Personal touch career services logo

Rock-Solid Resumes. Reliable Career Advice. Real Transformations.


7 Harsh Facts About the HR Department

job hunting job search job search advice job search tips Jul 02, 2024
judgmental HR people

How well do you understand the HR department?

The truth is that most HR departments receive a deluge of candidates daily, far more than they could ever hope to read with great depth or understanding. To process the mountain of resumes, every company – big or small – will create simple tricks to screen candidates. You have probably heard some of these before, such as “Your resume will only be read for 10 seconds.” Many of these rumors are true, but it is important to understand why to get through the system.

So, like it or not, here are 7 harsh facts about the HR department:


1.        HR departments must reduce the candidate field by up to 95% – or more.

The HR department is not your buddy looking for the perfect job for you; it is their job to CUT YOU. The survivors of this ordeal are considered the top candidates. However, because of the screening process, these people might not be the most qualified candidates. They just survived the screening process the best, which could have resulted from some job seeker tricks.

               If you don’t want to be a qualified casualty, learn the screening process.


2.        HR will always assume AGAINST you.

As far as HR is concerned, if something is not on your resume, it does not exist. Therefore, it is necessary to put what may be considered very basic information on the resume. A classic example is Microsoft (MS) Office. Over the years, I have reviewed thousands of resumes. Whenever I see that MS Office is not listed, I ask the job seeker why they left it off.

               “Well,” they say, “I thought it was pretty much a given that everybody knows Microsoft Office.”

               Not true, actually. HR certainly won’t see it that way. If they must make any assumptions about a candidate’s qualifications, education, skills, experience, or career focus, they will always assume the worst. After all, that is an easy cut for them.


3.        The average amount of time spent reading a resume the first time is less than 10 seconds.

HR professionals do not spend time poring over the details in your resume. Instead, they are looking to see if you have the minimum skills and/or experience they want. Your resume is rejected if HR can’t see your value in 10 seconds or less.

Very few people are excited about reading through a stack of resumes. And who can blame them? Most resumes are boring, monotonous, poorly written, or filled with fluffy phrases or outright bragging. That’s why...


4.        Lower-level HR employees do the initial screening.

It is tedious to go through a stack of resumes. So, HR managers make the assistants do the first layer of cuts. These screeners follow very literal and specific qualifications to screen the resumes. Sometimes, they may not understand that certain skills are related.

For example, HR people frequently must screen IT resumes; however, few understand which software programs are derivatives or related versions. If your resume does not use the right terms or jargon, you will probably be cut, no matter how qualified you are. Not only that, the screeners have very little oversight of their work. Nobody is checking to see if you got cut– unless you are networking with people at the company.


5.        AI and Computers are screening you out.

Ah, the dreaded Applicant Tracking System, or ATS. If you have ever filled out an online application, the chances are that the computerized ATS is screening you. While it used to be that only large companies could afford to use ATS, modern improvements have made ATS affordable to even small local companies. So, why is that bad?

               While entry-level HR people may lack understanding, the computers are literally looking for an exact match on the keywords. For example, I have seen people kicked out by the computer because they didn’t have a degree when, in fact, they held a relevant bachelor’s degree. However, their resume said “BS,” and the computer sought a “Bachelor of Science.”

               BS, indeed.

               Bottom line: The ATS is brutal, literal, and unforgiving. Worse, it stands between you and any chance that a human will read your resume and grant you an interview.

6.        You need a 60 – 75% keyword match to get past the screeners.

NOTE: that is a match on KEYWORDS, not QUALIFICATIONS! This includes both smart and stupid keywords. A smart keyword relates to the actual functions of your job, such as “consultative sales process, negotiations, and account management” for a salesperson. The stupid keywords are clichés we all hate, such as “excellent communication skills” and “team player.” As humans, we know these phrases don’t mean much, but computers are looking for them.

               If HR puts these boring terms in the job description, you must include them somewhere on your resume. Otherwise, the computers will screen you out simply because you lack the right keywords.

7.        Job descriptions are not absolutes.

If you are getting skeptical about the screening process, it will get a lot worse. Sometimes, the job description – that sacred document used to screen the candidates – isn’t even an accurate assessment of the job. How the heck did that happen?

Have you ever heard the statement, “If you don’t have all of the qualifications, apply anyway?” That is true! And here’s why:

HR frequently adds some things to the job description to deter lower-level candidates. However, the hiring manager may not care about these standards at all. For example, when recruiting, I always asked the hiring manager if a degree was required for the job. I often heard, “It doesn’t matter, so long as they can do the job.” However, I added “Bachelor’s degree preferred” because I knew I would receive fewer candidates.

Aren’t you glad I turned from the Dark Side to share these secrets with you?


Need more help with your job search?

Contact us for a complimentary consultation

Wondering how effective your job search is? Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of our career coaches, Donna Shannon or Dia Kline

Schedule a Consultation

Is your job search driving you crazy?

Sign up to find out how to get your job search out of quicksand, learn how HR works, and pinpoint your ideal job.

The Sane Job Search eBook

Get your free copy of Donna Shannon's top tips when you subscribe to our newsletter

We won't send spam. Unsubscribe at any time.