“Resume black hole” and my commitment to you

People are often amazed to get an actual response from a real person when they send their resume to me. Heck, I remember what it’s like to be looking for a position and what it’s like to wait for a Microsoft recruiter to get back to you. And I remember how not hearing back from someone can truly drive you nuts.

But I wanted to share with you the reality of recruiting and why you may sometimes feel like your resume has been sucked into some kind of vortex. I think you’ll feel a little better after you hear what I have to say (and frankly, I need to say this on behalf of all of the recruiters out there because I have seen some job-seekers really go to town on this topic in some discussion groups). Today I can only speak to the reality of recruiting at Microsoft but I suspect that recruiters at many other firms are in the same boat.

So here’s the deal: on an average day at Microsoft, we get over 5,000 resumes (don’t let that freak you out though…large companies get a high volume of applicants…that’s just how it is). I don’t know exactly how many recruiters we have here, but let’s say 100 (I think that’s probably rounding way up). So, for us to follow up with all of the applicants on any given day, each recruiter would have to contact 50 people each. This is in addition to sourcing, screening, matching resumes, interviewing, and client engagement. It’s just not possible for us to follow up individually with everyone that applies.

So when you do apply via our careers page, you get an automatically generated message that says something to this effect: “Thanks! We will contact you directly if we have something that matches your background.” OK, so it’s more eloquent than that but you get the idea.  Anyone who knows me around here, knows that my mantra is “we need to work on the RIGHT things” (anyone I work with sick of hearing me say this?). So I am actually OK with us pushing out this automated message. It let’s the candidate know their resume got through OK and sets the appropriate expectation: that we will follow up with the people that we feel match a position we have open right now. I’d rather we have the recruiters spending their time doing things that get the candidates in the door for interviews. I’d rather have them actively keyword searching our database for the resumes that match what they are working on right now (and they do). So just know that your resume isn’t in a black hole, it’s being searched on actively. And as a candidate, you should be encouraged by that.

OK, now for the commitment part. I recently attended the CareerXRoads Colloquium and heard Gerry and Mark talk at length about the need for staffing departments to get back to everyone that applies (including generating automated responses). I started to think about this and although I think I am very good about responding to everyone that contacts me personally, I want to make a public commitment to respond via e-mail to every marketing person who send me their resume. But if 5,000 of you e-mail me tomorrow, there will definitely be some cut and paste action going on with regard to the initial response; ). I’m just saying ; )

Here’s what this means:

1) I will confirm that I have received your resume (you don’t need to generate an eloquent cover letter…just let me know what you are looking for and whether you are willing to relocate). Also, drop an auto signature or current contact info into the e-mail. If you really want us to look at your stuff quickly, you should not only include your resume as an attachment but cut and paste it into the body of the mail…less clicks for us that way. Smart, huh?

2) I will enter the resume directly into our database (again, recruiters are in there searching all day, every day). Hint: make sure you have thought about the keywords on your resume relative to the type of role you are seeking (you’ve heard me say this before).

3) I will review the resume personally and forward it directly to the marketing recruiters that I feel will be interested in your background based on your functional skills, experience and industry focus. It will show up in their inbox and I’ll be sure to highlight some of your skill areas to the recruiters as well.

4) I will be honest with you. If your background doesn’t match what we look for for marketing roles, I will tell you (it just may mean that your skills fit into a different functional category..still happy to get your info into our database though). If there’s anything else that I think may impact you being considered for roles here, I’ll definitely let you know (like ability to relocate, etc.). That’s just how I am.

Unfortunately, because I don’t “own” any open position requisitions myself, I won’t be able to follow up on specific opportunities. But there is nothing keeping interested recruiters from contacting you directly and they will do it quickly if they’ve got a current opening that fits your background.

I hope that this alleviates some of the angst involved in applying. And I want you to know that the “auto-response” thing does not mean that we don’t appreciate your interest in Microsoft. We absolutely do appreciate it! Just send me your resume and I’ll be sure to thank you individually ; )

(9/30 edit: Yowza…forgot to put my e-mail address in here: heathham@microsoft.com)

Comments (30)

  1. Wow Heather, that’s quite the commitment. Well done. Too bad I don’t fit the typical marketer profile otherwise you’d already have my resume πŸ™‚

    Keep up the great work, and I hope this little post nets you some awesome candidates!

  2. Kim Day says:

    Hi Heather,

    I saw your site mentioned in the WSJ yesterday and first I just wanted to say "great site"! I’m now somewhat hooked on the blogging thing.

