A recent study (pdf) found that recruiters spend 6 seconds scanning a resume before making their go/no-go decision. The study looks biased and superficial, but if it’s even close to being true it must means that most of the reader’s attention is devoted to recognizable elements: brand names.
Famous brands grab your attention and make it easy to categorize candidates. “He’s a Googler”. “She’s ex eBay”. “He’s from Johnson & Johnson”. We learn to recognize brands like faces, requiring zero time and brain capacity. I see this as a hiring manager (who spends much more than 6 seconds reading a resume). Brand names always jump at you first; you’ve seen the word “Microsoft” a million times thanks to their billions of advertising dollars. This candidate whose resume you’re reading spent some time at that company, but what does it really mean for your business? probably not much.
In a big company people can hide and do mostly nothing. Some hiring managers think that by working at a big, successful company the candidate must have soaked in the secret sauce that made that company big and successful and will bring that know how with them. Good luck with that. Hiring a cog does not a machine make.
The real challenge a hiring manager faces is finding exceptional candidates, regardless of the brand names mentioned on their resume. This is challenging, especially if you spend 6 seconds or even 6 minutes evaluating them. You’re looking for high performers who’ll take you to the next stage. These gems often hide in plain sight, having followed a career path that meandered around big brands. Give them the time they deserve and you’ll be rewarded.