Resume Help/Sorting applications


Hi Dr. Converse,

I was at a job fair the other day and talked to a recruiter and HR specialist for a medium-sized company in the east.  I asked her how the company chose the people they would call for an interview.  I wondered if there was some bit of knowledge I could pick up that would help me when I apply.  She said that she wasn't sure if she should tell me this, but the reality was that they didn't really choose who they would call out of all the applications, at least not at first.  She said her real job was to eliminate as many people as possible and then choose from the ones who were left.  Can that be real or was she just pulling my chain?  Thanks.

Hi Will,

No, she was - surprisingly - telling you the truth.  I am amazed she would be that honest, but she must have had a good reason for it.  

As a person who has sorted through tens of thousands of job applications over the years, I can assure you that most people whose job it is to initially sort job applications, do it much the same way.  Think of it like this: you are sitting at your desk and your job is to wade through this pile of job applications, resumes, letters, essays, etc.  Further suppose you have a hundred applications for a job and you need to choose five people to interview.  What you are looking for are the applications that have mistakes, problems, or in some way, eliminate themselves from further consideration.  It would take a long time to plow through all those documents one word at a time, so what you are trying to do is find the ones that are clearly unqualified in one way or another.

And sometimes it doesn't take much.  Believe it or not, sometimes people spell their own name wrong, or use pink paper with sparkles, or send a resume that is so dense it looks like a Russian novel.  Those are the ones that go in the "no" pile almost immediately.  My research tells me that about 92% of applications have some kind of defect - sometimes a really big defect.  The more of those you find, the easier it is to put the others in the "maybe" pile and then consider those more carefully to find your five interviewees.

So, the lesson here is that you should make your application package as professional, as error-free, and as strong as you possibly can.  Getting an interview depends on it.  After all, that app package is all the company has to go on.  Unless you make it as perfect as you can, someone else will - and that someone else has a better shot at the job than you do.

Hope this helps.  Let me know if you would like me to review your resume for you.  If so, you can attach it to an email and send it to me at the address below.  Best wishes!

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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