    I wanted to comment on today’s post from personal experience… I just relocated to Seattle with my husband — who works at Microsoft — and I’ve been pounding the pavement (er, the internet) for the last two weeks trying to find a job in my field. I have found sending resumes to corporate websites to be a total exercise in frustration for just what you’re saying above. The automated response IS helpful to at least let you know that a body somewhere has picked up your resume, but where I find the process particularly annoying: when I apply for a position where I quite literally fit all of the requirements…and still don’t hear a thing. I think in the very least a personal response is warranted if that’s the case. Wishful thinking I am sure but I’m glad to see that you are trying to make a difference! Thank you from all us resume-pushers out there. πŸ™‚

    P.S. and speaking of, I do have a resume in at MSFT and have been chatting with a few folks in your Treasury department, but since you seem receptive to such things, might I send it to you as well? Covering all angles! (Plus I do have a small amount of marketing experience!)

  3. Heather says:

    Jeremy-thanks…we’ll see what happens ; )

    Kim-send it on over! I’ll see if there’s something I can do to help!

  4. Sean Gahan says:


    You are an inspiration. Keep up the good work.


    Sean Gahan

  5. CK147 says:

    ALL –

    Heather rocks! She is creative and committed… wish we had a recruiters like her at the company i work at…..

    Thanks again Heather!

  6. Mark Tookey says:

    I’ll second the "Heather Rocks!" I don’t think I’ve ever experienced any recruiter so friendly and open.

    She seems able to cope with pestering from us on the outside with an attitude that would make anyone want to work for Microsoft!



  7. This is an awesome commitement Heather!

    I remember maybe 18 months ago when i was trying to get into Microsoft. Six month laters and about 10 resume submits, yet never any feedback from anybody.

    Well i finally got in through lucky circumstances, but the lack of any human feedback was definetly frustrating.

  8. Heather says:

    Oh you guys… ; )

  9. Anonymous says:

    Awww…this gives me the warm fuzzies…thanks for spreading the word Jeremy!

  10. Nicole says:

    Also, Zoe and Gretchen mentioned on their Channel 9 interview that resumes should not be in word format and should be plain text before it is submited on the career page.

    Heather- is this also true if someone was to email you their resume directly, so it would be easier for you to get it in the sysem?

  11. Heather says:


    I don’t need to have them in plain text format. They are out into a .txt file when they go into our system anyway, but I’d rather see a pretty .doc copy.

  12. Ooops… Want me to ammend my post to not emphasize the text formatting then?

  13. Heather says:

    no worries Jeremy, it doesn’t really matter all too much anyway. Just getting the resume is the most important part. ; )

  14. AT says:

    A few math:

    5000 resumes per day * 365 day = 1 825 000 resumes / year

    Microsoft headcount growth (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/inside_ms.asp):

    June 30, 1995 – June 30, 1996 2760

    June 30, 1996 – June 30, 1997 1671

    June 30, 1997 – June 30, 1998 4823

    June 30, 1998 – June 30, 1999 4520

    June 30, 1999 – June 30, 2000 7595

    June 30, 2000 – June 30, 2001 8860

    June 30, 2001 – June 30, 2002 2591

    June 30, 2002 – June 30, 2003 3847

    June 30, 2003 – June 30, 2004 2618

    At average – 4365 per year.

    Even taking in account "Microsoft plans to hire 5,000" news – http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/132371_msfthires25.html

    there is nothing realy new in _new_ hires count.

    Now another math problem. Retain ratio for Microsoft. I was unable to find any stats. Let’s take 30% of headcount as leave ratio (very high IMHO) . I.e. 30% of headcount will leave every year – this is corresponding to ~3 years average working time at Microsoft.

    In summary we will get 50000 * 30% + 5000 = 20000 hires per year for Microsoft.

    Let do a quick check – let’s say there are 100 recruiters – this mean 200 hires per recruiters per year. About one person per day ? Looks like a little high – but legit number.

    So ? Lets go back to resumes. 1825000 resumes for 20000 positions = 91,25 resumes per position.

    I.e. about 100 persons for same position.

    So ? Probability to get a job for you will be 1%.

    This is about the same probability you can guess 7 coin drops.

    Let now do a few physics.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ? You guessed side of coin all the times without cheating ? If so – you can be hired ;-))

  15. AT says:

    P.S> I was too lazy clicking on Google links.

    Microsoft turnover ratio is 7.5 percent according to this _unrealible_ source:


    "The industry’s overall average (AT: for percent employee turnover) is around 15 percent, based on figures from the Saratoga Institute, compared with Microsoft’s stated figures of around 7.5 percent. "

    Add one more coin drop guess attempt for correct probability estimate πŸ˜‰

  16. Y’know what? 1:100 is actually an amazing ratio. I’ve applied for positions where I’ve been to the final 2 applicants (after 5 rounds of interviews) where there were 5,000 resumes for 1 position. In fact I’m in a fairly "small" job market right now and we’ll typically get 30 resumes for any given position.

