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Career Corner
Just Who—Or What—Is Reading My Resume?

Jack Mulcahy -- In today's world of hiring, your resume must pass through three sets of readers, each with a separate set of requirements, in order for you to gain a chance at an interview. So, is your resume ready?

I recently surprised a client with the news that his resume had to compete with an average of some 400 or so other resumes for the same position, which was why I was asking him all those darn questions. Now, once upon a time, human beings were more involved in the resume reading process than they are today. Resume reading used to be the exclusive province of humans. But no more. In today's world of hiring, your resume must pass through three sets of readers, each with a separate set of requirements, in order for you to gain a chance at an interview.

When your resume arrives at a company, it receives a quick glance from one of a team of HR associates or secretaries. That person wants to see if the resume even approaches being appropriate to the position. S/he scans the beginning, middle and end, giving your resume (over which you've labored so intensely) no more than 15 to 20 seconds' attention before moving on to the next one. This process weeds out perhaps half of the resumes right away.

The surviving resumes are scanned and "read" by ATS (Applicant Tracking System) software, which looks for keywords and phrases, and further winnows out the pack. There are apparently as many ATS systems as there are stars in the sky, and each has its own set of governing principles, but all of them are seeking those magic keywords. This is why you need a professional resume writer, who is familiar with keywords and knows how to weave them organically into your resume.

Weaving your keywords "organically" into the resume means actually writing them into your sentences. Some writers will create a section called "Skills" or "Strengths," and will lump all the keywords together into that space, but my preference is for the organic way of writing the resume.

Assuming your resume is one of the lucky few that pass through the ATS, the third reader is the actual hiring manager. S/he may actually devote a minute or two initially to your resume, so you must be aware of how important it is to "grab" this manager right from the start and keep his/her attention all the way through.

Here, your keywords share importance with another quality: the value you will bring to the company. This value must come across in every line. You must present yourself as not just one of the best candidates for the position; you want the hiring manager to be visualizing you actually doing the job by the time s/he has read your entire resume. And make no mistake about it, even at this point there is a possibility the hiring manager may not finish reading your resume. That individual has too many other priorities to waste precious time on a candidate who doesn't demonstrate genuine value.

One resume. Three readers. Three sets of priorities.

Next question?

Jack Mulcahy, founder of, has over 40 years professional writing experience. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, books, and online blogs. Accolades include the ACRW and CARW, two of the highest and most exclusive certifications awarded to résumé writers. As a professional résumé writer, Jack's work has generated interviews for thousands of clients. In addition, his career includes employment in the business, non-profit, entrepreneurial, and government sectors. For more information, visit

© 2013 Jack Mulcahy

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