Screening Job Applicants - What Really Goes On Behind Closed Doors?


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The first goal of any hiring manager is not to find a candidate, but to ELIMINATE unqualified candidates. Most hiring managers reading your resume will take the pile of up to 500 letters they received and try to separate the definite “no's’ (Don't Call) into one pile and the interesting resumes into the second pile (Might Call). They then go back and eliminate again until what they have is a manageable pile (5-10 max) of pre-qualified candidates (To Call).

Getting into the second pile (Might Call) is your first goal. The first cut may take you from a stack of 500 resumes to a smaller yet still intimidating stack of 20.

At 20 resumes, the reader will spend 2-3 minutes on each resume versus just a few seconds the first time through. The objective here for the hiring manager is to take the stack of 20 down to a more manageable 5-10 resumes mentioned above.

At 5-10 resumes, the reader will be spending some quality time reading what you have written. They may be highlighting and making notes about the things that interest them the most or closely align with what they are looking for.

A few more resumes will be eliminated during this round, but not necessarily put back into the Don't Call pile. These candidates go into the Might Call pile but will only be called only if the hiring manager cannot find enough qualified candidates from 4-8 resumes they have left. This is the To Call pile that you want to end up in.

The hiring manager begins to make some calls and do some initial phone interviews. From here a few more people may be eliminated for a variety of reasons. Some of the people may have already taken other positions or the hiring manager does not like the candidate enough to invite him or her in for a face-to-face interview.

The hiring manager will keep interviewing until they have invited 3-5 people in for a personal interview.

As the realistic numbers I've indicated above reveal, in order to be invited in for an interview, you'll need to have a resume and cover letter better than 495 other candidates. Notice I did not say you needed more education, better experience or more years on the job than the other people applying for the same job. You just need to have better paperwork. . . "you just need a better story. " This will be the topic of a future article.

Jason Adams is President of Street Smart Sales and Marketing and author of the highly acclaimed book The StreetSmart Job-Changing System. For more information visit


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