Your resume is one of the most important tools in your job search. Yet, you only have a handful of seconds to grab a recruiter’s attention with your resume. Deciding what to include on your resume can feel challenging. What do recruiters look for in a resume? How do you write a resume that recruiters love? What should you include in your resume to increase your chances of landing an interview?
Over my decade as a career coach, I have spoken with thousands of recruiters over the years to learn which resumes grab their attention and which ones end up in the rejection pile. I noticed several trends during my one-to-one conversations with recruiters at nearly every Fortune 100/500 as well as countless hyper-growth startups and VC-backed companies. The following is what I gleaned those recruiters really look for when reviewing your resume and job application.
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1. Your previous experience
Your most important assignment as a candidate is to connect the dots between your previous experience and a recruiters’ open role. In other words, you need to learn to quickly communicate how your past successes relate to the job postings you are targeting. Therefore, the better you explain how your experience is relevant, the more likely you are to land a job interview with your dream company.
Subsequently, I am a proponent of using the target job posting as a recipe card that guides your resume creation and customization. If the role calls for “project management” experience, for instance, ensure there are one or more bullet points on your resume that address your project experience and achievements. You can even begin a bullet point with the phrase, “PROJECT MANAGEMENT:” to make your experience pop out to the recruiter as they are quickly scanning through hundreds of resumes and job applications. The key here is to make your experience swiftly digestible for someone who is only spending a handful of seconds reading your resume before moving on to the next one.
2. Your education and professional development
Many companies are moving away from requiring formal education from candidates. However, recruiters often still want to learn where you gained your knowledge as well as if you stay on top of the latest industry trends. Consequently, include a section on your resume with any degrees, certifications, or credentials you hold. Additionally, speak to any mentorship, internship, co-op, or related programs you currently or previously participated in. You can also use this section to reference your attendance at conferences and other professional development engagements.
Importantly, if a job posting asks for a specific degree or credential, such as an MBA or the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, you will want to list this near the top of your resume. You want to avoid the mistake of requiring recruiters to dig through your resume to assess if you meet the minimum job qualifications. Also, if you are making a career change, you will want to list any courses or advanced training you completed in pursuit of the new career path in a space that is easily identifiable to the recruiter.
3. Your unique qualifications for the role
Although recruiters are assessing how your relevant experience and education relate to their vacancies, they are also looking for what makes you special. In other words, they are looking for reasons to invite one candidate in for an interview over another. As a candidate, this means you need to take action to ensure you land in the ‘heck yes’ pile rather than the dreaded middle of the bell curve. There is nothing worse than blending in when looking for a new job.
With this in mind, you want time to call out and draw attention to those experiences, achievements, and skills that brought you success throughout your professional career. Be sure to do this at the beginning of the resume, rather than burying the lede. If you worked across several distinct industries or speak multiple languages, for example, mention this upfront in your resume’s career summary. Then, reinforce this with examples and accomplishments throughout your resume that back up your claims.
4. Your personality and interests
Finally, recruiters are looking to interview humans. They recognize that job seekers are so much more than their professional experience, education, and advanced training. Thus, consider how you can nimbly incorporate your personality into your resume and other career documents. This may look like adding a section for extracurricular activities or hobbies on your resume, mentioning your unique interests, incorporating a splash of color, or including a testimonial from a former colleague or client.
These are just a few of the things recruiters look for when reviewing your resume and job application. At the end of the day, you want to show recruiters that you will add value to the team and the organization. Remember: You will land more interviews if you help recruiters understand how your experience and qualifications relate to their open roles. You’ve got this!
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