    So, 1:100 at Microsoft isn’t too bad when you consider how much better they are than my current employer.

    Also, I thought the 5000 was actually 5000 MORE hires, for a total of about 10-12K hires this year. That’s assuming no major new initiatives as well.

    At least, that’s how I read the numbers.

    Either way, 1% odds isn’t too bad when you consider how many folk aren’t actually qualified to apply for jobs, how many can be screened using tools, etc. As far as I’m aware if you get a phone interview you have 10% odds of getting hired. If you get an onsite it’s typically much higher: 25-50% odds.

    Though I’m sure Heather and Gretchen / Zoe would have more accurate figures than either of us πŸ™‚

  17. AT says:

    I’ve digged some stats from PressPass:


    College hires: "900 and 950, up from 870 in FY 2004"

    this is "on average, about 15 percent of new employees are college recruits."

    So ? 950 / 0.15 = 6333 hires ???

    I’m totaly lost.

    5000 are new positing created or new people hired ?

  18. Heather says:

    AT-some of your numbers are really off (one hire per recruiter per day is not legit…no way). And my numbers were rough estimates. I just want to state that so people don’t think this is a true analysis of how things work. Not trying to be critical…I just want to make sure the info we put out there is accurate. And since this is taking place on my blog, I feel some responsibility to jump in and clarify. Assumptions and estimates don’t really lead to a clear picture of what is going on and the picture that you have painted above is quite inaccurate. It’s a moot point in my opinion because applying for a role of Microsoft is not a game of chance.

    With regard to the 1:100 ratio, what you aren’t taking into account is that often, we go out and source people that have not applied. So, very often, when we have a job opening (let’s assume it’s a niche position), and the right candidate isn’t in the database, we go out and actively source for the right person. We don’t generate 100 resumes to fill that one position. So just applying does not give you a 1:100 chance of getting hired. And as Jeremy noted, we get applications from people that don’t really fit the types of roles we hire for. So frankly, there are no such things as "chances" with regard to getting a job here.

    So let me just say this clearly…being hired at Microsoft is not a numbers game. It’s about being the right person for the role and the company. You can’t trick the system. If you are smart and have the kind of experience we look for, your chances are better than average, but you are still competing with other smart and experienced candidates. I think I’ve stated pretty clearly in previous job posts what we look for and how to get your resume noticed. If you want to get hired here, don’t bother crunching *our* numbers (let alone crunching numbers that have been assumed). Be good at what you do and take my advice about how to position yourself as a top candidate. That’s it. We aren’t hiring lotto balls or purple jelly beans waiting to be picked. We are hiring the top talent in the industry.

  19. dougo says:

    Heather, just shows that MS not only gets the best geeks, but also does a great job find great HR talent. Hey I am stealing most of your commitment letter ( hope you don’t mind ) I don’t have time to write my own letter because I keep having to talk with folks that wonder why I have not gotten back to them yet!!! Have a great weekend

  20. Heather says:

    Hey Dougo…don’t steal my commitments letter! I totally do mind that! I don’t mind if someone wants to link to me but to take my words and pass them off as yours? Is that what you are asking? No way!

  21. Drew says:

    Wow. A service level guarantee for job recruitment is remarkable. Extraordinary, really. Thank you for your commitment and efforts.

    Don’t knock the automated response system though. It is very valuable to know that my resume gets through. Getting immediate feedback is as helpful as it is rare: the last time I ran my numbers, only 31% of companies acknowledged the receipt of my resume.

  22. Heather says:

    Trust me Drew, I don’t knock it. I know it’s better than most companies do. But I do hear from candidates that they want a more personal response. It’s not practical, but they want it and I can understant where they are coming from.

  23. AT says:

    Heather: I never pretended to be scientifically correct.

    You are free to delete my posting or replace it with your own numbers analyzing resume/hire ratio.

    I’ve used lotto game (coin drops) probability because nobody knows for sure if they are qualified for a job or nope.

    I think most of candidates who submit a resume – believe that they are.

    Here probability comes into play.

    I’m pretty sure that for every person you select probability to be hired are 100%, or 0% – based on qualification, relocation status, opened job positions, proposed salary, possible teammates, wife/husband opinion and phase of Moon πŸ˜‰

    But here is purely mathematical problem statement:

    β€œIf you will _randomly_ pick up one of candidates who submitted resume – that is probability he will be hired?”

    Yep. I agree there are a lot of factors unknown to me.

