career, job search, recruiting

What does a recruiter want to see in a resume?

What does your resume look like today, and why?

How much advice have you gotten over the years about how to build your resume?

How many different formats (e.g., FunctionalChronological) have you tried?

There is no ‘Silver Bullet’ resume format that will get you an interview. But based off my experience and that of a few recruiter friends I polled on this question, let me share a few things recruiters look for in an initial scan of your resume:

  • Location:  Are you local? If no, how far away are you? If you’re out of state and there are local candidates who are similarly qualified, I’ll rank them a bit higher as relocation is very expensive. I’m also going to wonder if you are serious about being considered for this job–or are you just applying for any job you find to meet your minimum job search requirements for unemployment? (Don’t think me cynical; people do it and I understand why. I’ve done it at least once while on unemployment.)
    • Tip: If you are applying for jobs in a different state due to an upcoming move, you may want to include “relocating to <new city> February 2013”. This informs the recruiter knows you’re not expecting someone to pay your relocation, and when you could be here to interview/start work.
  • Skills/Accomplishments: Do you clearly state that you offer the relevant experience/skills that we listed in the job description? I hope so for two reasons. 1) If they are clearly stated on your resume, I’ll keep reading to find out where you got them. 2) Listing skill/experience keywords helps me find you in our database of XXX,XXX resumes when I’m searching for a killer Technical Accountant.
    • Tip: Read through the job posting carefully to ensure you know which keywords are most important to include. I also recommend a job search engine like Indeed and pulling job postings for similar jobs posted across the country to ensure you have a strong sense of what employers look for in this position–and hence what should be in a resume targeted for it. Then ensure you highlight those key skills/accomplishments/experience both in a “Professional qualifications” section and under each position in which you gained that specific skill/experience. Stating a skill keyword more than once (appropriately) can often get you indexed higher than other resumes in an ATS as well.
  • Functional or Chronological Format? All the recruiters I polled for this blog post–myself included-are emphatically unanimous: CHRONOLOGICAL FORMAT! Recruiters like chronological resumes because they are accountable. It’s much easier for us to better understand your story–where you have been, how long you were there, what your role was, and what you learned/accomplished at each place–versus digging through a bunch of skills/accomplishments that aren’t tied to specific work history. If you list “Event planning” or “Developed and executed marketing campaigns” under your functional skills, but you only did that for 3 months at a contact gig? That may be relevant experience, but it’s not yet a solid tool in your kit. And the recruiter can’t figure that out from your resume. I agree that functional resume formats can be of use when someone has been out of the workforce for a long time, or has very minimal experience (ex: high school grads) and the types of jobs to which they may be applying are looking more for competencies than experience (will you do the job vs. have you done the job).
    • Tip: If you want to highlight skills that are relevant to a different career field than the one you are in now, consider segmenting your work experience into “Relevant Professional Experience” and “Other Professional Experience” sections.
  • Targeted Resume vs. Career Memoir? Does the resume speak to the experience/skills/education/certifications you have that are relevant to this position? This means not having 7 bullets under each work experience section, but 1-2 bullets that are highly relevant to what we are seeking for this position. A resume is a targeted outline–it shouldn’t be an exhaustive catalog of everything you’ve ever done.


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