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


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 clearly becoming one of the hottest topics of discussion multiple times over the last 10 years. 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 stats 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 the time of candidates.

Interestingly one of the main researches 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 to only promote jobs with a base salary starting from 100K $. It’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 the hottest on the market and that probably made for high percentage of the population of TheLadders. I feel therefore safe to use my situation as a representative example of what happens to the majority of people working in my industry.

I receive at least 1 new email from a recruiter every work day while on average I may send 5 applications per year. This means that I’m asked to process 52 times the amount of job specs than the number of resume I send around.

I assume out there there are many more candidates than recruiters. A ratio of at least 8:1 seems fairly 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 good 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 more noise are also the ones demands brag rights about how efficient they 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 personally do.

And to answer my initial question: I can usually tell if an email or job spec is worth reading thoroughly within 5 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.


5 thoughts on “How long does it take a developer to read a recruiter’s email?

  1. Hi Francisco,

    It’s been a while since we spoke and I hope your new job is going well.

    I just wanted to reach out to say I read your blog, and it is very interesting.

    However I hope this is not branded at all recruiters, because I for one definitely take time it’s why I always initiate a call prior to specs to try and gage a better understanding of the candidates desires.

    I personally feel it’s a shame the stigma surrounding recruiters, when the reality is there, without us companies would struggle to fill their urgent need.

    On a daily basis I recieve so many calls from companies desperate for software developers, in turn I try to find the best match based on skill set and cultural fit.

    Any way I like you blog but again I just feel like it adds to that awful stimgma surrounding the role of a recruiter.

    I really do hope you are well and if there is anything I can ever assist you with please don’t hesitate to reach out.


    1. Hi Siobhain,
      Thanks for your reply. I’m delighted and flattered that you took the time to read my blog and decided one of my posts was worth enough to be replied to.

      I’m also extremely happy that the first person to interact on my blog is not a developer, which makes me hope I’m choosing the right tone to strike the cords of every kind of player in the IT industry. That was one of my biggest hopes when I decided to start this experiment.

      I’m sorry if my post gave you the impression of being just another rant against recruiters as a whole. That has never been my intention.

      I know there are some great people working very seriously to facilitate the match of the right candidate for given company’s needs. I had a chance to see you at work and based on my experience I’m happy to say you are someone I’d be happy to work with. You spent quite some time with me to understand what I was really looking for, gave me precious insights on roles and more in general on the situation of the market, you always came back to me with transparent feedbacks on the processes we started and never tried to push me in any direction.

      These things I value a lot and are the kind of things that will make me welcome the help of a recruiter again should I ever decide to change job in the future or should I start wearing the shoes of a hiring manager. As a small proof of that, please let me mention that 2 out of 3 roles I landed in Ireland so far happened thanks to the support of a recruiter. The 1st one in particular was no easy challenge considering that I was still living abroad while going through the processes.

      On the other hand I recognize that the IT industry is nowadays more poisoned than ever and the role played by recruiters is increasingly no exempt from the problem.

      The mission I chose is to call out those problems so to start a discussion that can raise awareness that will hopefully enable to creation of initiatives and discussions to improve the situation.

      In this particular post I tried to focus on one particular behavior of one particular category but if you read the other ones you will see that I’m slowly addressing all the things and roles I get in contact with: developers when writing code, any kind of team member when attending a meeting and more to come while I continue building my collection of thoughts. And because I reckon I’m at least as faulty as all the others, I won’t spare myself and will try to share my mistakes when I spot them so that readers can learn form them and avoid them.

      In other words I’m definitely not trying to ride any wave of sexy topics or adding to any specific stigma. In this case my contents just happened to overlap a lot with a common trend of these days.

      Focusing on the content of this article, I hope you will appreciate I have reported facts based on my personal experience and used them to make what I hope are sensible projections, I addressed one particular behavior reported by some very popular websites specialized in delivering news, I collected evidence from one of the main resources to spot trends in people’s interests and fears.
      Based on those numbers I see a chain of connections that don’t follow the natural flow of logic. Hence are wrong, at least for how I see things.

      I you read the article careful I hope you’ll agree that the real audience of my article are not (or at least no only) recruiters I’m trying to make feel ashamed and for sure not random ears I want to share my frustration with hoping to get some relief. The real audience are developers and candidates in general that in my opinion should have a chance to know how valuable they are before it’s gets very late in their career. The target I’m trying to hit a dangerous mindset we are all brainwashed with simply because that’s the only thing we read about.

      I also reckon that the kind of recruiters I’m addressing here are the ones working inhouse, who as far as I can understand have completely different objectives, pressure and are measured (and paid) in a very different way from the ones working for agencies.

      I find very interesting that you mention “On a daily basis I receive so many calls from companies desperate for software developers”. That’s what coders would call another “smell” of problems in the way companies are managed of companies that I was already thinking to cover in another article.

      I hope this long writing answers properly your concern that NO, I won’t add to the mass of zombies giving out to the crucified category of the month but YES, I will continue calling out problems as I see them.

      I will feel honored if you decide to continue reading my thoughts and even more if one day you’ll share some of your horror stories with me so that I can equally address the issues happening on the other sides of the walls (companies in one direction and candidates on the other) from a more complete and by far more experienced perspective.



  2. Hi Francesco

    I agree with all of what you wrote.

    I think it is very important for us recruiters to acknowledge the feedback we are getting from candidates.If we are getting the same feedback constantly from candidates then there must be more than a grain of truth to the feedback.

    Not all recruiters barely read CV’s but some clearly do. Otherwise the feedback wouldn’t exist! The industry can use this feedback to improve itself.

    Honestly I think what causes some recruiters to barely read a candidates CV is that they are worried that if they spend too much time reading a CV and the candidate does not answer when they call them, that the time they spent reading the CV would go to waste. They are not overly worried about wasting the candidates time. So these recruiters would prefer to call the candidate, without spending too much time reading their CV and have a chat with them.

    For a lot of recruiters, they have come to the conclusion that the most financial viable approach is to make a lot of calls each day, and to achieve these high call volumes they do not spend a huge amount of time reading CV’s.

    I can appreciate that this would be extremely annoying for a candidate. As I personally would find it very annoying if I was being repeatedly called about jobs opportunities that were not suitable for me.

    Recruiters could also improve their knowledge of the roles they recruit for so that they have a better idea if they are calling the right candidates or not e.g. They should know not to try to sell a Java developer role to a JavaScript developer.

    I am not sure what the solution to these problems are, but perhaps the industry could benefit from more regulation. I think anyone who adheres to high standards has nothing to fear by increased regulation.


    1. Ehi Brendan,
      nice to hear from you 🙂

      Thanks for the extensive and elaborate comment.

      You really touched a lot of hot topics here:
      * maybe “your” category is being deaf to the increasingly more negative feedback of candidates and simplistically dismiss it as a rant
      * recruiters are probably going through excessive pressure to crunch big numbers losing sight of quality and building long lasting relationships
      * often the knowledge of the “product” being sold is too superficial
      * is there the need for a regulation at industry level?

      Lot of food for thoughts and very interesting material that I hope you won’t mind if I’ll borrow for some future articles.

      Please also allow me to share one story to support your point about the usefulness of reading properly a CV and dedicating the candidate all the time needed not to rush the process: I answered your first call being exactly in the state of my mind you describe as “annoyed because being repeatedly called about jobs opportunities”. I remember that for once I replied quite rudely telling dismissively to send me an email if it was so important. That usually means not hearing back from that caller for a few months but you understood the deep reason for my bad tone, assessed that yes, I was the right candidate for that job and so it was worth exploring another approach. So very shortly you came back to me with an extensive email that stroke all the right cords you could possibly strike with me and gave me enough information to get me excited about the role and confident it was not another waste of time because of too many fluffy words and evident lies. You also understood both me and the hiring manager were looking for a non invasive facilitation of the process and trusted us enough to do that. That brought me to land a role that has already brought many satisfactions and for which I’m extremely grateful. That also allowed your agency to strike a deal and set solid basis to build a relationship of trust.

      So thanks Brendan for taking the time to read thoroughly my CV and contacting me with a full understanding of the kind of person I am. Wish more of your colleagues could follow your lead. Then I’m sure the rant would turn into a praise.

      And best of luck in your new adventure 😉



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