unemployed. I specialize in working with senior finance executives and almost all of them come to me in anticipation of making a move. They know they have value, but they are numbers guys, not marketers, and they need help gaining that clarity. Just like all recruiters are not the same, neither are all resume writers. While a client typically comes to me for a resume, what he really needs is an understanding of two things: 1) what does he have that a client is willing to pay to get, and 2) how does he get on the radar screen of his target market.

    There’s an old story about a guy who took his car to the garage to be fixed. When he looked at the $300 bill, he saw it took a $1.25 part to fix it. When he asked about the reasonableness of such a high total invoice, the auto mechanic looked him in the eye and said … the value is in knowing which part and where to put it.

    It’s the same for us … we bring an outside perspective of how to best market our clients and while they come to us for a resume, we also deliver a very valuable intangible … an understanding of how to clearly articulate their marketable value proposition.

    I force my clients to get clear about their differentiation and the audience they want to serve. That ensures that they do not waste time playing the posted position game trying to be all things to all people, nor do they need multiple resumes. Rather, they know their niche and their target and they can execute a focused and effective search strategy.

    I work closely with several finance recruiters because they recognize that when their candidates look great, they look great; and because I have the quality candidates they are seeking.

    Your writing is witty, Matthew, and we will just have to agree to disagree on the value of quality career coaches / resume writers.

    Cindy Kraft, the CFO-Coach

  59. After hearing that Matt’s post was one of the most commented on ERE in 2009, I decided to take a 2nd read, and reveiw the comments.

    As 2009 comes to a close, I wonder how many job seekers have actually read this article. I doubt many, so I’m going to republish and put a link on my blog.

    I encourage others to do the same as well.

    Happy 2010!

  60. Hi Matt, I am a recruiter as well providing Staffing Solutions and Staffing Services and I truly enjoyed this article; it is absolutely hilarious and quite accurate!! I find myself falling into many of these habits while sourcing candidates (and may even be guilty of forwarding some badly formatted LinkedIn profiles to Hiring Managers!) This gave me a chuckle and brightened my day.

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