After recruiting in search and in-house for over ten years, I have read thousands of resumes.
Due to sheer volume of resumes received and all the other things that vie for the recruiter’s attention in the hiring process – scheduling, interviewing, networking, reference checks, client debriefs, and more – the resume review process is ruthlessly quick.
This is not the time to aim for deep reflection.
A recruiter-proof resume is easily readable and grabs your attention quickly with the necessary info to position you for the right job.
Ask a friend to look at your resume for 10 seconds.Now put it away. Can your friend answer these 5 questions?
What have you done in the past 10 years (or less if less is your total experience)?
If your resume has gaps or is difficult to follow chronologically, recruiters may just pass it by rather than try to make sense of the dates. Don’t make the recruiter do the work of mapping the arc of your career. Recruiters want to see a track record of forward progress, so they look for dates.
What is your industry and functional expertise?
Hopefully you have a summary section at the top that highlights this because, if you don’t, the recruiter has to tease it out based on all the places you’ve worked and jobs you’ve held. Like transcribing dates, pulling out industry and function is extra work. Recruiters sell candidates to hiring managers by their industry and functional expertise. Help them help you by making these clear.
Are you an executive, manager, independent contributor, or assistant?
Recruiters will get this by skimming titles and perhaps the first bullet point of the most recent jobs. If you have a summary section on top, your level should be established based on what you have accomplished. If you have management experience of people, projects, and/or budgets, it should be clear upon skimming. If it’s buried, then you just wasted an opportunity to position yourself. Different jobs require different levels. If your level isn’t clear from an initial skimming of the resume, then you will not be considered for the right types of jobs.
What technical, language or other special skills do you have?
Resume filters will catch keywords wherever they are, but for companies that do not use automated filters, you want your special skills to appear where human filters will look – at the very top and at the very bottom. Don’t thread your special skills throughout the job descriptions and nooks and crannies of various sections. If you have very strong special skills – language fluency, facility with in-demand computer skills – highlight this in your summary and definitely mention this in a specific Skills section.
What have you accomplished for the places you’ve worked?
The reader should be able to quickly glean if you’ve managed a project to completion, sold product, improved a process, raised money, or something tangible. Your resume will hopefully have many accomplishments but you want to make sure that at least one jumps out quickly. Again a summary section on top can draw the eye to tangible metrics – revenues generated, costs saved, profits increased, processes improved.
Most of the time, people pour over their resume and spend a lot of time reading it as they edit it. Yes, you want to take a careful look at it for spelling, grammar, content and context. But remember that this is not the way it will be read. A recruiter-proof resume must be able to be read quickly. Career trajectory, industry and function, level, special skills and key accomplishments must be readily apparent.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart® (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and other leading business authors) of "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" from Two Harbors Press, 2010. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for leading companies in media, financial services, consulting, technology and healthcare.