Resume Screeners—Who Are They?

Written by on June 9, 2014 in Blog, resume tips, Resumes with 2 Comments

What Does a Resume Screener Look Like?

Before we get started on this, I’d like to ask a few questions.

  • What does a nephrologist do?
  • How about a manufacturing engineer?
  • Clinical psychologist?
  • Disk drive engineer?
  • Pharmacokineticist?

Would you know the requirements for each of the above positions? I’d be surprised if you did. But assuming you did know, would you also know who the primary competitors were in each industry segment?

Of course you wouldn’t. And yet, that’s what people seem to expect when they send their resume to a company. I say that because you have no idea who your resume screener will be.

Let’s Take A Look At How It Works

More often than not, the first set of eyes on your resume won’t be real eyes; they will be scanned by an ATS (Applicant Tracking System).

  • Almost all large companies, and most mid-sized companies use ATS for the initial screen.
  • If you pass that stage, it’s likely that a talent acquisition or HR representative will evaluate your resume.

ATS are becoming more intelligent all the time, but even the smartest of them can only match your resume if it detects skills/accomplishments that match what has been programmed into them for the job description.

As to the humans…whoever the company has screening resumes is no different. They cannot know all things or all jobs. The only way they can effectively evaluate your resume is if they can compare it to the specs they have.

What Does That Mean?

It means you need to learn how to tailor your resume to the job description. It means that if the job description calls for someone with “expertise in designing new cell phones,” somewhere in your resume, you should have an accomplishment that mentions “expertise in designing new cell phones,” or something similar. That statement will catch the screener’s attention.

But what if you’re missing experience?

You Still Have Options

Suppose a medical device company is looking for an engineer to design a new blood glucose monitor. This person will need to know how to design high-volume, close-tolerance medical devices with plastic parts.

You want to apply for the position, but you work at a disk drive company, with not a medical device in sight. You need to show them that your experience fits most of their requirements. Here’s what you don’t do.

Designed revolutionary new disk drive for ultra-thin laptops. New design captured 25% of the market in first 10 months.

Unless the resume screener has a technical understanding of disk drives, they will have no way of knowing that what you did is relevant. Here is what they see.

Image of disk drive | Image of glucose monitor


So how do you make them understand?

You Need To Show Them the Inside

The way to do that is to describe your experience differently. Instead of saying…

  • “Designed revolutionary disk drive for ultra-thin laptops. New design captured 25% of the market in first 10 months.”

…try this…

  • “Designed revolutionary high-volume disk drive for the ultra-thin laptop market. Took advantage of new technology to develop close-tolerance, high-precision plastic parts with zero-tolerance manufacturing.

When you describe your experience in this manner, you are letting the resume screener peek inside the product. So instead of seeing the casing on your disk drive, they see the inside, with all of its intricate parts.

Does this work every time? No. Nothing works every time. But this will give you a better shot than anything else. And if you practice this, and learn this as a process for putting your resume together, you’ll earn far more interviews.

If you really want a great resume, click here to get us to do it for you.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Jim (Giacomo) Giammatteo is a headhunter who writes resumes and cover letters. He is also the author of No Mistakes Resumes, and No Mistakes Interviews. He also writes gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

photo credit: Flying Jenny via photopin cc

photo credit: explainthatstuff via photopin cc

photo credit: via photopin cc

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About the Author

About the Author: When I’m not headhunting, or writing, I help my wife take care of our animal sanctuary. At last count we had 45 animals—11 dogs, 1 horse, 6 cats, and 26 pigs. Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar named Dennis who takes walks with me every day and happens to also be my best buddy. For information on my mystery/suspense books, go to .

2 Reader Comments

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  1. avatar Joy says:

    Hi Jim,
    I am a resume screener and I do agree with you on all points.


    • avatar giammatteo

      Thanks Joy. far too often, a candidate thinks, “they’ll know what I mean, or what I do,” and the screener doesn’t have a clue. You have to make it easy for them.

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