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Sunday, August 24, 2008

do employers look at every applicant?

A reader writes:

After realizing that some employers receive hundreds of online applicants, I get the feeling that many of the employers are not even opening my e-mails.  Do employers look at every e-mail applicant?  How can I grab their attention in a subject line?

It depends on the employer. I look at every resume (granted, some only for 10 seconds, but that's because it doesn't take long to know they're not the right match), and I keep looking at them all until I've made an offer and it's been accepted. Other employers stop looking after they have a certain number of strong candidates. Some (generally large) employers use computerized programs that scan resumes for key words, and then send those (and only those) on to a human to review.

I wouldn't try to go for an overly creative email subject line -- I'm not a fan of subject lines that sound too much like a sales pitch. In fact, the only time an applicant's email subject line has ever swayed me one way or another is when it's when it's made a negative impression; I think something simple, like the name of the position, is best.

But others may feel differently, so bring it on in the comments!


Anonymous said...

I agree- fancy subject lines don't help. Focus on producing something error free, simple, and easy to read.

What annoys me most is people that just don't meet the basic requirements of the job thinking that a creative positioning will get them hired. For example, if I have a position that requires US Citizenship, an H1-B visa holder simply does not qualify. If I need an immediate replacement for a skilled person who quit, there is no amount of being a quick learner that will solve that for me.

What probably annoys job seekers is that the many online job posting aggregation services seem to keep recycling positions that I posted a long time ago. I am still getting resumes in August for positions I filled in June. Unfortunately, I don't have time to look at all of those, but I do keep in them in my tracking system to use as references for the next time I need someone with those skills.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, the busier and larger the organization, the LESS likely they are to be impressed by fancy subject lines. In fact, a creative subject line could work against you if the employer can't immediately classify it when scanning through the hundreds of daily email she receives every day.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the advice!

Anonymous said...

I typically use something like "resume of anonymous for position" so it's easy to find if forwarded from HR to the hiring manger. However, when I apply for something that auto generates a subject (like craigslist), I never modify it. They could be filtering their incoming mail based on the subject alone and you might not be considered at all because you wanted to stand out. If I'm advertising ten jobs at the same time, it would tick me off that I have to read your email before I can even move it to the proper folder. Multiple that times ten jobs, add in that it's a Monday and I might just start deleting any unfiltered responses.

I don't have any scientific evidence to back this up, but my gut feeling is that working outside the system (at least in large organizations) usually hurts you unless you're talking about having your resume hand-delivered by an insider on your behalf.