The first things employers look for in a resume

It’s a fairly well established fact that hiring managers and recruiters only spend very short amounts of time on a resume. You don’t have long to make that first impression count.

And in that time, employers are looking to answer one question: Is this person the best candidate for this position?

That’s it. All you have to do is show them that you are.

One famous bit of research conducted by The Ladders in 2014 clocked average time spent on resumes at a mere six seconds, and that same study also used eye tracking technology to see where people were looking during that time.

The results were that recruiters spent 80% of their time on the following:

  • Name
  • Current title/company
  • Previous title/company
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Current position start and end dates
  • Education

The research also showed that they spent little to no time at all on what they called “filler,” such as explanatory copy and other details.

“Beyond these six data points, recruiters did little more than scan for keywords to match the open position, which amounted to a very cursory “pattern matching” activity. Because decisions were based mostly on the six pieces of data listed above, an individual resume’s detail and explanatory copy became filler and had little to no impact on the initial decision making.”

Essentially, this means that at first employers are looking to see that you fit the position they’re hiring for, and not much else.

Specifically, they’re looking for specifics related to the posting and position. How to show them what they want? Use the following:

  • Relevant keywords: Match the title of your resume to the job title for which you’re applying. If the job is “Sales Manager,” put “Sales Manager” at the top, not “Sales professional” or “Sales Specialist.” Put it beside your name: “Barnaby Wild: Sales Manager.” Then go through the job posting and pepper your resume with keywords found therein. You can also use variations on these words and synonyms.
  • Specific and comprehensible job titles: Don’t call yourself a “rock star” or a “ninja.” Those are overused buzzwords that don’t mean anything. If you were a Regional Sales Director, say that. Now is not the time to get cute.
  • Clear and concise start and end dates: Yes, you need to list the dates down to the month. They’re looking to see how long you were in your previous positions, and they’re also looking for gaps. If you have gaps, find a way to fill them on paper.

Also be sure to list the name of your school, your degree, and the program. Education matters.

After that, you still need to provide all the other information. While they’re only spending six seconds on the first cursory glance, if they like what they see, they will eventually get to reading more detail.

You want to impress the reader as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is best done in your professional summary. If you’re still using an “objective” in your resume, I suggest you stop, and replace it with a summary. This is where you fit as much important detail into a couple of lines as possible. List everything that’s amazing about you in that space, using keywords and action words relevant to the position and industry.

Write your summary with the original question in mind, and show that you are the best candidate for the position.

Match yourself to the position. It’s your best chance of getting your resume past the electronic gatekeepers (applicant tracking system) and into the hands of a real person, who will then realize how amazing you are – and hire you.

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