What do recruiters look for in a résumé at first glance?

Resume: A piece of paper that might get you selected or rejected! Who would not want it to be the best? But an amazing fact, no recruiter spends more than six seconds on an average looking at a resume.

Why is it important to have a resume at all?

Ah! That’s rather bad, because you have spent years earning things that you can put on your resume, and here a person is investing only six seconds to reject you. That’s really demotivating and sounds inhuman.

Ah! That’s rather bad, because you have spent years earning things that you can put on your resume, and here a person is investing only six seconds to reject you. That’s really demotivating and sounds inhuman.

But putting yourself in the recruiters shoes might make you feel that it’s the best that they can do. The organizations get thousands of applications for a single position and they have a team of only a few people to screen all these applications.

Even though the organizations are now far advanced and usually these applications first have to go through ATS (Application Tracking System), where they get shortlisted, yet there are some organizations where the screening task is manual from the first stage itself.

Now that all these systems are in place, there are sometimes cases where there are two people with exactly the same backgrounds, one gets selected for a job interview and the other doesn’t. What can be the reason? Some difference between the first representation of their applications made them different.

Whenever you are making a resume, you need to first understand the purpose for which you are making it. For a job or further studies, if the job then what department, what specialization and so on.

Once you have answers to all the questions, is when you can understand where to locate the bullseye in your resume. For example, if an accountant is to be hired, the recruiter will definitely want to know if the candidate has studied accounts at the university level so the education section becomes important.

Similarly if a salesperson is to be hired or a designer for example, their education will be important but skills will be more important. Hence, the recruiter will first look at the education and the skills.

Your resume should follow an order or a sequence, the events should not be going haywire. And you should know the explanation to every point mentioned out there on your resume, be it career gaps, a particular company you worked at, a course you enrolled for and so on.

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Things recruiters look for in the first glance:

Though generalising things as to what need to be and what need not be there in a resume is wrong, because each organization is different and so is the recruiter and will have different expectations altogether, but we can try and put the best foot forward.

And to do so, there are some points that we can work on and as we know from the recruiters are usually looked at, at the first glance. These points will vary from a fresher to an experienced person

  • Keywords
  • Usually when a job posting is done, a job description and a job specification is given which lists out the educational qualification required, skills that a candidate must possess, what all which the employee will be required to do and so on.

    When applying to such a job position, there are some keywords which can be kept in mind, as these may help you get through the ATS, which otherwise may be an obstacle. And when your resume reaches the recruiters, this will also help to grab their attention.

    This will require you to read the job description carefully and select at least 10-15 prime keywords which you’ll be using throughout your application. Though these keywords will get you through the ATS otherwise but you must make them bold to grab the attention of the recruiter.

    Doing this will show the recruiter that you have understood the job position before applying and have gone through the job description carefully unlike some other candidates who have just applied for the sake of applying.

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  • Education
  • Though this section is something that is usually focussed on for freshers and left aside in the case of experienced candidates but there are some instances when this is given importance even in case of experienced candidates.

    This happens because the freshers usually have no work-experience at hand and this section is what helps the recruiters to understand how dedicated they are to their work.

    There are some instances where some particular company will look at the college you have graduated from and what marks or ranks you were able to secure there. Some companies even are some stringent as to hire from a particular group of colleges only.

    Though listing marks won’t be as important in the later years of your career as in the beginning because the marks that you scored in the 10th standard will be no longer important after you have had 10 years of experience. Yet the education section is important and can under no situation be omitted out from a resume.

  • Most recent role/experience
  • With the help of this section, the recruiters come to know about the current status of the candidate. Only mentioning your job role here doesn’t end the story.

    The recruiter when going through the experience section usually looks for answers to what, who and why? Therefore doing away by just mentioning the position held won’t end your task. You need to explain your job role covering the 3 W’s.

    Through “What”, the recruiter wants to know in a few words as to what you were doing, for example a hardware engineer may be too generic a term, but explaining as to what all you did would help the recruiter understand your past experience better.

    By discussing “Who”, you tell them which company you were working at earlier, the size of the team you were a part of and how your team fits into the organization structure.

    “Why”, describes why you were a person and asset to the company. This is also a depiction of your skills and also gives the recruiters an idea of how you can be an asset to them.

  • Achievements
  • Though most of us already put up our achievements on our resume, it is the time we put more focus on what all we include in the achievements section in our resume.

    This gives the recruiter an idea as to how focussed you are to achieve your goals.

There are many other things that add value to your resume like the mention of your linkedin account URL gives an idea of your social presence to the recruiter and also allows him/her to cross check the details that you have provided in your resume.

Also one thing that annoys the recruiter is, a resume in paragraphs. One should always use pointers while making a resume and always try to highlight the important points. This facilitates them in going through your resume quickly and making a decision if a candidate is fit for the open position or not.

Another thing to be kept in mind that you should not overload your resume with irrelevant information. It should be kept in mind to include only the relevant information. For example if you are putting your contact information on your resume, that does not mean that you’ll state your marital status, the number of kids you have or your citizenship.

While including contact information, state your correct email ID, Contact Number, Linkedin profile. This will be more than sufficient for the recruiter to know.

Don’t exaggerate. Try to portray the real you through your resume. This will give you an upper hand where an exaggeration might lead to direct disqualification.

Another thing that the recruiter would like to know from your resume is how frequently do you hop among jobs. No company would like to invest time on a candidate that might leave their company in a few weeks. Rather they’ll prefer a candidate who’ll stick with the company for a longer time so that their resources are not wasted on training the new employee.

At the end there’s just one suggestion, try to follow a sequence in your resume and portray your real self in a short and crisp manner. This would definitely help you reach the interview round.

Visit our series "The HR Talk” where we help you know everything about your job interview from the recruiters. Try CV Owl as we help you furnish a fully-formatted in a chronological order resume or cover letter.

You can also try our CV Review service, through which you get a CV writing expert reviewing the insight of your CV and advising you, so that you can make your CV stand out.

All The Best!

Aditi Gera
Career Expert at CV Owl

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