Hiring From A Manager’s Perspective – Part 1: Surviving The Resume Triage

May 22, 2011


Resume Review

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Part of the reason I have been so busy the past few weeks is that one of my managers recently left the company and I have been actively working on finding a replacement.  Since everyone looks for a job at some point in their career, I thought I’d share my thoughts and tips on surviving the first stage:  the resume triage.

In most companies, going through the applications and selecting a short list of candidates for the initial phone interview is usually done by HR.  Since none of the roles in my department are “standard”, I personally triaged all the resumes as the hiring manager.  Even from a manager’s point of view it was enlightening.  In no particular order, here is what I learned:

  1. Apply for a job as soon as you see it.  Don’t wait.  We paid to post the job on LinkedIn for a month.  Still, I need to fill the position quickly because I’m doing yet one more person’s job while it’s empty.  So, I started to create the short list as soon as the applications started arriving.  After two weeks, I had 7 on the short list out of 33 applicants.  The 7th snuck in under the wire.  I already had my target of 6 people when I received his resume.  Since we hadn’t started calling anyone and one person really was a courtesy call, I added him to the list.
  2. Cover letter does help, but remember to attach the CV.  One applicant wrote a really great cover letter, but forgot to attach the CV.  Too bad.  I was interested in seeing it after reading such a great cover letter.   I wish other applicants had included a cover letter, even though we did not ask for it.   Based on what was written in the resumes, some applicants had creative interpretations on the job description.  Their qualifications only matched a few of the criteria, but yet they must have thought they would be a good fit for the job.  A cover letter explaining why they thought they were a good fit for the job or why they were interested would have helped.
  3. Please take the time to understand the job description.  If a job description clearly has some thought and detail put in it, please take the time to understand it and make sure you fit the critical criteria.  Applying for the job because you match one key word or phrase does not make you qualified for the job.  It’s not even great at getting your foot in the door because you are not making the right first impression.
  4. Relocation is a long shot.  Immigration is an even a longer shot.  In the current job market, there are a lot of qualified local applicants.  I would only consider relocation if I exhausted all the local possibilities.  Immigration is even worse, since I have to wait months for a visa to come through.  On that note, if you move to a city to look for a job, make sure you get a local phone number.  If you still have a long distance or international phone number, it becomes questionable whether you are actually in the area.  Oh, yeah, and I know Mumbai is not in Indiana.
  5. For very experienced candidates, sometimes an application can lead to something different.  I redirected two resumes for consideration for positions we don’t even have open yet.  If you have a lot of experience and an interesting combination of skills, apply for that slam dunk job.  We may view it as an opportunistic hire and it just may lead somewhere even more interesting.  Once I even got a job that way.
  6. Referrals do help.  All reasonably qualified candidates referred from someone inside the company at least got a phone call.  The only ones who did not get a phone interview were missing critical experience and/or did not understand the job description.
  7. Sometimes it really is not you, it’s us.   I read some resumes with a combination of joy and heartbreak.  These were the candidates with outstanding qualifications and experience.  I would love to talk with these applicants, just to exchange professional knowledge.  I would very likely interview and hire them in a different context.  However, the video game industry is not always a professional environment.  Some people take over a year to adjust to the culture shock.  Right now, I don’t have the bandwidth to help someone through that.  So, I had to pass on many wonderful candidates who worked for long periods in the same environment or had a long work history of working in more structured circumstances.

Once I actually hire someone and the file is closed, I’ll write about the phone and in-person interview process.  If any of my readers have other experiences from or questions about the first part of the hiring process, please share them in the comments.

Update:To read more tips on succeeding in the hiring process, please read my other posts on the subject:

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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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7 Comments on “Hiring From A Manager’s Perspective – Part 1: Surviving The Resume Triage”

  1. Xavier Says:

    I’m witness of the other side, and I can comment some points.

    Sometimes HR post ads and honestly they discredit the compagny, the annumce is for a five legs cow and doesn’t match any reality. Or they are searching for the strong person able to resist to stress, have creativity and ten years experience in a domain wich exist from just a couple of years but the first question is not about experience it’s “how much are you willing”.

    Canada is making a lot of advertising in other countries for immigrants, “the Canadian dream” and immigration is a long hard job, two years and a lot of money but if a compagny is ready to hire and help it can be really shorter, I know someone who get a job here without visa just because the compagny knew her before and made the effort. In few monthes she get the job and the visa. Not the compagny didn’t receive matching candidature from local but just because the manager knew the person and wanted her…

    the Canadian policy it’s not the fault of the manager in charge to hire but don’t reproache to immigrants to try a shorter way …

    when I checked on jobboom or other places it happened I didn’t understood what the compagny is seraching for. softwares not matching with the job , so confusing. One day a compagny sent me an offer for a job I had no idea what it is and I told it to the person but she answered “don’t worry you fit apply….” I applied and I get it, it was for videotron, there was a training , the title of the job was really impressive but most of my coworker had never seen a computer before. Some was working for petshops before to be here…

    I have a tons of weird experiences as work seeker, the other side of the force can be dark :^)


    • Liza Says:

      I absolutely agree with you, Xavier. I have seen and experienced many terrible job descriptions and lots of bad hiring practices. I was just sharing my experiences from the manager’s side of the desk for this particular job posting. For my case, I put a lot of thought into the job description. I was also realistic enough not to look for a 100% match. No one is a perfect match. I know that doesn’t exist. However, it is clearly a management position and having past management experience was one of the critical criteria.

      For people actively looking for a job, I highly recommend the Ask A Manager blog (www.askamanager.org). She answers a lot of specific questions about how to get a job and I like her style 🙂


  2. Patricia Says:

    When I would sort through resumes I would be looking for specific keywords mentioned in the advert and highlight them. Resumes would sorted into three piles yes, no and maybe (maybe was surprisingly the smallest pile). The maybes were looked at by another set of eyes.

    Cover letters are a great way to sell why you’re perfect for this specific job – but don’t make them too long. If the job doesn’t require extensive writing skills, use bullet points.

    When sending out your resume, keep a copy of the resume (if you have multiple resumes), your cover letter and a copy of the advert – if I call you for an interview, I will expect you to know which job you’ve applied for and what information you’ve provided.

    Make it as easy as possible for the person to say, “You’re hired.”


    • Liza Says:

      I agree – don’t make cover letters too long. Just make the key points about why you want the job and connect the not-so-obvious dots.

      I love the last line you wrote 🙂



  1. Hiring From A Manager’s Perspective – Part 2: Phone Interview Tips « Sockets and Lightbulbs - September 5, 2011

    […] ← Hiring From A Manager’s Perspective – Part 1: Surviving The Resume Triage Hiring From A Manager’s Perspective Part 3 – Nailing The Interview […]

  2. Hiring From A Manager’s Perspective: More Tips To Get An Interview « Sockets and Lightbulbs - February 5, 2012

    […] way possible, you may not get a second look.   So, I thought I would add to my earlier post on surviving the resume triage and give some more tips to get an […]

  3. Hiring From A Manager’s Perspective Part 3 – Nailing The Interview « Sockets and Lightbulbs - September 28, 2012

    […] Hiring From A Manager’s Perspective – Part 1: Surviving The Resume Triage […]

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