How long does it take a developer to read a recruiter’s email?

By: on June 26, 2017


Search on Google the question “how long does it take a recruiter to review a resume” and you’ll get back @ 23,600,000 results.

It’s evident that there’s a lot of interest for this topic and I remember it being a hot topic of discussion several times over the last decade. Even magazines like Forbes and Business Insider felt the urge to exploit its popularity to reinforce the fear in the candidates out there.

I remember my sense of growing desperation while reading those statistics, and I remember even more clearly the arrogance of the recruiters commenting on LinkedIn that “Of course it has to be like that, they are too busy to do otherwise”. The untold message was that recruiters’ time is far more important than candidates’ time.

Interestingly one of the main pieces of research this number comes from was run by TheLadders, a website for job seekers focused on high end positions. When they started in 2003 they made a point only to promote jobs with a base salary starting from $100K USD. That’s still a lot of money but it most definitely was an impressive sum 14 years ago.

This means that the research was focused on highly specialised roles that I think it’s safe to assume are in very high demand.

Now, I’m a Software Developer, a profession that is arguably one of the hottest on the market and that probably made for high percentage of the population of TheLadders, so I feel safe using my situation as an example of what happens to the majority of people working in my industry.

I receive at least one new email from a recruiter every work day while on average I may send five applications per year. This means that I’m asked to process 52 times the amount of job specs than the number of resumes I send around.

I assume out there there are many more candidates than recruiters. A ratio of at least 8:1 seems reasonable to me but I’ll use the lowest number that can be considered acceptable to stay on the safe side.

If these numbers hold and are a fair representation of the market, it means that the outgoing interactions for recruiters are 400+ times the ones that are incoming.

Very basic economics would suggest that simply based on numbers, the incoming interactions are hugely more valuable that the ones that are outgoing.

Let’s go back to the initial experiment of running a search on Google. I tried to run the same search but from the perspective of a candidate “how long does it take a candidate to review a job posting”.

Very interestingly the number of results grows dramatically of almost 10 times to reach 168 millions. Much more interestingly, the results are all false positive. Instead of answering the original question the first results still express the fear of the candidates wanting to know more about the recruitment process and in this case more in particular how long it can take before they hear back about their application.


The ones who send the more scarce communications are also the ones who are more concerned about how they are perceived, while the ones generating the most noise are also the ones demands brag rights about how efficient they are in dismissing the main source of their income.

Can you sense a clear and unpleasant smell of misplaced beliefs and a poisoned culture based on fear built on smoke and false myths that may have been true in an era now well past and gone? I do.

And to answer my initial question: I can usually tell if an email or job spec is worth reading thoroughly within five seconds.

And I would dare to say that my colleagues, who spend most of their day filtering an infinite amount of noise to find that single piece of valuable information in the vast internet sea, have perfected similarly skimming skills.


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