As a recruiter, I am often asked, “What do you look for in a resume?” The answer isn’t so uniform. It really depends on what job I am recruiting for and the expectations laid out by the particular hiring managers I am working with (but that’s a whole other article).
You may have read out there that recruiters spend anywhere from 6 to 30 seconds scanning a resume, and that is 100 percent true. Why do we spend so little time reading what may have taken you hours or days to perfect? The answer is simple: We receive hundreds of resumes for each role that we work on – maybe even more in corporate settings. This makes it impossible to read each resume in depth. Our only choice is to scan.
So, how do you make your resume stand out when you have so little time? There are a few things you can do:
I look at a few major items when reviewing resumes, and the first thing I always notice in a resume is how it is presented. Is it well-structured? Is it easy to follow? Is it in a format that makes it stand out from the rest? You want your resume to pop out at the recruiter or hiring manager and draw them in – without being too overbearing.
Structure-wise, I suggest utilizing bullet points to describe your work, rather than writing paragraphs about what you have done. List the major responsibilities you are in charge of daily in a clear, concise order.
Also, be sure to highlight your competencies above the work experience section. For example, if you are applying for a digital marketing role and are well-versed in inbound marketing, nurture marketing, and implementation of various marketing stacks, be sure to note that under your competencies. This is a surefire way to get a recruiter to read on.
When you are designing your resume, do not go over the top with it. I have reviewed resumes of candidates who obviously took a great deal of time designing their resumes in Adobe – they looked great, but there was so much focus on design that the content got lost in the mix. Make the design clean and easy to read.
Where Are Your Keywords?
The second thing I look for in a resume is keywords. I want to know if the resume includes certain critical keywords that pertain to the job I am filling.
For example, if I am recruiting for a senior mobile product manger in the eCommerce space, I will scan each resume I receive in search of a similar title, eCommerce experience, iOS and/or Android development skills, and so on. If the resume does not include any of these qualifications, I am moving on to the next.
As you read job description for roles you are interested in, make sure your resume matches the qualifications the company is looking for. Perhaps the job description says experience with Tableau is a nice-to-have, and you happen to have used Tableau in a previous role. Put that on your resume!
Keep It Short and Sweet
The third and final critical aspect of every resume I look at is length. I understand that, depending on your level experience, it may not be possible to keep your resume to 1-2 pages. Still there’s no need to include every job you have ever held, dating back to the beginning of your career.
I was once working on a senior-level eCommerce role and received a resume that was 10 pages long. Yes, 10 pages. This particular person had listed almost every job they ever held, along with case studies and wins pertaining to each role. This person had the right structure, the right format, and the necessary keywords – but after page three, I had to move o. At that point, I was reading a short story. It was also certainly not something I could submit to my hiring manager, who had a million things to do other than read resumes.
One final tip to make your resume stick out: You may also want to go beyond the resume and include your LinkedIn profile and other social media presences as well (but only the ones you’re comfortable sharing). This will give the recruiter a chance to learn more about your personality and interests – and that’s how solid working relationships are built.