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How Recruiters Scan and Read Your Resume: What You Have to Do!

Lesson 3 Module 2

Your Resume Must Be Capable of Passing a Double Scan 

Your resume will get scanned two ways. The first in today's digital world is by the employer's ATS (applicant tracking system). The second is by a human, IF your resume passes the first digital scan test.

Whenever your resume was rejected, it was because what you wrote didn’t match the conversation inside the head of the person reading your resume! This determination is reached very, very quickly.

When you submit your resume to most employers, it will be "parsed" into their ATS. During this process, the ATS parsing engine will extract your contact information, job history and related details and put that into data fields which will later be used for searching. At the same time, the ATS will extract key skills, educational and related information based on what is contained in your resume. This means your resume must contain relevant skill words, that tie to the available jobs the employer currently is recruiting to fill.

If your resume has the right skills and related information the employer deems appropriate, the resume is tagged for recruiter review. If not, your resume will usually not be reviewed by a human.

The exception to this is where the employer has a very critical opening and is receiving a limited number of resumes. In that case, your resume and all others received will more likely be reviewed by a human.

The Digital Scan
How Your Resume Format Can Impact the Accuracy of the Digital Scan

A highly formatted resume is much more difficult for electronic ATS parsing engines to properly gather relevant information and place it into its proper place in the employer's ATS. I've seen many resumes with an "artistic" design with multiple columns, colors and headers, which may be interesting to a human review, are horrible to submit for digital scanning. I do not recommend that format (unless you're a graphic designer). It doesn't meet the primary objective of assisting you to pass through the early filters and get the interview...and after all that is your first objective.

When your resume is first considered by a human it is usually scanned for no more than 20 to 30 seconds before that person makes a decision to study the content in more detail, or reject it for consideration for current open jobs and move on to the next resume.

Today, most resumes are reviewed/scanned in digital format. That means your resume format must be designed for electronic consumption above all else. That means that your resume almost never gets read unless it passes the human “skimming and scanning” test.

This rapid 20 – 30 second resume scan phenomenon is much more prevalent than ever before due to the fact that job openings are now available 24 x 7 and it costs nothing for a job seeker like you to email many resumes or make multiple online applications. 

This means that employers and external recruiters, by some estimates receive 100 times more resumes and/or applications than before the dawn of the digital age. It’s a time issue on their part.

It then becomes obvious that your resume will never result in an interview unless you very quickly “connect with the message playing inside the head of the reader.” 

The Human Scan

In the case of a human scan, remember, “It’s the eyes of the recruiter or hiring manger that buys!”

The recruiter or hiring manager is much more interested in what you've done, than how pretty your resume is. The ability to quickly convey a positive message to the reader is what counts. And...remember you've got 10 to 20 seconds to capture their interest. If not, you're NOT going to get an interview.

Other Considerations Impacting Your Odds of Getting an Interview

Use two important concepts in your resume content. I call them the "mental yardstick" and "resume mirror" which are two methods I've developed that have substantially increased the ratio of resumes submitted to interviewed scheduled! Click on each of the topics below for details.

Click to Learn About the Resume Mirror

I always recommend the “resume mirror” method that so that your resume will match as closely as possible to the employer’s job description, while still keeping your resume honest and factual. I also refer to this as “tailoring your resume.” You should start using this concept today.

Using similar words and phrases (i.e. the employer's job description language) in your resume that closely maps to the job descriptions is a key part of my successful strategy.

Just to be sure you understand this concept, the term “resume mirror” means that your resume becomes a mirror image of their job ad and/or the way an employer talks about a specific job and/or your profession internally within the company.

Click to Learn About the Mental Yardstick

The Mental Yardstick is a specific way of formatting your most significant accomplishments using a SMART format. It should be incorporated into your resume Summary, Work History, Awards and Recognition Sections.


SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Results Defined and Time Bound.

Examples of the Mental Yardstick

If you led teams, say so and give the team size. Note the following examples:

  • Led a team of 12 on the 2018 product launch for the new $5M Atlas product line which surpassed market penetration expectations by an additional 4%, in less than 13 months.
  • Led a 5-person project team implanting a new cost accounting system using Alpine software that reduced manufacturing cost on the F18 retrofit project for the US Navy by 18% in less than 9 months.
  • Led a 17 member team that developed and implemented freight management initiatives for a Fortune 20 company that resulted in $5.3M annual freight cost reduction, while achieving real-time 100% tracking visibility.

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