Things You Can Do To Prevent HR Screeners From Hitting 'Delete'

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By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Working in search and now as a coach, I’ve easily reviewed more than 750,000 résumés over the course of my career. As statistics bear out, very few submitted résumés result in an interview. As I told a guest on my podcast, No BS Job Search Advice Radio, when I worked in search, on a typical day, out of 200 résumés, the number that might vaguely fit a role I might be recruiting for was around 1%! All of these people believed they were qualified, yet few were. What were they doing wrong? They weren’t doing this:

1. Push hard to accelerate your career development. It isn’t always true that slow and steady wins the race. In search, this is often interpreted as a signal that you and your work are ordinary. The firm that you’re trying to join has enough mediocre people without adding another. If you can demonstrate you are on a growth path and, say, a firm recognized you deletefor exceptional work, you stand a stronger chance than if your background shows that you are promoted every five to six years. They think you are hiding.

2. Make sure your résumé demonstrates a fit for the role within one page. Some people submit the same résumé to every job, and like the broken watch that’s right twice daily, sometimes their résumé shows they can do the job. And then there are all the other times when it is little more than spam. We live in a culture where speed is important. Few people want to read a lot. Their systems screen out people, and if they read your résumé and you don’t make a strong case for your fit quickly, they will reject you.

3. Mention the impact of the work you did. Many people neglect to mention whether their work helped their firm make or save money. By what percent did your work improve operations? Are you doing work with an enormous budget and impact, or do you live somewhere else? Make sure you’re clear, especially if your scope is huge. If you don’t, you make yourself seem like a “commodity.” Commodities are rarely valued highly.

4. Make sure your résumé and LinkedIn profile are congruent. I’m often asked to evaluate a résumé, and before I do, I look at the person’s LinkedIn profile to see how it describes the work that they do—only to find sometimes that they don’t match up at all. What’s the message that you send when that occurs? The answer is you are lying.

5. Take the HR screener seriously. Don’t act as though the screener is required to submit your résumé to the hiring manager when, in fact, they are a timesaver for that individual. I remember the person who went so far as to say, “Come on. When am I going to get to the real decision-maker?” They were told, “You are talking with her, and you can leave now.”

6. Connect the dots about your fit everywhere. I find it remarkable how often people talk themselves out of opportunities by emphasizing the wrong things. You have a job description, and, hopefully, you start a conversation with the screener by asking about the role they have in mind for you. Make the fit obvious, as though a 6-year-old is going to be evaluating you for this job. We live in an attention-deficit culture where relevant information needs to be communicated concisely. Too many words expressed over too much time will cause an interviewer’s eyes to glaze over. They don’t want to talk about your experience; they want to talk about your experience that matters to them and can solve their problem.

7. Practice for when the phone rings and the screener is on the other end. Instinctively, you want to start the conversation by saying, “Thanks so much for making time to reach out to me. Could you talk with me about the role you’re recruiting for and what I can do to help?” Job descriptions, job ads, and third-party recruiter descriptions are about 80% accurate. By asking about the role at the beginning of the interview, you can talk about what you’ve done that matters to them instead of what you’ve done.

8. Be introduced to the firm by someone who they know, like, trust and respect. When you apply for a job, it is like being an individual fish in a pond with hundreds of other fish, all jumping to land on the one hook in the water. Being introduced can help you cut the line and get to the front. It gives you the advantage of arriving with a halo over your credentials because you’re recommended by a respected individual. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being recommended by HR. It’s just that they don’t have the power to hire you. They do have the power to reject you. See if you can get to the hiring manager through a friend, former colleague or ally in the organization.

9. Remember to talk about what makes you special. You can tell them in the interview, on your résumé and/or LinkedIn profile or wherever you have a platform. It is not boasting to talk about how you are better than others if it is true. They won’t know about your successes unless you tell them.

Ordinary people who do ordinary work in ordinary ways get ordinary results. It’s fine to accept that, but if you want to be seen as better than ordinary, you have to stake your claim and be seen as world-class as you believe you are. That doesn’t mean you become a loudmouth or abrupt and rude. It actually means telling the truth about yourself and your capabilities and standing in your authority and power.



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

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1700 episodes and “The No BS Coaching Advice Podcast” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was named a Top 10 podcast for job search. is also a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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