How Employers Read Resumes

Ever wonder how some resumes are chosen over others? Is it the way it looks, the list of accomplishments and experience, or something more?

In today’s workplace, the task of sifting through hundreds of resumes has made automating the process necessary.

This means your resume is first viewed by a computer program that scans for industry- and skill-specific keywords. Employers read resumes that are selected by the program as viable candidates. Then begins the task of reviewing and determining who the employer will invite for an interview. Most experts state that employers only review the top third of your resume, so understanding how to make that sparkle can be the difference between getting a call and hearing nothing at all. Resumes have become a format and design element on their own. If your resume does not embrace new trends, the signal this sends to your potential employer could be a negative one. The following sections can help you view your resume through the eyes of your potential employer and create a resume that gets results.

Keywords

With literally hundreds of resumes to scan through, employers often use keywords as the initial filter to screen applicants. Keywords specific to the jobs that managers are looking to fill can make your resume sink or float to the top. Hiring personnel spend on average less than 6 seconds looking for them. They have a list of keywords, and whether they scan a resume by eye or by computer, you can be sure that if pertinent keywords are not visible, your resume will not get their attention.

The most important keywords are in the top third of your resume. The proper choice of keywords is an integral part of tailoring a resume for a particular job. Peruse the job description for must-have keywords, especially words used to describe skills, experience and industry-specific terminology.

The Top Third of the First Resume Page

This is where an employer looks first. If an employer does not find what he or she is looking for in the top one-third of your resume, then she or he will move on to the next candidate. The employer is looking for:

  • Keywords.
  • Job-matching experience.
  • Lists of accomplishments.
  • Where to quickly find examples of previous work.
  • A short, concise history, including relevant education.
  • Specifics reflecting your impact at previous companies.

Exaggerated Abilities

Be realistic and avoid bragging or exaggerating your experience or skills. This is the first thing prospective employers are trained to cue in on. Hiring managers are also trained to recognize unlikely claims, such as too rapid advancement and achieving goals in past jobs too quickly. If it is too good to be true, it usually is. Do not try to impress by listing accomplishments that seem out of the ordinary if they are untrue. Simply be truthful and factual. If you are going to list extraordinary accomplishments, make sure you can back them up.

People and Communication Skills

Employers look for employee attributes that are often outside the job description but nonetheless affect an employee’s ability to perform on the job. Written and verbal communication skills, foreign languages and certifications you have received are all important details to put on your resume. However, clubs you belong to, sports teams of which you are a fan, hobbies, Twitter handles, Instagram and Facebook profiles are not necessarily something you want on your resume. Although your employer may be interested in hobbies and sport interests, how you handle stress and other details about you, these cannot easily be expressed in just words on a resume, so keep this information for your job interview.

Bulleted Lists of Primary and Secondary Skills

Bulleted lists tend to catch the eye of employers and stand out on a resume page. Be concise with the wording. Employers are looking for quick ways to filter out unqualified employees and are not looking for people trying to impress them with a life story. Bulleted skill lists headed by skill types such as those expected for the job are so important to hiring personnel that if possible they should go at the top of your resume where they stand out.

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Managers often work from a checklist, and one of the first requirements expected of the applicant is to meet the minimum requirements. What will draw attention are additional and unique skills that will enhance your performance as an employee. If you have such skills, list them as primary. Do not lists language abilities if you cannot back them up. If you are not fluent in Spanish, say conversant. If not conversant, then say that you have knowledge of Spanish. Qualify your statements, and do not leave your prospective employer to fill in the gaps.

Social Media Savvy

A significant number of employers judge recruits on social media presence and the ability to utilize online technology to their advantage. Employers look for shortcuts in your resume such as LinkedIn, links to personal websites, portfolios, publications and work examples. These all are things that will catch the eye of an employer wishing to see results of your past work and experiences. Even personal blogs, if relevant to the job you are applying for, can help show off your skills and showcase your abilities to a prospective employer. Anything that makes your resume stand out from the dozens of other resumes stacked in front of a hiring manager gains you the upper hand.

Eye-Catching Resume Attributes

Do something different and creative to catch a potential employer’s eye. Be adventurous and go beyond the normal or canned resume design. In today’s world of PDF files and other online resume formats, the whole world of attractive colors and fonts is open to you. Why use a generic font like Times New Roman when cross-platform fonts such as Calibri, Verdana and Arial can embellish a resume. Do not be afraid to try formatting techniques such as using sidebars to highlight important details. Employers often look for such things as an instant indication of creativity, one of the attributes of a good candidate. Take advantage of visual embellishments and save the hiring personnel time. Use a picture or colored headings and title bars and consider your resume to be designed more like a marketing sales sheet. You are advertising your capabilities using all the media and graphics at your disposal. 

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