The Basics: What do Recruiters Look for in your Resume

If this is your first time creating a resume, or if you are a bit out of practice, here are a few basics to keep in mind when creating or refining your resume.

Proof your resume and cover letter!

I can’t tell you how many candidates I have rejected because they had basic spelling and structure errors on their resume. My thought was that if this was their best effort, then I couldn't trust them to properly communicate with clients.

After you review your resume, also have a friend, advisor or someone who possesses a professional writing style, check your work. Another tip that I have found to be helpful, is to read your resume backwards. This can help catch content errors that you may not spot otherwise.

2. Make it meaningful.

Does your resume say something specific about your experience that a company would value Let’s go over a sample bullet: 

"Dedicated, hard worker who is committed to success”

Sentences like this set off my B.S. meter and make me cringe. How does saying that you are a dedicated, hard worker demonstrate that you are a dedicated hard worker? Also, who is committed to mediocrity?

To write a meaningful sentence, think about specific experience (facts and details) that supportthe idea that you are a hard worker. For example, you can write about managing multiple projects (be specific here) within a (specific) time frame. If you are in school, you can write about clubs that you are active in or how you have been involved in a volunteer organization. Here are a couple examples:

“Led the marketing effort for annual Save the Water drive, bringing in over 500 individual commitments to reduce water waste.”

“Promoted to back-up manager,  responsible for supporting five team members and ensuring production goals were met.”

3. Connect your resume to the job opportunity.

While job applications are to some extent a numbers game, it is also about relevance and quality. Does your resume reflect the job that you are applying for? Generic resumes will often result in generic rejections. Even if you don’t have direct experience in a similar role, you likely have some experience that is relevant to the position.

Read job descriptions carefully, and for each bullet, think about how your experience is relevant to the role. If you are trying to get into a position that is very heavy in client service, and you have always worked in back offices, focus on your experience providing service across teams and departments.

4. Order matters.

Recruiters and managers are likely going to take a quick first pass at your resume. If it doesn’t pop-out as matching the experience and skills set they are looking for, your resume will likely be placed in the “no” pile. This makes it very important to put the most relevant experience at the top of each section.

One way to do that is to re-order bullets based on the job that you are applying to. You can even create sections by skill set, if your current job is very different from the role you want. For example, you can have a “Sales Experience” section, if you are trying to move into a more sales-focused role.  It is all about what will best draw interest from the person looking at the resume. 

5. Keep it simple.

Finally, unless you are working as a professor or as a researcher (in which case you would likely need a C.V.), keep your resume short. A rule of thumb is that if you have less than 10 years of experience, limit yourself to a one page resume or at most a page and a half. The resume is meant to be a snapshot of the qualities and experiences that you can offer to a company.

So to sum it all up, in order to create an effective resume, focus on content, relevance and quality control. It can definitely take some time to create a great resume, but the effort that you put in can make all the difference in getting the role you want.


Moving Forward

The Basics: What do Recruiters Look for in your Cover Letter