Mistakes Managers Make When Reviewing Resumes

Career Blog

Most recruiters and hiring managers spend little more than thirty seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether to toss it or save it for further consideration.

Poorly written resumes are of course doomed for the circular file as are ill-placed applicants. There’s simply no life-hack that will allow a grammatically challenged poetry major to score a CTO spot. Well, maybe if your name is on building, but even then, it’s a long shot.

To increase your chances of avoiding the “maybe” file, you must not only perfect your CV and selectively submit it for relevant roles, you should also understand common managerial biases that may inadvertently exclude you from the process.

Preferences and Assumptions

Skill-set and performance are the only factors that should matter when evaluating an applicant. However, hiring managers often allow irrelevant personal preferences such as schools attended, prior titles, and years of experience to infiltrate their analysis. 

These preferences can lead the reviewer to make a variety of faulty assumptions about the applicant such as the person is under or overqualified, makes too much or too little money, or doesn’t have the right pedigree to fit in with their corporate culture. Skilled managers on the other hand, acknowledge their preferences and potential biases and adopt a blank slate mindset when reviewing resumes.

Penalize Employment Gaps

Many managers consider a career gap as a personal and professional failing. If not overtly distained, they are considered inconvenient. After all, resume gaps deviate from the traditional career arc and thus require time-consuming explanations.

Instead of taking the easy action and disregarding those with gaps, managers would be wise to get the rest of the story. Perhaps the person suffered a recession-induced downsizing and is mounting a comeback. Maybe the candidate started and sold a business or made the selfless call to pause their career to care for a family member. When managers listen to gap stories they often hear tales of courage, conviction, and the kind of learnings that can benefit any team.  

Overlook Those Without Degrees

Education and skill are often confused, but a degree doesn’t make someone competent. Too often hiring managers will select a college grad with no experience over a proven professional who lacks the letters simply because a degree requirement is listed on an antiquated job description.

Higher education isn’t without merit of course. It arms the holder with the language of their profession. Still, a degree is no silver bullet. Savvy hiring managers value performance over potential. They want workers with a track record of production. For example, having a web designer with a portfolio of beautifully designed sites is more favorable than one with zero experience and a degree in Elizabethan poetry.   

Diversity Traps

As organizations hyper-focus on diversity metrics, managers have begun to feel pressure to forego skill-based assessments in favor of quota-based hiring. Too often in hiring discussions and internal talent reviews overt support for the selection of a “diverse” candidate trumps the normal merit-based process. 

Employees have become wise to this process perversion and have taken measures to prevent discrimination. Actions include removing all dates from resumes to sidestep age bias to refusing demographic questions to avoid being discounted as “non-diverse”. In extreme cases, candidates have been known to adopt middle or maiden names and adjust screening answers to score what has become known as “diversity points”. 


All of this is ridiculous of course. In a perfect world hiring managers would seek to employ the best possible person for each role regardless of their preferences and biases. Till then, candidates should be on the lookout for these failings and steady themselves to call them out in real time.  

Need a career coach? Contact me via www.PlotlineLeadership.com.

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Photo by George Becker


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