Resume Screening Tips and Confessions from Someone Who Interviews

Resume ScreeningFor about 99% of us, nothing will be more crucial to our finances and money design than landing a great job. And for most working professionals, that will all start with getting picked for the interview. As someone who has done a great deal of interviews in his day, there are a great deal of resume screening tips and other things I can confess to you about the whole process.

Do you agonize over creating the perfect resume? If you do, that’s great that you’re taking the job prospect so seriously. But you might be disappointed to learn that going above and beyond with your resume doesn’t usually add a whole lot to your chances for an interview. In fact, the extra investment may yield very little return.


Resume Screening Tips From Someone Who Does It Often:

If you’ve been in the work force for very long, what I’m about to tell you probably won’t shock you. But if you’re newer to the job market, prepare to be a little disappointed.

While we’d like to believe that our resume is being read by the VP on the 16th floor of some skyscraper. But as many managers can attest to (especially from smaller companies), they’re just simply not. In fact, they’re probably read very quickly by someone who wears several “hats” at the company and probably has very little time for resume screening or let alone a thorough read. Plus when your resume gets sent in with 100 other ones that day, your chances of a detailed review while I still have all my regular job duties to do make it even less likely.

But fear not. From every cloud there is a silver lining – and my silver lining here is to provide you with my resume screening tips for what I actually notice when looking at them:


1. I’ll probably spend about 30 seconds looking at your resume.

And then I won’t give it another thought. So make sure you highlight near the top the things you want me to see, and make the achievements you want me to know about convenient to find. Don’t hide what I’m looking for in long, drawn out sentences. I’ll probably never find it.


2. I won’t read your resume if it’s just a giant block of text.

I need to get some people hired, not read Pride and Prejudice. Although its taboo to leave a lot of white space on your paper, don’t overdo it by having no margins, no spacing, no bullets, and run-on sentences that last forever.


3. Your resume is going to be one page, whether it really is or not.

Since I have limited time for resume screening and to make a decision, I’ll probably only look at the first page. And that’s it. So if you want to go longer than that, good luck. I hope you put all your good stuff on the first page.


4. I don’t care about your objective.

I know why you sent in your resume – because you want the job! I see this time and time again in other resume screening tips for recommendations to still have this. But honestly my eyes just skim right over them. Funny story – One time someone did write their objective to read “to not have to work at Starbucks anymore”. Although that was a little funny, no one is going to take you seriously smartass.


5. I’m probably not going to read your cover letter.

Refer back to Items 1, 2, and 3 to see why. When I’m resume screening dozens of applicants, I probably won’t have time.  Again, I know it’s very proper for some jobs and still highly recommended, but I usually never read them. Most just end up being a derivative of something they copied off the Internet.


6. Your buzzwords do not impress me.

Holy cow! You’re a “team player”. You have “great written and oral skills”. You’re a “quick learner”? Guess what? So were the people in the other 100 resumes I read today. Try to be a little more original, and demonstrate it through achievements.


7. Nor am I impressed by your ultra industry-specific jargon.

I don’t know what your SMART certificate is, or what your Six Sigma Blue Belt stands for. And I probably will never find out because this information is useless to me unless you write something next to it to help me infer how it will be helpful for me.


8. Accomplishments are great, but tell me how I can use them.

It’s great that you held certain job titles or hit certain sales figures, but don’t forget to phrase this gold in a way that will give me an idea of how this could be useful.


9. I’ll notice you’ve had 5 jobs in the last 5 years, so you may want to explain yourself.

Whenever I’m resume screening, this is a dead give-away of someone who has had some trouble. So if the trouble wasn’t your fault (a contract position ended, the company dissolved, etc), you may want to list it.


10. Don’t look like an idiot on Internet.

The last stop before I pick my resume and actually call someone is to do a Google search and see what I find. So if your Facebook picture is you wearing a Marijuana shirt or being drunk in public, it might sway my decision. Use some common sense.


Readers – What are some of the best resume screening tips you’ve ever received? Have you ever gone to the interview only to have someone really grill you on your resume? If you also look through resumes, what do you usually consider a red flag?



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3) Can You Afford to Work?

Image Credit: Unknown


  1. says

    Good tips…some of them made me laugh. I’ve had to have discussions with my younger brothers not to have their drunk pictures plastered all over Facebook. I went on an interview about a year ago and the guy asked me a question about every bullet of my resume. Thankfully I had a decent answer for each question, but it really showed me how detail oriented this guy was.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..What Earnings Season and the iPad Mini Have in CommonMy Profile

    • MMD says

      I’m glad this made you laugh John. I was hoping the sarcasm in some of these would shine through.

      Asking about every single line on a resume is way too detailed for me. Good thing you were well prepared!

    • MMD says

      Good advice Pauline. I’m surprised more people don’t have their FB and Twitter set to private already. I think I’d be floored if anything useful ever came out of my Linked In account.

    • MMD says

      Exactly! In my humble opinion, the boss is looking for someone who can deliver answers; not a bunch of nonsense and jibber-jabber. Readability tends to lend itself to “likability” in the interview.

    • MMD says

      Ha – I’m glad you enjoyed it! And sorry to do that – I hate when I read a post that I’m also about to publish very soon.

  2. Tackling Our Debt says

    Excellent post! I always hated doing cover letters and wondered if anyone bothered with them anyways. Often in an interview I felt like the person doing the interview was just looking at my resume for the first time.

