Recruiters: How They Interpret Your Resume and What You Can Do About It

When you apply for a job, is your center of focus on yourself or the employer?  Hopefully, your answer was the employer. Once you’re interested in a position, it’s best to shift your thinking toward the employer’s interests to successfully navigate the recruiting process, which generally begins with — you guessed it — a recruiter. The more you think like a recruiter, the better your chances of making it through the first line of screening to secure an interview with a hiring manager. Here, we explain the role of the recruiter, provide some insights about how he or she interprets your resume and provide tips to help you make your resume more “recruiter friendly.”

The Recruiter’s Role

To put it simply, a recruiter is a matchmaker, a screener and a sales person.  As matchmaker, the recruiter’s goal is to find a candidate who is the proper fit for a specific position within a company. As a screener, the recruiter sifts through candidates to identify the best matches. He or she is a sales person in two ways, selling a job to a qualified candidate and selling the candidate to the employer.

While the recruiter may appear to be a neutral middle person, realize that the recruiter is ultimately paid by, and accountable to, the company who hired him or her. This applies to recruiters in corporate HR departments as well as recruiters who work independently. Therefore, he or she will always approach a search according to the employer’s specifications. You must first convince the recruiter why you should be presented to the hiring manager. That convincing begins in the screening process, so it’s important to understand how that process works.

The Screening Process

How does a recruiter go about screening candidates?  The short answer is — very quickly.  If a recruiter or company has posted a position publicly, you can bet that they are receiving hundreds of resumes, which requires a fast initial screening process. With this kind of volume, the goal is to eliminate and narrow to a short list.

A recruiter simply doesn’t have time to read all of the resumes, so he or she scans them.  If you are lucky, your resume may get 10 to 20 seconds of review. More likely, you will have about 5 to 7 seconds to persuade the recruiter to keep your resume in the running.

What does a recruiter look for during this 5 to 20 second resume screening?  The main items that a recruiter is scanning for are:  industry, function, level, recent experience, education and stability. He or she is looking primarily at the last two companies you worked for, how long you worked there, what you did and at what level, and your level of education. Realistically, those with prior experience in their client’s industry, with a similar function and at a similar level, have the best chances of surviving the recruiter’s initial screening, assuming that information is clearly articulated.

What You Can Do

Recall that that the recruiter isn’t the only sales person in this equation. Your resume is your sales pitch. The key is to make it easier for the recruiter to do his or her job with an easy-to-scan resume.

  • Start with an attention grabbing headline as part of your summary.  Be specific, but also get to the point. Give the reader information that will align you with the desired position, such as total number of years experience, industries worked in and key skill sets.
  • Highlight achievements and results. Chances are very good that the recruiter already has a sense of what someone is your functional area does. Instead, explain how your work benefited the company.  Quantify it in dollars, percents, or other meaningful numbers.
  • Less is more.  You don’t need to tell them everything you did, just enough of the relevant highlights to get them interested. Think phrases, not paragraphs. You can save the details for the interview.
  • Have a clean format. Your resume should have a clear visual hierarchy and plenty of white space.  Use bold formatting to emphasize key areas.
  • Tailor it to the job.  Include only what is pertinent to the position, or at the very least make sure that the appropriate experience, education and skills visually stand out.

If you are applying for many jobs, but not getting calls, it may be helpful to get an objective resume review from a resume writing professional.

Capstone Resume Services’ certified resume writers with recruiting and hiring backgrounds create affordable resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles that get results. Learn more here.