Avoiding The Resume “Black Hole”

Job candidates are often right to assume that recruiters aren’t reading their resumes. Here’s how to beat the odds.

I’ve heard some recruiters say they usually scan a resume in seconds. That boast could challenge job seekers to stand out as much as possible, but it also feeds the impression among candidates that their resumes end up in a black hole.


But that dominant view—”you have to capture a recruiter’s attention within seconds or else”—ignores others who might assess your resume. For example, an executive acting as the hiring manager will spend much more reading time—an average of 6 minutes—with each resume. That statistic emerged in a recent survey of senior executives by staffing firm OfficeTeam.

Related: This Chatbot Can Make Sure Your Resume Won’t End Up In A Black Hole

Granted, most of those managers have a smaller stack to read through than the  recruiters who narrow down the pool first with their screenings.

Other cases, however, may not involve humans at all. The first screening could be done by a software program that looks for keywords among your skills and experiences that match the job description.

Know Your Audience

“Job seekers need to keep in mind three audiences when crafting their resumes: keyword-scanning software, recruiters, and hiring managers,” says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “The first two will be looking for keywords and requirements that match the job listing.  But the last group will be looking carefully for applicants’ key accomplishments in previous roles.”

He adds that managers are taking more time to avoid costly hiring mistakes in this tight economy, and to reduce the number or hours needed for in-person interviews.


Getting Their Attention

Hosking recommends these simple tips for writing your resume to stand out:

Get off to a good start. Be specific and concise when describing past accomplishments and highlight these achievements up front. This allows an employer to clearly recognize how you can impact the company’s bottom line.

Tailor the content. Customize your resume so it speaks directly to a potential employer’s needs—mirror the language and keywords found in the job description.

Keep it simple. Refrain from using complicated language, graphics or distracting fonts that can make the resume difficult to read.

He also suggests asking a friend or family member to do a “two-minute test” on your resume. Have them read the resume in two minutes and summarize for you the key points.  Also have someone else proofread your resume for typos and errors.