How Long Does It Take to Screen Resumes? |

Listen to the full episode here:

Someone from a smaller firm asks how long it takes to screen resumes because they think they are spending too much money for an external recruiter.

Read Full Transcript

The question for today is, "How long does it take to screen resumes?" This question is asked from the vantage point of an employer who is using a recruiter, who is finding good, but not great candidates for them. As they write, "For each position, we get 3 to 5 candidates who are referred to the hiring manager." They are thinking of bringing the process in-house and using tools like ziprecruiter and Workable. They are recruiting for IT positions. . "How long is it going take 2 narrow things down to get those same 3 to 5 options?"

The real question I want to start off pointing out is most people undervalue a recruiter and what they do. After all, you are seeing the results of their efforts (those 3 to 5 resumes); you don't know what they did to get those 3 to 5 resumes. For example, you are looking at those 3 to 5 resumes and thinking to yourself, "I can get 3 to 5 resumes if I use those tools. What's the problem?"

So the problem starts off with who is going to screen those resumes when people apply for your position? Who is going to do the pre-interview with them? Who is going to evaluate the respondents? I know what I was doing recruiting, I would receive hundreds of pieces of garbage that were little more than spam. Some systems may have a data dictionary that will screen resumes for particular keywords; sometimes the system is messed things. If you're okay with that, let's move on.

Using myself as an example, on Monday morning. It was typical for me to walk into 200 to 250 resumes and then have to start going through them. In the usual 3 to 5 seconds that normally is used, you do the math – – if I operated like a machine. It was actually able to do each resume in 5 seconds, with 5 seconds to open up the next one and delete the previous one, it is 6 resumes per minute. If I received 250 resumes, it may take a little bit more than 40 minutes to go through them.

But I get interrupted, I get distracted and I am not a machine. It is boring to read little more than spam , and you have to take a few seconds to figure out, "What are they saying that they do" before you delete it.

As I said in early podcast of Job Search Radio, out of those 250 resumes. I may actually interview to people. Let's use your own math here. You're stuck in this position of going through resumes to find, perhaps, to the might vaguely appear qualified ... It may take about 2 hours of labor time.

Remember, there are days that go by where I'm not even seem to resumes that are worth my calling. It is awful, but it is true. So in the context of finding those 3 to 5 people that you want to locate on your own, you will probably take several days and that is before you start pre-interviewing people before deciding to forward them to the hiring manager.

Now, remember, all the math I'm referring to here is with "dedicated effort." However, with a firm that is small, you are not going to have a dedicated resource doing this. Doing this is going to be ancillary to their job. After all, if you had someone dedicated to this resource already, you wouldn't be asking this question! This person would already be doing the prescreening for you and you wouldn't be using a recruiter.

This is a small firm and this will be an "add-on function" to someone's workday and it will take more time than you think. If you're okay with that, that's fine. But that's really what you're paying the external recruiter to do. You are paying them to do that screening to reduce it to those 3 to 5 potential hires.

I would say that easily it can take a week to a week and 1/2 to identify those 3 to 5 people while this person is doing something else.

If that is worth it to you, if that expenditure of time which may prove out to be pointless (that's because the people that they identify may not fit either.), go ahead and bring it in-house. If you are not sure and you want to cut your costs, instead of doing all of this, reduce your recruiter fee. Reduce it by 2%. If you are currently paying a 25% fee, make it 23%. If you are paying a 20% fee, make it 18%.

Simply say, "I want to continue to give you an exclusive on these jobs. We are evaluating internal resources , and I want to continue to consider you because you been very helpful to us and this might be a way that we can get around it."


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for what more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1000 episodes,“ Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

coaching? Visit and click the relevant tab on the top of the page. offers great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.  

Connect with me on LinkedIn. Like me on Facebook.

Join and attend my classes on Skillshare. Become a premium member and get 2 months free.

You can order a copy of “Diagnosing Your Job Search Problems” for Kindle on Amazon and receive free Kindle versions of “No BS Resume Advice” and “Interview Preparation.” If you are starting your search, order, “Get Ready for the Job Jungle.”

Don’t forget to give the show 5 stars and a good review in iTunes

If you want to know how to win more interviews, order “Winning Interviews.” You’ll learn how to win phone interviews, in-person interviews, the best question to ask on any interview and more.

Would you like to talk through a salary negotiation or potential negotiation you’re involved with? Order and schedule time with me.

Do you have questions or would like advice about networking or any aspect of your search. Order and schedule time with me.

Would you like me to critique your resume. Order a critique from me

For more about LinkedIn, order “Stacked: Double Your Job Interviews, Leverage Recruiters and Unlock LinkedIn.”

Jeff’s Kindle book, “You Can Fix Stupid: No BS Hiring Advice,” is available on Amazon.

Would you like to connect with a motivated audience of job hunters. Email
 for information

About the author

Leave a Comment, Thought, Opinion. Speak like you're speaking with someone you love.

%d bloggers like this: