did my interviewer give my resume a numerical grade?

A reader writes:

I had an interview today and noticed that at the top of the copy of my resume the interviewer was holding was “97” written in red pen and circled. It made me think of a grade. Is this an accurate assumption? Are there any other explanations you can think of for this?

Some employers — not the majority, but some — do assess candidates numerically, assigning certain values to each of the qualifications they’re looking for. The belief is that it helps them assess people more objectively and prevents them from favoring candidates for reasons that ultimately don’t have much to do with their ability to perform the job (for instance, just taking a personal like to them, or the fact that they went to the same college, or the fact that they come from similar backgrounds, or all the myriad ways that personal bias can play a role in the hiring process). Of course, hiring well is a lot more than a numerical formula, but it’s not crazy to try to bring objective metrics to the process.

But there are loads of other possible explanations for that “97.” At the top of that list is the possibility that it was simply an unrelated note that the interviewer scribbled to herself there, totally unconnected to you. When I have notes to jot down quickly, I’ll write them on any paper that’s around me, and I wouldn’t treat a resume any differently. Lots of people do that — and because of that, I’d put this in the (very large) category of things you might encounter in a job search that you shouldn’t bother to try to read into.

{ 57 comments… read them below }

      1. stellanor*

        Yeah, if I’d been their interviewer it would just mean the red pen was the one I grabbed when I finished counting whatever-it-was (NDAs? Torx screws? AA batteries?) and determined I had 97 of them.

        1. Joey*

          I’ve always been conditioned to stick to blue or black with blue being the preferred. Blue and black don’t bug most people whereas other colors might. blue copies well, and its supposedly easier to decipher the original from a copy since color copies are fewer.

      1. Vicki*

        I started using purple or green for document editing when I read an article that suggested that people see red pen and think of their HS English teachers.

        1. Trixie*

          Former coworker used purple, green, blue, and red gel pens. As a copywriter/editor, I think it was a rather smart way to keep track of each round of edits she received. Too often, something was changed at some point and until this system, we didn’t have a good way to backtrack the changes. Needless to say, my favorite holiday gift for her is a new pack of pens.

    1. Robin*

      Yes, that is what occurred to me, too. I think I’ve done something like this to a stack of resumes to keep them straight.

      1. RobM*

        Yep – being an educational institution, we ask for an application form alongside the resume. It makes sense to number them both so they can easily be re-united if separated.

        1. Mary*

          Yes, do this lots with a load of CV’s I just number them from 1 up and mark comments alongside the number in my notes. I think it prevents me from creating a bias based on name.

    2. EM*

      Yup, same. I did that when I was reviewing resumes.

      And even if she was grading, a 97 is great. Although I really doubt she was. I can see doing A, A+, C, etc., but to get so specific as 97? No.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I grade on a scale of 100 on resumes.

        Nobody gets a 97. That’s a purple squirrel. 75 is a very high score in my system.

      2. ME*

        If I were grading people, I would use a school style numerical rubric i.e.: 20 points for technical skills, 20 points for people skills, 30 points for past experience, 30 points for recommendations, that kind of thing. I don’t think something like B+ would be any more helpful than just writing down my thoughts, since it’s so subjective. Just my POV, but I don’t think rating someone on a specific numerical scale is so wildly unlikely.

        At the same time, if they were using that kind of scale, you have no idea how many points it’s out of. I would make it as many as I needed. So maybe OP got a 97/130 or a 97/100. Or maybe the interviewer had a $97 dollar charge on her credit card and didn’t know where it came from. Who knows?

  1. BRR*

    File this under don’t read too much into it, it is what it is. It is a 97 written on your resume. That’s all it is. It could be a score out of 100, out of 200, out of 1,000, it could be which number resume out of all applicants is yours and that’s how they track them, it could be the hiring manager’s favorite number.

  2. iBex*

    I wouldn’t look too far into this. It could mean anything. My uncle is a dentist who frequently interviews assistants; he has come up with his own shorthand of initialisms and numbers. It would be impossible to crack his code.

  3. MaryMary*

    If I was a mean person, I would start writing random letters, numbers, or phrases on resumes and taking them to the room with me when I interviewed people. “867-5309” or “problem solving?”

    In all seriousness I do sometimes underline, highlight, or put a check or a star next to certain lines on someone’s resume. I wonder if I’ve been freaking them out.

  4. Anoners*

    Some places (more so retail I think) use numbers as a semi secret coding system. My partner’s work uses a system like that. If they write a certain number it means they’re a strong candidate, defintiely hire, do not hire, etc. Not saying this is the case here, but maybe.

    1. jennie*

      Years ago at my old retail job one of the managers told us to put the number 110 on resumes for candidates we didn’t want to pursue because if you add a diagonal line, it becomes NO

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          Because resumes, and all note written on them, are discoverable in case someone wants to file a discrimination lawsuit. It’s best not to write ANYTHING on a resume, and to shred all notes once a candidate has been selected.

    1. Kelly O*

      The 12 year old boy who resides in my brain would also be concerned about 69.

      Wholly inappropriate, and I apologize for bringing a juvenile and off-color humor to the post, however it HAD to be said. A chick saying it is probably better than a dude…

      /end vaguely off color and sexist comment

      /puts on kevlar underpants for those who cannot take the joke…

          1. Kyrielle*

            It amused me. It does make sense – if you know 69 is also a NSFW reference, regarding a position for…certain adult activities.

      1. Kyrielle*

        “Let’s 86 that idea”, means “let’s throw it away”.

        But a resume with an 86 on it would likely not get a call back.

  5. Juli G.*

    If you had an interview, I wouldn’t worry about a number on your resume. If you were graded, it was high enough for them to move on to face to face.

  6. OP*

    Thanks everyone! It was definitely interesting and very hard not to notice the big red 97 on the top of my resume. I ended up getting called back for a second interview the same day which I just had. Now I am just waiting hear back! So I am not thinking about the “97” so much anymore. Now just in the grueling stage of waiting!

    I am thinking it may have been a score because the process seemed very standardized versus other interviews I have been on which have been a little more informal and free flowing than the required questions they told me they had to ask on this one. Anyways it was something that caught my eye but not something that I have been obsessing over, there are other things to obsess over in the process :).

    I also used Alison’s interview guide, which I have been using for every interview I have gone on as well as 2nd interviews with repeat company (total 3 interviews) so far and it has been a tremendous help and total refresher each time I do it. It has really changed the way I prep for an interview.

  7. Cynthia*

    I’ve been given a 97.66 out of 100 on an interview before, but this was with the county and they give you points based on criteria (which also includes things like being a veteran). Kind of my first thought.

  8. nevercanthinkofagoodhandle*

    In the restaurant industry I’ve seen shallow male managers give a score of 110% for a woman they did not find attractive. Connect the 1 and 1 with a diagonal line and it spells the word NO.

  9. Wilton Businessman*

    Could be you’re interviewing in department 97. Or employee number 97 is reviewing you. Who knows…

  10. Jackie*

    I just went to an interview on Friday and noticed +- was written at the top of my resume and circled. I have been wondering what it meant. (I didn’t end up getting the permanent contract I was interviewing for but was offered a temporary contract instead so yay for that.)

  11. Kevin*

    I generally don’t grade resumes. We try to use applications only, but I would like to see resumes for the office jobs. I have kicked out applicants because their resume sucked. With that being said, have many people review your resume before you submit it.

  12. Chris80*

    I had an interview recently where I noticed that various parts of my cover letter had been circled, but wasn’t able to see which parts. It did leave me curious!

  13. Sam*

    I referred a friend of mine to apply for a job at my company. At his second interview, he could see the sticky note with notes about him written (by the first interviewer, apparently) on it stuck to the back of his resume when the interviewers held up his resume to look at it. He could tell for sure it was about him, because the note read “Referred by Sam – great energy, experience with teapots. . .”

  14. Sam*

    I thought of this post yesterday as I was interviewing a candidate and looked down at his resume and noticed the number 105 that I had written at the top of the page and circled. 105 was the number of the room in which I was interviewing him.

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