When it comes to reviewing large amounts of job applications, studies show the average recruiter spends 6 seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether or not to advance the candidate to the next round. While this lets them quickly determine whether you’d be a good fit for the role, it’s certainly not a lot of time to make an impression.
So if you’ve routinely been applying to jobs but not getting the response you want, your resume might need an upgrade.
When you begin to grasp what a recruiter is looking for in this initial round, you will find yourself much better equipped to provide that information in the proper way.
What are recruiters looking for?
A properly constructed resume should be written with a specific goal in mind, with key information formatted so the recruiter is able to check your basic qualifications in very little time. You want to make the whole process as easy on them as possible, creating a lasting overall impression that highlights your most valuable selling features.
Highlight years of relevant experience
This is the recruiter’s first opportunity to get a glimpse of your professional skillset, so make it crystal clear how many years you’ve been performing in your given field. Kept in your summary section – a short overview at the beginning of your resume – this should be a strong, concise overview that quickly conveys the depth of your experience.
Properly format title and organization
Arguably the most important section of your resume – and often where a recruiter’s eyes jump to first – this should concisely reflect whether you have the necessary skills for the role you’re applying for. Your work experience should be formatted in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent position at the top. This is standard practice that allows the hiring manager to get a quick idea of your career trajectory.
Align responsibilities with the job description
Keep in mind that your resume is meant to answer the question of the job description, which is done by promoting your relevant skills and experience. Put another way, if the recruiter is trying to solve a problem for the company, it’s up to you to provide the solution. Hence, there’s no need to list everything you’ve done in every position you’ve held.
Use the first 3-4 bullets on your two most recent positions to prioritize your responsibilities as it relates to the position. Here, action words are a powerful tool. They’re specific and exude confidence; it’s the difference between saying, “Responsible for holding status meetings on a weekly basis to provide updates to clients,” and “Spearheaded weekly communications on client brand growth.” Which sounds better?
Explain long employment gaps or short-term gigs proactively
If you’re concerned about gaps in your employment history (or have held more than a couple short-term gigs), consider other activities that you used to fill the particular time period. Did you volunteer somewhere? Did you continue your education in the field? How did you keep up to date with the industry? This should be briefly explained in a concise and proactive manner. Whatever the reason, put a positive spin on the situation to show the value you offer potential employers.
Highlight relevant skills
If the position requires certain mandatory skills, recruiters will scan for those particular words. The company might also use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a hiring tool used – among other things – to sift through large groups of job applicants and scan for certain keywords to shrink the pool of potential hires.
Remember, your goal should always be to answer the question on the recruiter’s mind: “How can you solve our company’s current problem?” Skills don’t solve problems; it’s how you implement them that makes the difference.
Depending on your level of professional experience, this section should be kept below your work experience. Again, what recruiters are looking for depends on the job requirements, so tailor your education accordingly. If a certain certification or degree is relevant to the position, this can quickly set you apart from the other candidates. Here is the basic format:
- Name of school
- Your degree
- School location
- Years attended
After that, you can include any pertinent honours, awards or certifications you’ve received.
Keep these points in mind and you’ll be well on your way to passing the 6-second resume test. Of course, you can always take things a step further and really capture a recruiter’s attention.
Now here’s what to avoid:
As discussed before, hiring professionals may use Applicant Tracking Systems to narrow down a pool of applicants. Some potential hires will try to make it through the initial hiring round by identifying and overloading their resume with those keywords onto their resume. This attempt to beat the system is a huge pet peeve among hiring managers.
Poor resume formatting
This is a deal breaker, especially for those hiring managers who pay close attention to writing and organizational skills. Inconsistent structuring, incorrect use of punctuation and strange page breaks are all things you should be considering. If your resume isn’t properly formatted, it can be hard for the hiring manager to look past it, regardless of your qualifications.
Your ability to deliver relevant information quickly is crucial. While your resume’s length will ultimately be dictated by the requirements of the job you’re applying for, be judicious in the words you choose. Optimizing resume length can be tricky – that’s why we’ve done the work for you.
List of accomplishments
Any relevant accomplishments on your resume shouldn’t read like a list. Where did you exceed expectations? How did your actions add value to the organization? If you can’t bring your track record to life with key performance indicators that illustrate the significance of your responsibilities, the hiring manager won’t be able to figure out what you bring to the table.
Do you feel confident passing the recruiter resume scan test? Proviso Consulting is here to support your career success! Our expert team can help guide you through best practices to attract the attention of recruiters and hiring managers. View jobs now