Key Things Recruiters Look for in Your Resume
Resume writing is not for the faint of heart. You can easily spend hours agonizing over the style (chronological or functional?), messing with the font size so it fits on one page (how small is too small?), and searching for typos (why does one always seem to sneak in?). But crafting a solid resume is a necessary first step in your job search—and there are eight basics recruiters look for in resumes at every stage of your career.
1. Keywords pertaining to the job at hand
Are you sitting down? It’s time to accept a hard truth: Recruiters don’t carefully read every resume word for word. To get through the pile on their desk, they scan resumes for keywords from the job posting—or they delegate that task to resume scanning software. That means you can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all resume. You’ll want to develop a resume template you can modify for specific positions.
2. Concrete examples of your success
It’s easy to hide behind flowery resume language, but you’ll be more successful if you can provide statistics and examples of your success. For instance, you can say you’re a “proven, successful audience engagement manager,” but it’s more impressive to say, “increased organic Facebook engagement by 5 percent.” As you describe your roles in previous positions, think about specific examples you can include on your resume and expand on during an interview.
3. Context about your current role
A job title at one company is not necessarily analogous to the same role at another organization. For example, a human resources director at a company with 10 employees has a different set of experiences than an HR director at a Fortune 500 company. It’s a good idea to provide some context about the size and scope of your current and previous companies so recruiters can quickly size up your experience. Again—with rare exception, a recruiter is not going to head online to learn more about an unknown company. Make it easy.
4. Gaps in your work experience
Resume gaps are not uncommon, and they don’t carry the same stigma they used to, but recruiters still want to know what you were up to. Don’t try to hide behind cagey resume tricks. Be transparent with start and end dates, and if you do have a gap to explain, include the information at the end of your description (e.g., “left position to address family health concern” or similar). And always remember your final offer will likely be contingent on your story standing up to a background check.
5. A clear career trajectory
A recruiter will also scan your resume for a narrative that makes sense for the position. If you are just starting out, does your education match the position? If you’re mid-career, do the positions listed show growing responsibility and professional growth, or do they display a series of lateral moves? What story does your resume tell?
6. Your contact information
This may seem obvious, but it’s the grown-up equivalent of forgetting to put your name on your paper in grade school: omitting your contact information on your resume. Make sure the recruiter can easily get in touch with you by including your phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile, as well as a city and state. If you omit a location, the recruiter may wonder if relocation is necessary and automatically disqualify you.
7. Professionalism in presentation
Your resume should leave no question about your professionalism. That means its design should match the culture of the industry (a graphic design candidate has more latitude than a banker). You should have a professional email address sans “cute” nickname. And leave off any irrelevant social media handles.
8. Spelling errors
As mentioned above, typos seem to find their way into resumes. Stop spelling errors in their tracks by enlisting the help of two or three eagle-eyed friends who will proofread your resume. You can’t rely on spell-check. After all, “form” and “from” are both spelled correctly (and that’s hardly the most embarrassing potential mix-up).
Once you have a solid resume, make it a habit to update it at least annually, even if you’re happy in your current role. Doing so will save yourself some headaches in the long run!