Recruiters and Their Résumés: How Do They Sort Through Them All?

By Jennifer Salopek

Oct. 25, 2010

Arecent survey of human resources managers by Chicago-based job board revealed that almost half of them typically review up to 25 applications per job while spending just 30 to 60 seconds looking over each one. Yet some recruiters contend the number of applications they get is dramatically higher with hundreds of candidates vying for each position.

Despite the daunting figures—be they from a survey or from those on the front lines—recruiters insist they try to carefully review most, if not all, of the résumés they receive. Sourcing candidates is a high priority and companies don’t want to overlook a qualified applicant, they say.

“Saturdays for me are about college football and résumés,” says Mike Spaulding, a corporate recruiter for Boise, Idaho-based The company receives 50 to 75 resumes for each skilled position and up to 300 for customer-service and entry-level positions.

Although Spaulding uses an applicant tracking system that ranks candidates based on keywords and statements, “I still look at all of the résumés anyway,” he says.

What catches the eye of a recruiter varies from position to position, but they’re primarily looking for candidates with a proven track record, says David Anderson, HR manager at Irvine, California-based software and services company Vision Solutions Inc.

“Candidates must show quantifiable results. ‘How?’ is the answer we want to get to,” says Anderson, who adds that he receives at least 100 résumés for every open position.

John Campagnino, senior director of recruitment at Accenture, agrees. “We are looking for candidates who describe the work that they’ve done in market-relevant terms and quantify those claims; they must demonstrate the business value delivered.”

Yet, managing the résumé assessment process starts long before the applications begin pouring in. Tighter job descriptions and targeted employment sites can shrink the number and draw more relevant résumés.

Technology tools can help ease the process. Brenda Rigney, director of talent acquisition at Aritzia, has set up her Outlook inbox to filter and sort résumés.

She receives 100 to 200 applications for each associate-level position for Aritzia, a women’s retail fashion brand based in Vancouver, British Columbia, which employs about 200 corporate support staff and 1,500 to 3,000 employees in stores depending on the season.

Anderson says job descriptions should be specific but not overdone.

“A lengthy list of requirements can discourage even qualified applicants and extend the application process,” he says.

Rigney adds that the job description is essential in the hiring process.

“Before we even think about sourcing candidates, we sit down with the hiring manager to fill out a detailed job requisition form,” Rigney says. The form requests such information as why the role is needed, desired competencies and potential future career paths for the successful candidate.

While cover letters may seem unnecessary, recruiters say they still offer relevant insight into the candidate.

“Cover letters provide introductions and context,” Accenture’s Campagnino says, adding that he likes a short note demonstrating the candidate’s interest in Accenture.

Rigney prefers to see traditional cover-letter content, such as explanations of a gap in work history, addressed in the résumé itself. Spaulding says he doesn’t spend a lot of time on cover letters but will read them for entry-level applicants without extensive job experience.

Once résumés begin arriving, Rigney hones in on a brief statement of core competencies and career objectives.

Carole Morris, vice president of HR at Vision Solutions, says candidates can make better use of that area.

“Applicants should customize their objectives with our keywords and do it in the cover letter, too. They should correlate our requirements to their experience—connect the dots for us,” she says.

Knowing where to find the people for a specific role is important, Rigney says. She recommends posting job openings on specialized career sites rather than general employment sites.

“It may be more expensive, but it will get you the best people, possibly more quickly,” she says.

Once a résumé attracts his interest, Spaulding says he vets candidates online. He checks candidates’ Twitter streams and blogs; Rigney looks at candidates’ Tumblr sites, a popular way to post creative portfolios.

“Candidates have more opportunities than just their résumés to get in front of recruiters,” Spaulding says.

Workforce Management Online, October 2010Register Now!

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