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How Recruiters Really Read Your Resume


Zachary Lukasiewicz via linkedin.

I think this varies from recruiter to recruiter and also depends on the role for which you’re applying. For one, no one reads stacks of resumes anymore. Recruiters hate paper. They do everything online. But I’ll highlight briefly how recruiters absorb a resume. I should preface this by saying that I am not a recruiter. However, since starting with Staffing Robot, I can say that I’ve learned how recruiters operate, and what they tend to look for in a candidate:

  • Most recent role – this is generally trying to figure out what this person’s current status is and why they might even be interested in a new role. Are they laid off? Did they get fired? Have they only been in their role for a few months? Is their most recent experience relevant to the position for which I’m hiring?
  • Company recognition – Not even gonna lie, it’s easy to be a company snob. It’s not even that recruiters think certain companies are better than others (although some are). It’s purely a matter of how quickly they can assign a frame of reference. This is often more difficult to do when a candidate has only worked for obscure companies. When they can’t assign company recognition, it just means they have to read the resume a little deeper, which usually isn’t an issue, unless it’s poorly formatted and wrought with spelling errors in which case…you lost their interest.
  • Overall experience – Is there a career progression? Do they have increasing levels of responsibility? Do the titles make sense? Do the responsibilities listed therein match what they’re looking for.
  • Keyword search – Do they have the specific experience for the role they’re hiring for? They Command + F the crap out of resumes. On any given day they’re searching for things like Ruby on Rails, Mule, Business Intelligence, MBA, Consulting, POS, Cisco, Javascript, and seriously, anything you can think of.
  • Gaps – They don’t mind gaps so long as there’s a sufficient explanation. Oh you took 3 years off to raise your children? Fine by me, and might I add, I bow down. You tried your hand at starting your own company and failed miserably? Very impressive! Gap sufficiently explained. Whatever it is, just say it. It’s the absence of an explanation that makes me wonder.
  • Personal web presence — This includes personal domains, Twitter handle, GitHub contributions, dribbble account or anything a candidate has chosen to list. 2 out of 3 times, they almost always click through to a candidate’s website or twitter account. It can be a recruiter’s favorite parts of recruiting. Random aside: If a recruiter is like me, they care less about what people say on Twitter and more about who is following you and who you follow. So much insight gained by seeing who values your thoughts.
  • General logistics — Location, Eligibility to work in the US
  • Overall organization — This includes spelling, grammar, ease of use, ability to clearly present ideas.
  • Total time it takes me to do all of above: < 30 seconds*

2 out of 3 times, they almost always click through to a candidate’s website or twitter account.

Things recruites wish more people would do:

  • Bring personality into the resume — Recruiters are staring at these missives all day long. Throw a joke in there somewhere for goodness sake. Talk about how much you love Nutella. If you’re a rockstar, throw some cheeky self-deprecation in there if you can do so elegantly. It’s important to keep the work experience details as professional as possible, but trust me, there are ways to have fun with it. I love an easter egg buried in a resume…figureatively speaking.
  • Include URLs for other web presences — enough said. And within your comfortability of course. They will get it.
  • List key personal projects — This should be asked in almost every phone interview. “What kind of stuff are you working on in your free time?” This should be inspiring! Also shows that you have passion for your field beyond your 9-5 (ha, ha, like those even exist anymore).
  • Use color and lovely typography