How to Review a Resume in 10 Seconds Flat

Review a resume in 10 seconds? What?

Yes, it is possible to review a resume in 10 seconds! And now, don't you want to know how? If you work in HR or have any hiring responsibilities, you probably are going cross-eyed reading “detail oriented, team player with a passion for excellence” over and over.

So, how can you possibly read a resume in 10 seconds?

For starters, I said review not read. Secondly, I didn't say thoroughly review. A 10-second review is how I sort through resumes and determine which ones I need to look at further. So, the key to reviewing a resume in 10 seconds is you are looking for deal breakers.

What's a deal breaker? Anything on either the candidate or client side that prevents a deal from going through. For candidates it might be hours, job duties, pay, etc. For clients, it might be candidate location, specific product knowledge or education, etc.

Why 10 Seconds?

I work with many clients who regularly get 750-1500+ responses to job ads. Totally cool, right? No, not so much!

At least a good portion of them aren't the right fit or have some kind of deal breaker. Why spend hours reviewing resumes of people who aren't right for the role?

I know you probably have 20 other urgent items on your plate, so let's jump into it. Here is how to effectively review resumes quickly so you spend time talking to the right candidates!

What To Look For

When you review resumes in 10 seconds, you want to strictly focus on the major deal-breaking areas. Location, titles, products/channels, success and visual appeal should tell you everything you need to know quickly. Again, we are looking for ways the candidate won't be a fit or ways our role isn't a match for their needs.


Where do they live? Are they in your sales territory or desired area? Is the commute distance reasonable? Open up Google maps and plug in their info if you aren't familiar with where they are located.


Are their past titles in line with what you’re looking for? Are they too far above or below what you need? If you need a Territory Salesperson and they have been a Regional Sales Manager for 3-5 years, they probably are too much horsepower. Or, if they'll need management experience but have only been an Outside Sales Rep, you can move on.

Products and Channels:

Does their experience match up to the products and channels of your business? If you sell flooring and they have only sold roofing and siding, it might not translate. If you need someone who can sell to builders and contractors and they have only sold to big box stores, does that work?

Past Success:

Does their resume convey their past success in a quantifiable manner? Can you easily pull out their greatest accomplishments and does that match up with what you want? Or, is their resume a dumping ground of their last job descriptions? Especially in sales, you want to be able to know their numbers easily and that they can prove their success.

Visual Appeal:

It is a little snobby, but a resume is an example of a candidate trying to impress. If it is a disorganized mess, I wonder how much effort they put into their work or if they don't care. However, if the resume has all the right experience and the candidate is spot on, I will give it a second look.

There you have it: exactly what I look at in 10 seconds when I review resumes.

But, what about the summary or objective you might be asking. I don't put much stock in either, honestly. The objective is really to get a job, right? And the summary is self-evaluation and promotion. Unless they prove success with numbers, I don't really spend much time reading it. I breeze through both objectives and summaries pretty quickly usually.

In fact, I often use an objective to rule someone out rather than in.


Many people forget to adjust the objective. This shows a lack of attention to detail or a lower interest in the role. Secondly, if the objective doesn't align with the position, it probably isn't a match. For instance – if I need a hunter in a new territory and their objective is to move into a Branch Manager position, they probably aren't going to work out for my needs.

Next Steps

As I scan through resumes, I put them into three piles based on the items I listed above.

If there are no deal breakers or they seem to have the right background, they go into a YES pile.

If they have some of what I need or some possible deal breakers, they go into a MAYBE pile.

If their background is off or has numerous deal breakers, they go into a NO pile.

Now that I have done a big picture review, I can focus on the 7-25% of applicants that really fit my criteria. I go back to my YES pile and spend a bit more time reviewing each resume. Depending on the quality and number of those, I might do the same for the MAYBE pile, but you'll use your judgment on if they will truly work or not.

The best part is next, I get to contact and talk with the candidates that are a fit and I haven't spend hours getting to them. Wouldn't we all rather spend time talking with people who might actually be right for the role? Yes, yes we would.

So, the next time you are faced with a pile of resumes and want to know how to quickly get through to the candidates that meet your needs, consider a 10-second resume review.



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