What do recruiters look for in a résumé?
From hooking someone in the first 10 seconds to relevant experience, here are nine answers to the question, “What are some important things recruiters look for in a résumé at first glance?”
- A Strong Hook
- Meeting the Basic Qualifications
- Examples that Show Coachability
- Employment History
- A Personal Mission Statement
- A Value Proposition
- Experiences that Fit the Role
- Cost-Saving Contributions
- The Trajectory of Relevant Work and Educational Experience
A Strong Hook
Ten seconds is all you get when your résumé lands in the hands of a recruiter. We must see something immediately to keep our interest. Your résumé should always have a personal summary, a personal statement, or, depending on your career level, an objective statement.
Give recruiters a reason to give your résumé more time. Use online resources to find powerful words to describe yourself. Your statement should tell a recruiter who you are, what you do, and what makes you special.
Meeting the Basic Qualifications
S peaking from my experience, if I’m trying to fill a role and am reviewing an applicant’s résumé for said role, I’m verifying that they meet the basic qualifications of the job foremost. To do that, I’m reading the summary (if there is one) and work experience sections. I do this before anything else because I quickly want to establish that this person meets the minimum baseline.
Examples that Show Coachability
As someone who is not a fan of a résumé, application, and cover letter all being required for a particular vacancy, there is something I immediately look for: examples that show coachability.
More than technical skills for some roles, I need to know that the applicant can be coached and can (or learn to) effectively coach others. A candidate can have great written skills and solid technical skills, but if the résumé doesn’t show that they can accept critical feedback and implement changes to improve their behavior or performance, or tactfully provide critical feedback to others, I move on to the next.
Team members thrive in environments where colleagues and leaders are supportive, so I look for these indicators. It’s one of those things that, for me, is apparent even when the candidate may not intend for it to be.
As an executive search consultant recruiting senior-level candidates, I look initially to distinguish potential from pedigree. I want to see who they have worked with so I can know if they are leadership material with management experience. If a candidate has worked at a company where they recruit the best of the best, I’ll understand what they may have learned and what their point of view might be.
Have they worked with people who are great (and passionate) about what they do? Did they get good mentorship and training? Do they know how to drive innovation and be consistent, distinctive, and adaptable? Are they inclusive and great at building diverse, high-performing teams? Do they understand the process at scale?
Depending on our client, I need to know if they will navigate an enterprise company (or have they worked at a start-up, and can they handle that environment) and the attendant company culture (often the number one factor in a candidate’s success)?
A Personal Mission Statement
Recruiters are always on the lookout for transferable skills. A résumé should help to conceptualize who you are and what is important to you. One section that shouldn’t be overlooked is your personal mission statement.
A focused and intentional mission statement should include what role you are targeting and why you are targeting it. For example, if one is seeking a sales position, it is imperative to highlight any relevant skills and experiences that you possess and share why you are motivated to pursue a career in this field.
A Value Proposition
Recruiters want to know what you will bring to the company once hired. This value proposition should be straightforward in how you describe your skills and your expertise. Most recruiters will want to gauge whether you took the time to study the needs of the company you are applying to and bridged those needs with your skills.
A good way of presenting your value proposition is to highlight how previous work experience used your most valuable skill and how you helped the company you worked for move forward.
Experiences that Fit the Role
If you really want that role, you have to at least also spend time and attention on your résumé to make it a résumé-on-the-job. This means you should mention experiences that fit the role or give more attention/space on your resume for them. In this way, you can really show your motivation and make yourself stand out from the crowd. When I see that, then you will have my attention.
Please include how you have eliminated a redundant process that has provided cost savings. For example, I eliminated the need for recruiting agencies by hiring over 40 people using my networking and outreach skills. This successfully saved the company over $900,000 in recruiting agency fees. We can use this example for any position, as being efficient and proactive in your role always saves the company money from having to either use external help or redo work.
The Trajectory of Relevant Work and Educational Experience
As a recruiter, when first glancing at a résumé, I immediately look at a candidate’s career and educational trajectory to understand why they applied for a role. Their background needs to align with the role at hand. I ask myself, does their work experience fit the job description? Does their education match the required credentials for this role? A candidate’s résumé—their career trajectory—should align closely with the role they’re applying for, to ensure they’re the desired candidate of choice for recruiters and employers alike.
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