What are They Thinking When They Read Your Resume

ImageWhenever I work with an individual client or facilitate a workshop on resumes, I always touch on this topic.  I think it important to have an understanding of the “other side” and reinforce the point that your resume isn’t really about you; it is about them.

It is Not All About You

The point of your resume is to answer their most important question, “What can you do for me?”  They need to be told why they want to talk to you rather than the other 300+ people that applied.  What do you bring to the table and how can it help them? 

The Mindset of the Reader

Let’s get one thing out in the open: no one likes reading resumes.  I have embraced the fact that people hate my work, that is the people reviewing resumes.  Because they do not want to read them.  Why?

If a position is open they get inundated with applicants.   A majority are not qualified for the position.   A good majority lie on their resume and a great number do not even attempt to match themselves to the position.  This does not make for a positive attitude in reviewing resumes.

The First Step is Elimination

They are looking for qualified candidates, ultimately.  But their first step it elimination.  Eliminate all those that do not meet the criteria.  There are normally two or three piles:  Yes, Maybe and Oh Heck No.

Reasons for elimination make this first step easier.  Not meeting qualifications, not giving contact information, not having a good presentation – these all help them whittle the huge stack of resumes down to a manageable few. 

Do not give them a reason to eliminate your resume.

They Don’t Believe You

There is a lot of fluff in resumes.  Some tend to over-exaggerate their experience or qualifications.  No matter how you say it the bottom line is there is a lot of lying going on there and they have to spot it.  So their mindset in reviewing your resume is from a critical standpoint.

Telling someone that you are experienced in xyz is not enough.  They are not going to believe you just because you said so.  You have to demonstrate it.  How do you do xyz, who do you work with and what is the value in you doing xyz?  This then proves your experience or skills.

They are Going to Fill in the Blanks

Make an incomplete statement and they will fill in the rest of the story for you.  Since they are coming from a place that is lacking sunshine and rainbows, they normally do not fill it in with a happy ending.

For example, if you are in sales and you state that you were second in your district, their first though (consciously or not) is “What, out of three?”

You need to fill in the blanks, giving the parameters that demonstrate why this is important.

If you state you increased territory sales by 60%, awesome, but how?  Did you inherit someone else’s book or did you actually have impact on this result?

If it Looks Hard to Read, No One Wants to Read It

Here is a trait that has not changed much since we were kids.  When I was little my mom would take us to the library to pick out books to read for the week.  If I pulled a book off the shelf and it was wall to wall little words I put it right back.  If another one had pictures, bigger words and looked easier to read that was the one that I picked.

If you submit a five page resume with itty, bitty print and no white space you are shooting yourself in the foot.  It looks hard to read and therefore they do not want to.  They may read it, but begrudgingly so.  I had a friend tell me once a great line, “Even the Pope doesn’t need a five page resume.”

I realize have made some generalizations, however, anyone in HR or with hiring responsibilities that I have discussed these points with agree on all counts.

You think it is hard writing a resume, think about how hard it is reading several hundred!  Give them a break and make it easier on them to identify your value, see you in the role and gives them the complete story. 

It makes their life easier and makes you a much better candidate. 



Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer



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