    Turnover ratio, new hire count, number of unique candidates, number of positions person apply for, number of internal hires vs. external, college / experienced ratio, number of friends referrals or persons hired directly.

    But I expect that my estimate – less then one person hired per 100-200 persons applied are correct.

    This estimate must create correct expectation for _average_ candidate.

    Even if you will receive direct email response, got phone interview, were in building 19 – this DOES NOT guarantee anything. (read sections 15-18 from Windows EULA http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/home/eula.mspx for more details πŸ˜‰

    Do not expect much, and you will be really surprised if something really good will happen πŸ˜‰

    So – in summary – I believe that "resume black hole" are possibly better then spreading false illusions.

    Take a look on Rodrigo comments on http://blogs.msdn.com/jobsblog/archive/2004/09/23/233751.aspx

    "I have been working on this interview process with Microsoft for a month now and have taken it very seriously. Now I’m just out. [….] So, why my résumé was chosen? "

    Yep. Both "black hole" and "false illusions" are bad. You have to select one that result in less harm.

  24. Heather says:

    AT-I’m not going to delete your comments. I don’t actually have numbers to share (as a recruiter I’m more focused on the number of people I personally need to hire). I don’t believe there is such a thing as an "average candidate" nor do I believe that you can calculate "chances". All people are not equal in terms of experience and talents so there’s no way that all people have the same "chances" of getting hired. You can estimate x number of people for every y number of applicants but this doesn’t equate to anyone’s "chances" or "probability" of being hired. I can tell you it doesn’t have anything to do with the moon ; ) We may just have a difference in taxonomy, but again I want to stress that the number of candidate resumes in our system is not a major factor in getting hired at Microsoft; it’s the degree to which one’s experience and talents match our needs. The end.

  25. gretchen says:

    I totally agree with Heather’s comments, but I also want to highlight one other thing. I have admitted in the past that we have a few bad apples in our recruiting organization who do not follow-up like they should, but we also have many, many, many extraordinary recruiters. If you were to send your resume to a MS recruiter, I believe you’d find this same service level agreement exists with the vast majority of our recruiters. I’d still encourage people to apply via our careers site, but if you do e-mail a recruiter directly, you should expect … even demand … the same service. This should not be unique to just Heather. We should all be doing it. <hope, hope> πŸ™‚

  26. AT says:

    Heather, Gretchen.

    I’m really sorry that there are no publicly available stats. This is probably main reason why my numbers were not accurate.

    But anyway – Shame on Me! I’ve converted human lives to numbers πŸ™

    As well I forced you to repeat your opinion twice (because I do not understand it from first attempt).

    I would like to ask for forgiveness

  27. gretchen says:

    Upon thinking of my comments overnight, I wanted to add one thing. πŸ˜›

    I think most recruiters at MS follow steps 1-3. If you send a resume directly a recruiter, you should expect 1) a response, 2) that the recruiter will enter it in our database, and 3) that the recruiter will review it and forward it to other recruiter who may have similar positions.

    But I don’t want to set inappropriate expectations with Heather’s 4th point. I think that 4th step is unique to a few great recruiters like Heather, and you shouldn’t necessarily expect a recruiter to whom you send your resume to provide you with feedback or their opinion. So, in that case, what Heather is proposing is very unique and commendable. So I agree … yay for Heather. πŸ™‚

    I just wanted to make sure I made that clear. πŸ™‚

  28. Drew says:

    AT may not be off by all that much. At some companies where I have gotten through to the interview stage I have heard that there were 200 resumes from qualified candidates for a particular opening.. Obviously there is going to be some chance factors in getting to be one of the 10 or so interviewed and the one hired. Some of these might be game-able (such as striving to be the last one interviewed), but others are not (the recruiter might be from your home town).

    As a job hunter, you can only do two things: (1) increase the number of jobs you apply to, and (2) work to improve your chances of being the right person. The latter is what most people try to do by honing their resume, researching the company, and so on. However, there is value in quantity – apply to a bunch of places.

    Just last week I had an interview for a job that, quite frankly, I don’t understand why I applied, much less why they called my in for an interview. It was a completely different field and a job I only have minimal experience in. But they saw something in my resume. Of course, they did turn me down in the end.

  29. Please read the fine print first: πŸ™‚ I recruit for Software Development Engineer , Software Design Engineer in Test, Software Test Engineer , and Program Manager positions for most of our US based product groups . (A few exceptions here include our Games

  30. Please read the fine print first: πŸ™‚ I recruit for Software Development Engineer , Software Design Engineer in Test, Software Test Engineer , and Program Manager positions for most of our US based product groups . (A few exceptions here include our Games