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Giving a resume 5 seconds is a lot like Tinder


Tinder and resume reading have a lot in common

Reading Resumes in 5 seconds

I just delivered a presentation to a group of job seekers and one thing that caused a lot of strife in the room was the fact that I look at resumes for an average of only 5 seconds. In reality, I give most resumes even less time, but on average, it is probably 5 seconds. 

What does it mean when we hear about a recruiter reading resumes in 5 seconds?  How do they do it?  Why don’t recruiters and hiring managers spend more time looking at the document that took so much time and thought to create? It doesn’t seem fair or make solid business sense to make a hiring decision in less than 5 seconds. Well folks, life isn’t fair.  My goal in this post is to explain the reason most resumes are viewed for such a short time.  With this information, you can create a resume that WILL capture the recruiter’s attention long enough to give you a fighting chance.  

5-second decision

First, let me clear up the notion that it isn’t fair to make a hiring decision in less than 5 seconds.  When I discard a resume in 5 seconds, I am NOT making a hiring decision in 5 seconds.  I am making a decision to NOT hire in 5 seconds.  The decision to hire a candidate will take days and maybe a few weeks or months for some companies. This is a big difference between making a decision to hire and making a decision to not hire.  We make a decision to go out with someone in less than 1 second.  We make a decision to marry someone over the course of months and years. 

The number 1 reason I discard a resume after 5 seconds: Based on what I see on the resume, I know I can find a candidate that is a closer match.

This morning, I delivered my standard explanation on why most resumes receive 5 seconds or less. Later in the afternoon, I knew I needed a much better analogy to explain my short attention span. For the record, I can boil down the fact that most resumes receive so little time for two reasons:

  1. The experience on the resume isn’t a close enough match to the job I am trying to fill.  (The candidate may feel they are perfectly qualified, but what I read on the resume doesn’t reflect the experience I am looking for.  I am not feeling what you are laying down)
  2. The resume is not easy enough to look at.  (The document is cluttered, too full, or I am not able to understand what the resume says)

As a guy who sees a lot of resumes, there is a lot more nuanced than the above bullets let on, so you can read more about this at the following posts: 

Most important section of your resume

Quantify your resume or it looks like bad porn

I am not a speed reader

So, how am I able to show so much disrespect for the work and effort you put into your resume? How am I able to go through your 2-page resume in less than 5 seconds, which is probably closer to 3 seconds? Am I a speed-reader?  Am I super smart? The answer to these two questions would be a definitive “No” and “No”.

Here is the analogy I wish that I had come up with in the class I just delivered. To sum it up in one word “Tinder”. 

What is Tinder?

A few friends just introduced me to Tinder. Yes, they are both single and if you read more and you won’t wonder why (but this is exactly why I love these guys). The Tinder phone app is the perfect analogy for explaining the 5-second rule.

For those of you not familiar with Tinder, I will try to explain it at a high level and this isn’t based on actual experience. My education was a fascinating night of the applications pro’s and con’s explained to me in mixed company where I was the only guy with a SO.  My Tinder education was delivered to me over the course of 2 cigars and a bottle of scotch.  What started out as just an introduction to the app, turned into a step-by-step, experiential narrative from opening the app to closing the deal. This discussion wasn’t for the faint of heart.

Tinder is a geo-based mobile app that will locate people in the immediate vicinity for the purpose of “hooking up”, aka meeting for a potential LTR. . .uhhh yeah. The app will tell you a little about these potential one-night stands, how many friends you have in common and the best part of the app is that it will show you a picture of the potential stalk-ee.

Tinder pix

You pull up the app, a picture of the desired sex (male or female, not the type of act) shows up and you either swipe the photo presented to you in one of two directions.  You swipe to the left if you disapprove or swipe them to the right if you approve. If you swiped someone to the right, in approval and they swiped you to the right, in approval on their end, the app plays wingman and enables you to chat with each other.  As soon as you swipe a picture to the left or the right, another picture pops up. You can literally swipe 45 profile pictures in less than a minute while you are waiting in line at the local coffee shop for your high maintenance triple shot mocha with an extra shot of nutmeg and half the whip cream.   (I live in Seattle, the home of Starbucks)

How easy is it?

To demonstrate that this was a game of numbers, one of my buddies in the group delivered the coup de gras’. He just started swiping to the “right in approval” while carrying on a conversation and HE WASN’T EVEN LOOKING AT THE PICTURES ON HIS PHONE with your typical “look ma, no hands!” bravado.  Don’t worry, he doesn’t work in HR.

This guy closed out 15 profiles in less than 10 seconds and wasn’t even looking at what he was swiping.  And you thought me giving your resume 5 seconds was shitty? Au contrair, mon ami.

When swiping on Tinder, my buddies knew exactly what they were looking for.  Yes, towards the end of the night, they were just looking for a live body, but at the beginning of the night, they were very specific about their wants and desires. They were trying to decipher height and weight from the selfie headshots.  They were trying to determine a high maintenance or outdoorsy attitude based on the pictured that was presented conveyor belt sushi style.  One preferred edgy, the other preferred Victoria Secret curls. I was even introduced to the phrase “she’s an iceberg” which was a new one for me and so shallow even I don’t want to describe it here. I will say this, it doesn’t relate to anyone’s attitude in bed. Remember, I was in mixed company and both genders applied and were accepted to this school of thought. The entire app was designed for the demographic that is looking to skip the preliminaries and head straight to the deep end!

For those of you who are still with me, I have one more example and this will be a lot more PC. 

Looking for a home is a lot like looking for a candidate

When you are looking to buy a home, we know that you can view a lot of homes online in a very short amount of time. If you are looking for a home that is 1800 sq. ft Craftsman home, you find yourself skipping past the “A” frames, ramblers, pre-fabs and ranch styles. They are all in your price range and all in the 1800 sq. foot range but these are not Craftsman’s! You know what you want, and if you don’t see it, you move on.

Someone could have a beautiful Ranch with a newly remodeled kitchen and the new roof, but if you are looking for a Craftsman, you aren’t going to bite. If you are trying to sell your 1800 sq. foot rambler, you are not looking for a buyer that is interested in a craftsman. The owner of the 1800 sq. foot rambler wants to meet with a buyer that is looking for an 1800 sq. foot rambler.    

When I am looking for a Product Manager with mobile experience or looking for an account manager that has SaaS experience, that is exactly what I am looking for.  There could be a Product Manager with an MBA from Stanford, who has 2 years of development experience. If that candidate doesn’t have the mobile experience, I am not going to bite.  Just because you have a great resume doesn’t mean I am interested. In the same way, I am looking for an 1800 sq. foot craftsman, I am looking for a Product Manager with Mobile. 

Look at 30 homes in less than a minute

You can look at 30 homes in less than a minute online, but when you find an 1800 sq. foot craftsman, you stop and take a look.  29 homes receive less than 5 seconds. The 1800 sq. foot Craftsman receives a lot more time. 

If you want to get more than 5 seconds on your resume, make sure you address the specific bullets that the job description lists. If the experience isn’t relevant to the job description, then it isn’t relevant experience. You might as well be the 1800 sq. foot rambler. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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