There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.
― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, a New York Times best-selling author, maintains that most top professionals make most of their decisions in the blink of an eye. His conclusion seems to be a fact of life today, especially in this age of information overload.
To understand how this process applies to your job search, let’s consider the life cycle your resume may take from initial posting to offer letter. Imagine you throw it up on a site such as Monster, and it sits there, on the cloud, not causing any response, until a recruiter or some HR rep has it, along with a host of others, usually based on an extremely focused set of search criteria.
The person who received your resume as part of their search results was given your information based on a virtually instantaneous response that could only be measured in clock cycles. When the recruiter prints up their stack of a dozen or more resumes (including yours), they are likely doing so as part of a search for several concurrent positions.
Yours will get a cursory look, which might last just a couple of seconds. At this stage, the document is being scrutinized for certain technical keywords. For example, let’s say it’s a Ruby on Rails gig. The sourcer will be asking themselves such questions as “How much bootstrap experience does this candidate have?” “Have they used Capybara for testing?” and “Which version of Rails do they have experience in?”
Based on this summary judgment, your candidacy will either land in the “circular file” or be handed to another recruiter, likely the one in charge of managing the client relationship. The few lucky profiles that survive this initial threshing process might be reviewed for a couple of minutes as this senior recruiter considers which of these candidates is actually worth contacting.
By the time your info gets passed on to the hiring manager, you will likely either be quickly eliminated, or if you seem to be a viable candidate, you might get 20 minutes of time during a phone screen. As Gladwell puts it,
Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.
This scenario demonstrates the importance of getting past the gatekeepers who stand between you and the job you want. You do that by using your understanding of the blink response to ensure your candidacy isn’t eliminated without getting the consideration it truly deserves.