Want an Interview? Here’s How Recruiters Really Read Resumes

Feb 20, 2015 - Joe Matar
A recruiter’s interpretation of your resume will make the difference between being shortlisted for your desired job or becoming one the hundreds of applications they skip past and forget. Understanding a recruiter’s mindset and goals will give you a huge advantage when preparing your resume for effective job hunting. Here are six things to know about how a recruiter reads your resume so you have a better chance of not only being seen, but landing that interview, too: (Click here to tweet this list.)

Before they open your resume…

Recruiters judge you from the second your application hits their inbox, so it’s critical you do enough to make them open your resume. They will look for signs that you are suitable for the job you are applying for, as well as an approach that is professional yet personal. Make sure you highlight only the skills that are relevant to the role in your introduction and triple-check your spelling and grammar. Also, address the recruiter by their name -- which you should be able to find on LinkedIn -- and keep your cover letter brief. Recruiters don’t have time to read an essay.

Recruiters read quickly

Recruiters are extremely busy people; they usually work to fill a number of vacancies simultaneously and their inboxes are often overflowing with resumes from hopeful applicants. They need to extract the important information from your resume with speed and ease, so don’t pad yours with irrelevant details and cliché phrases. Only include skills and experience relevant to the job you are applying for and make your resume as easy-to-read as possible. For example, text should be broken up into short paragraphs or with bullet points, with sections clearly titled.

Recruiters scan for key words

Recruiters work with strict instructions from their client or manager. For example, they may be tasked with, “find me somebody with marketing, team leadership and PowerPoint” as skills. In this instance, if the recruiter doesn’t see “marketing,” “team leadershipor “PowerPointafter opening your resume, they are likely to delete it and move on to the next application. When applying for a job, be sure the top of your resume is packed with the key terms from the job description so yours isn’t immediately overlooked.

Numbers impress recruiters

Recruiters need to know what value you can add to an employer before considering you for a role, and there’s no better way to convey your capabilities and seniority than with numbers. When drafting your resume, don’t just write you managed a team; instead, explain how you managed a team of 10. Instead of noting you cut costs, go into detail how you slashed departmental spend by $10k last year. Recruiters will immediately have more confidence in your potential and abilities when you use numbers, increasing your chance of being shortlisted for the role.

Recruiters scare easily

Recruiters work hard to build and maintain good reputations with their clients and managers, so they wouldn’t ever suggest a bad resume for an open role. While they may overlook one or two resume mistakes, the more errors they see will cause them to hesitate about submitting you to their client. Sure, they could fix grammar and spelling mistakes before submitting your resume, but why would they take that risk when they have many more resumes sitting in their inbox that could be 100 percent perfect?

Recruiters check for inconsistencies

An experienced recruiter has seen thousands of resumes and spoken with countless candidates throughout their career. They know when something doesn’t add up. After scanning and shortlisting your resume, they will go through it with a fine-tooth comb to ensure there aren’t any discrepancies. You can be creative when selling yourself, but it’s not OK to lie about the length of time spent at a job or exaggerate about your responsibilities. If a recruiter suspects something is not right, they will investigate it; so be totally transparent if you want their trust -- and the job. Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter and director of leading professional resume writing company StandOut CV.