Why I didn’t interview you

I have an opening on my team and so have been staring at resumes all week. Most of these resumes are not going to turn into interviews. Some may think that’s terrible as an interview surely must be a better way to know if someone is right for the role. I get that. As someone who has been refused interviews because I don’t yet have my degree despite the fact that I have 8 years more experience in the field than most with the degree I’m in school for, I get the frustration. But the job I’m hiring for doesn’t require a college degree, it requires strong written communication skills and attention to detail. I absolutely can judge those from a resume, or at least narrow the pool a bit. And while I would love to give people a shot at redemption, the fact is I don’t have time to do so.

Let’s look at this mathematically. My management position takes an average 50 hours a week for my standard responsibilities. Being a person short staffed adds an additional 10 hours a week to my work load, minimum. I then have to set aside an additional 4 hours a week to read through numerous resumes plus 2 hours for phone screens of the top candidates. I’m now working 66 hours a week and I haven’t even started interviewing. Now assume I have to set aside an hour per interview, am I really supposed to interview all 40 candidates I’ve got in my queue that week? No, it’s not possible. Also keep in mind I am at the lower end of management, there are going to be managers reading this going “WHAT? Only 66 hours of work before interviews? I WISH I could work that little!” Hopefully that gives a little more perspective on why your resume needs to stand out as one of the best.

So here are the top reasons that resumes got tossed out this week:

1. Misspellings

This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised. I’ll let a misspelling go if the person looks great otherwise (only one y’all. You give me more than that and I can’t trust your attention to detail, sorry). Best way to eliminate misspellings is to read your resume backwards. Forwards you know what you said so your brain fills in corrections; backwards and you’re forced to consider individual words since the sentence doesn’t make sense. Give it a try, it’ll help.

2. Bad formatting

I had a resume where formatting would change mid-sentence. It’s hard to pay attention to a sentence that randomly changes formatting. Just saying. But beyond that, pay attention to the little things. Just because your sentence structure is good and your formatting consistent doesn’t mean it stands out as great. Make sure there is a flow, use bullet points systematically, emphasize your best qualities with strong placement.

3. Plagiarism and lies

I had someone who listed skills on his resume by listing something general like “computer skills” and then following it with what was obviously a description of a course he took in school. “Utilizing computers to learn more advanced tools within Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. Must complete CMP102 to take this course.” How this resume got past the recruiter I don’t know. But that was an immediate pass.

Even if not copy and pasted I may still catch you in a lie. I’m especially good at this in interviews, and yes I will have a copy of your resume with me when we meet. “It says here you consider yourself an expert in Microsoft excel. What are some things you’ve used it for?” “Primarily tables and spreadsheets for keeping track of things.” “Nice. Did you make any of these spreadsheets?” “No, they were pre-made, but I needed to understand them well enough to use them. I also trained others on using them.” “That’s great to hear. What are some formulas you’ve used?” “Uhhhhhh…”. FYI, that’s not expert level. Tell me you’re average but learning and I’m thrilled with these answers, tell me you’re an expert and I’m highly disappointed in these answers. An expert should be making spreadsheets, using formulas, and experimenting with macros.

4. Too long

Ideally a resume should fit on a single page. I don’t need your life story, I need to know what skills you have that best fit this position. I interview plenty of 2-page resumes, but when it starts hitting 3 I’m usually done. Wondering why? Look at the math above. The 4 hour estimate is based on no more than 40 resumes, individual resumes averaging a page and a half. Three page resumes doubles my time. Here’s a tip, make your resume a clean looking one and a half to two pages. Then when applying for the job go through and eliminate anything that doesn’t apply. I’m looking for key words, and those key words can be found in the job description. Make your resume match my description and you’re going to be among my first calls for an interview.

5. Listing too much work history

Similar to it being too long, I don’t want to read through all of that. But more importantly, it shows a lack of tenure. I reviewed a resume this morning that was 2 full pages of jobs listed. That’s a lot of jobs. So I started analyzing the dates and the person never stayed with one company longer than a year. I need someone that can be dedicated and last for a while. Now obviously you can’t go back in time and change your work history, so use my lack of time to your advantage. Specify the last 3 jobs only, and format them in such a way that my eyes are drawn from job title to skills and unknowingly bypass the dates. If I don’t have a list of 10 jobs making me nervous about commitment, then I probably am not going to analyze the dates because that takes additional time. Want to emphasize skills that were used in job number 5 and 6? Simply create a “skills” section of the resume with quick bullet points. I don’t care where the skill came from, only that it exists.

Hopefully this sheds a little light on the importance of your resume and how to format it to work for the hiring manager. Always remember that your resume is your first introduction, so make it a good one.

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