    In terms of online stuff, I find it funny to see how many people of all ages do not filter what they put online about themselves, with no worry about future repercussions,
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted..Excellent Work From Home Jobs, Where to Find Them, Part 2My Profile

    • MMD says

      Totally agreed on cover letters! I always felt like they were so “template” and about me-me–me, so why would anyone read them? And yes, sometimes in the interview that IS the first time I’m reading the resume.

    • MMD says

      Good luck on the upcoming job search. And don’t let my lack of preparedness discourage you. Even within my own industry, there are so many acronyms that it gets to ridiculous to try to keep up with all of them.

  3. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says

    Ooo, nice insider tips :) I always had a gut feeling that most people throw away resumes longer than 1 page. With today’s economy, they probably get a whole stack of them, I’d probably do the same and get rid of ones that were too long to read lol. Sad, unfair? Sure. Hinders me from hiring anyone? Nope. I’ve always kept my resume 1 page long and made sure it was down to earth without weird lingo.
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money recently posted..I Am a MonsterMy Profile

    • MMD says

      Humble observation: What’s funny is that when a person has a resume goes on over one page, the answers to the questions in the interview go well over the length they need to as well.

  4. says

    I would add spell check. Granted I usually don’t hire MBA graduates, but if you can’t take time to proof your resume, I probably won’t interview you. I also get really nervous when someone has held multiple jobs over a few year span. Are you a person who always thinks the grass is greener and jumps ship or can you not get along with people? That would really be a red flag for me. Also if you have been out of the workforce, tell me why, but I don’t need exact details. I actually had a girl apply once who sent a letter saying how she was tired of not getting interviews because of lack of experience. She said she got pregnant in high school then got pregnant again and stayed home for several years. Didn’t need to know that. Just say you chose to stay at home while your kids were small, but they are in school now and you’re excited to joing the workforce. TMI is not always good.
    Kim@Eyesonthdollar recently posted..Inspired by Malala Yousafzai, 14 Year Old HeroMy Profile

    • MMD says

      All good points Kim! I also try to screen out the five jobs in five years people. Every once in a while I get a soft heart and bring one in for an interview. Then I’m reminded that I should never do that again. I could go on and on and on with some of the horror stories from interviews. Some of my hiring is for both professional and non-professional (i.e. labor) positions. The latter is where you get some real characters.

  5. says

    I was the Director of Sales for a non-profit. As with many non-profits, being at that level you have a lot of hats. I was fortunate to get promoted several times in my 8 years there. So, I think it may look as though I moved around a lot, where I actually spent 8 years with one organization.

    I also fear that my resume doesn’t compute with hiring managers. I have very extensive experience: managing a team of 140, responsible for $7m in sales annually. Yet when I interview managers often don’t “get it.” What can I do to make my resume “make sense” to people?

    Thank you!
    Todd @ Fearless Men recently posted..Alligator Wrestling | How to Submit a Gator and Escape With Your Life Like Steve IrwinMy Profile

    • MMD says

      While $7M is nothing to sneeze at, I think they must get hung up on the team of 140. I’ve never heard of anyone having this many direct reports. Surely you must have had people working with you to coach and lead a team of this size. Perhaps they would be interested in hearing how you developed people to help you manage a team so large. I know I would be because it is much more rare to find someone who can coach other leaders versus someone who just simply manages a group of people.

    • MMD says

      Thanks Jessica! I was hoping to give everyone a decent laugh to start off the week. I don’t know anyone that does read them. But don’t let me steer you wrong. If the post asks for one, I guess you should probably supply it! Maybe someone there does like them.

    • MMD says

      Fortunately for me when I need to fill a position the degree is someone specific. I do love the occasional random person with the wrong degree who is not qualified that applies.

  6. says

    I’m glad I’m going 99% of these things. But still I’m having a hard time getting noticed. And I actually do read cover letters if I need to interview someone for help. I actually can get a lot more out of a personality with the cover letter than the resume itself.
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..Week in Review-10/21/12My Profile

    • MMD says

      That’s an interesting approach! I’m sure the cover letter thing is industry specific. For example, you probably get ones where people have actually sought you out and know what you do. And that would make a good fit. I get resumes with cover letters, and in the interview the applicant hasn’t even looked up our website to know what we do (or rather what THEY would be doing). Smart move kid ….

    • MMD says

      I’m very glad to hear you liked this! Please do not teach my tips to your class! I’m afraid they’ll never get proper jobs if they follow my advice! Just kidding – they should read them only if they know that the tips are only half serious.

  7. says

    I totally agree with most of this, however, I have to disagree with #5. Every single time I’ve gotten a call for an interview, the interviewer told me that one of the reasons they chose to call and interview me was because I had the best cover letter. I think the cover letter CAN make a big difference (especially if it stinks, then you’re really not going to get called). Here’s an article I wrote on how to write a resume without an objective Great post!
    Lisa recently posted..DIY-How To Make a PinataMy Profile

    • MMD says

      You must have applied to one of them-there fancy work places where one person actually does the hiring while the person in charge of the group is allowed to do their normal duties. My work doesn’t unfortunately have that luxury!

  8. says

    I am the only person I know who likes objectives. I suppose it depends on the job you’re applying for. We were hiring a graphic designer and when skimming through resumes all day, I found it extremely difficult to quickly determine if the designer was more web or print focused (we were looking for a good mix of both). The resumes that made their focus clear in the objectives were more likely to be put in the “interview” pile.
    Leslie recently posted..VA Beach Half Marathon 2012My Profile

    • MMD says

      You’re absolutely right it depends on the job. I’m mostly looking at entry level applicants. If you were looking for something more specific or higher level, then an objective may be more appropriate.


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