The following comes directly from Donna Shannon’s book, How To Get A Job Without Going Crazy. Please enjoy this preview of the book, and use it to your advantage in your job search. – James Nay
In the quiet Human Resources department, a lone figure works at her desk. Poring over the stack of resumes, the director hopes to find that perfect candidate, the one who not only meets every criterion, but also has the “spark.” She sighs as she lifts the next packet off the paper mountain. She reads carefully, weighing the merits of each candidate before setting their resume aside. Her tired eyes fall on the next cover letter, low expectations written all over her face.
Her pulse quickens as she reads with disbelief – this could be the one! The experience sketched out in the letter is a perfect match for the company’s needs. Eagerly, she flips to the resume: it is a home run! The perfect skill set, the perfect background, the perfect degree. She can’t wait another moment to talk to this candidate. She must snatch him up before another company does.
Her hands fly to the phone. She dials nervously – what if he’s not there? What if he’s interviewing somewhere else right now? She draws a tight breath while the phone rings once, then twice… Her heart skips a beat as you answer the phone. Now it is only a matter of going through the formalities of the interview before they can offer you the job of your dreams.
* * *
Did you enjoy that? Good. Because that is never going to happen. Now that the fantasy is over with, we can uncover the nasty truth about what the Human Resources (HR) department is really like.
The truth is that most HR departments receive a deluge of candidates every day, far more than they could ever hope to read with any great depth or understanding. In order to process the mountain of resumes, every single company – big or small – will create simple tricks to screen candidates. You have probably heard some of these already, such as “the resume will only be read for 30 seconds.” Many of these rumors are true, but it is important to understand why in order to get through the system.
So like it or not, here is what a real HR department is like:
HR departments reduce the candidate field by up to 90% – or more – before forwarding the top candidates to the hiring managers
The HR department is not your buddy, looking for the perfect job for you; they are c looking for ways to CUT YOU. The survivors of this ordeal are considered as the top candidates. However, because of the screening process, these people might not be the most qualified candidates.
If you don’t want to be a qualified casualty, learn the screening process.
The average amount of time spent reading a resume the first time is 30 seconds, and not everyone gets a second read
HR professionals do not spend time pouring over the details in your resume. They are taking a quick look to see if you have the minimum skills and/or experience they want. If HR can’t see your value in 30 seconds or less, your resume is rejected.
Very few people are excited about reading through a stack of resumes. And who can blame them? Most resumes are boring, monotonous, poorly written, or filled with bragging. That’s why…
Lower-level HR employees do the initial screening
It is tedious going through a stack of resumes. So they make the assistants do the first layer of cuts. Or worse, they are let a computer do the screening. Either way, these screeners follow very literal and specific instructions. If your resume is not using the right key terms or jargon, you probably will be cut, no matter how qualified you are. Not only that, the screeners have very little oversight on their work. Nobody is checking to see if you got cut or not – unless you are networking with managers at the company.
HR departments and hiring managers won’t read everything you send them
This fact is often a shock for many job seekers. One common misconception is that a strong cover letter can overcome a weak resume, or vice versa. However, that is not how screeners read the submitted material.
The common practice is to read the resume first. Then, if it is interesting enough, they read your cover letter. On the other hand, they may not understand why you applied at all. They hope your cover letter will add some insight. In either case, your cover letter and even your references need to support your resume, not the other way around. That means your resume really needs to stand out from the competition.
Job descriptions are not absolutes
Ever hear the statement; “if you don’t have all of the qualifications, apply anyway?” That is true! Hiring managers and HR professionals do not spend hours constructing the perfect job description. They throw it together quickly and according to the company’s approved format.
Whether the job description is dead-on or just an approximation, it is still used as a tool to cut candidates. However, here’s the tricky part: some things are added to deter lower-level candidates. The hiring manager may not care about these standards at all. HR departments are famous for adding requirements because it follows the company’s format.
Don’t let a misguided HR screener control your entire fate. Reaching the hiring manager can actually save you from a mistaken cut – if you handle it the right way.
Employers won’t hire the perfect candidate. They hire the closest match at the right price
The right price does not mean the cheapest candidate. They are looking for someone who matches the most critical skills and experience while staying within a given budget.