What Recruiters Really Look for When Reviewing Resumes

Young handsome employee working on computer during working day in office

By Matt Krumrie, an experienced resume writer and career advice professional.

We get it. Writing a resume is tricky. There is no one-size-fits all resume writing strategy that fits every job, applicant tracking system, and every recruiter or hiring manager.

But there are tried and true methods that can help job seekers write a resume that best represents how they can make an impact in their next job. Because that’s the purpose of a resume. It’s not a career biography. It’s not all about what you’ve done. It’s about how you can show an employer how you can make an impact in the specific role for which you are applying.

So how can frustrated job seekers create a resume that gets read by a recruiter, gets interviews, and gets results?

Katie Larson, Lead Recruiter at Celarity, a Minneapolis/St. Paul-based staffing and recruiting firm specializing in marketing, creative, and digital technology industries, provides these tips and strategies:

1. Tailor the resume to the job: “In 2020 the one-size-fits-all resume still doesn’t work,” says Larson. “Applicant tracking systems may automatically reject your resume if it doesn’t contain specific keywords. It makes more sense in the long-run to apply to fewer jobs per day, and instead of spending that time customizing your resume to each job that you are applying to so that it matches the description better. Or, at least have a few versions of your resume depending on the role you are applying to.”

2. Show actionable results: It is a lot more impactful for hiring managers to see specifics of what you have accomplished versus just stating day-to-day responsibilities. “Employers want to hear about what you have specifically done so that they know how you will be able to add value to their organization,” says Larson.

Examples of how to showcase successes/results:

  • Managed social media accounts and increased engagement on Twitter by 400%

  • Increased AdWords campaign CTR by 25% while decreasing CPC by 50%

  • Launched an email marketing campaign that resulted in 100 sales qualified leads within 7 days

3. Make it easy to read: The average hiring manager will likely only spend 6 to 7 seconds looking at your resume. Put the most important information on the top, and write in bullet point versus paragraph form. White space will draw attention to the important parts of your resume. Keep it simple, but compelling enough for the hiring manager to want to know more!

4. Give the reader a reason to hire you instead of your peer: What makes you a star? If you and your coworkers were to apply to the same job, what would make you stand out from the rest of the crowd? “Don’t be afraid to brag about professional accomplishments, such as winning a company award, or speaking at a professional event,” says Larson.

Remember, your resume is a document that covers your qualifications to get your foot in the door past the gatekeeper.

“It is the hiring manager’s first impression of you, and so find ways to make yourself stand apart,” says Larson. “On top of showcasing your hard skills, give the manager a glimpse of how you could be a culture fit.”

Try to stay away from non-relevant information like “avid coffee drinker” and instead include something that is professional and impactful like “marketing coach and mentor for the BrandLab program.”

“Tiny details like this will set you apart,” says Larson.

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