The job market today is highly competitive which means you will be applying to your next job along with hundreds of other applicants. Before you make it into the hands of the hiring manager, you will likely be subject to a resume screen by a recruiter with a very limited attention span. Will your resume pass the 6-second recruiter eye-scan? In this post, we’ll break down the top 3 critical resume parts for passing the recruiter eye-scan, explain why they are so important, and share how you can strategically write your resume to attract recruiter interest.
Avoid Making this Mistake Made by Nearly Every Job Searcher I Meet
You might be wondering what recruiters have to do with your job search – especially if you’re someone who dislikes working with recruiters. Before I worked in executive recruiting, I felt the same way. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t hearing back from recruiters who had reached out to me initially. And I certainly didn’t understand that a recruiter’s job was designed to support the company, not the job seeker. I had no need for recruiters in my job search and decided to stop working with them altogether. Instead, I made up my mind to try my luck with online resume building services. If you’re nodding your head in agreement with my decision, you’re making a big mistake in your job search.
Three Ways Recruiters Can Help Your Job Search
It was only after I spent time working as an executive recruiter, that I started to learn just how important recruiters are to the job search. They are the gatekeepers for nearly every job posting you will find online. They are also the hunters who will find you on Linkedin for a job that hasn’t yet been posted, at the moment you least expect. Talk about an easy way to land a job! Recruiters are also great sources of industry and market intelligence; great folks to network with if you’re trying to figure out who’s hiring or how to plan your next career move.
Knowing How Recruiters Think Can Change Your Job Search Significantly
After I worked as a recruiter I was able to greatly increase my chances of landing jobs and significantly reduce the amount of time I spent in the job search, because I finally understood the perspective of the person who had the power to make or break my chances of getting in front of the hiring manager. For the full recruiter perspective check out this post on everything you need to know about how recruiters work and what they think.
Why Recruiters Aren’t Helping You
One thing that nearly all recruiters have in common is their ability to scan a resume and quickly gain a sense of whether or not the candidate is a potential fit. Recruiters have to work quickly because they are tasked with weeding out only a few resumes from a pile of hundreds, to put in front of the hiring manager. There is also very little room for creative freedom in piecing together a candidate’s background because the recruiter must get as close as possible to the hiring manager’s specific requirements. Therefore, recruiters tend to have a reputation for only finding square pegs for the square hole. If you have a confusing background or have taken a less than conventional path into your target industry, this may be one of the reasons recruiters aren’t passing you through the hiring process. If this is you, it might be worth taking a break from recruiters and using this proven strategy to amp up your job search traction.
This is the One Thing Recruiters Always Look for in Resumes
So just what are recruiters looking for in resumes when conducting the 6-second scan? They are looking for 3 resume parts in particular – all having to do with what we called “tracking” in the recruiting biz. Check out all of the standard resume parts here. Tracking refers to how the candidate moved throughout their career in terms of time, direction and ultimately big picture qualification for the next role. In my experience recruiting, every time a resume crossed our desks, our number one question was always: How does this candidate track? And to answer that question we performed a quick visual scan to determine whether or not we would continue to read the finer resume detail. So what were we looking for in those precious six seconds? We were looking for 3 tracking indicators:
1. Dates: How Much Time Was Spent in Each Role and What it Means to Recruiters
Everyone knows that dates of employment are standard on a resume, but did you know that they serve to communicate so much more than just required information? Dates communicate ambition and drive, career path, longevity, and loyalty as well. Spending too much time in a role can make you appear rusty or unadaptable while too little time, can position you as a job hopper or high risk.
How to Leverage Your Employment Dates on Your Resume
When recruiting executives, the timeline we liked most was 12-18 months per role (not the company – the ROLE). It demonstrates enough movement to not appear rusty. It also demonstrates adaptability, flexibility, and career growth when displayed correctly. This may not be the standard range of movement for every professional, but in the world of executive recruiting, this was a suggested gauge for how to spot optimal career path movement.
Think big picture career strategy each time you consider a career move. Thinking before you make a hasty career move can prevent you from being stuck with an unappealing career detour (that will follow your resume around for life).
2. Company Names and Why they Matter to a Recruiter
The second place a recruiter will jump to on your resume is the company name to better understand who you worked for as well as the types of company cultures you came from. The company name provides the recruiter with several pieces of valuable information.
The company name gives the recruiter a sense of the scope of your role in relation to the size of the business operations. This is also an indicator hiring managers use to determine if you’ll fit within their specific business environment.
How to Leverage Employer Info on Your Resume
For well-known companies, it requires little imagination for hiring managers to figure out what exactly you do. Whereas lesser-known companies will require some extra explanation and don’t necessarily generate an immediate impression with the reader.
If you have worked for small or lesser known companies compared to large, companies with well-known brands (ie, Walmart, Pepsi, Ernst & Young) it may be to your benefit to add a short explainer paragraph below the company name. Use your judgment to determine whether or not a brief 1-2 line company summary is necessary for each move. The summary should contain high-level information about the company type (non-profit, for-profit, etc.), size, industry, and main business.
Highly Recommended! Great experience to interact with NG and her team…outstanding from 1st consultation, where customized solution was proposed, to the end product delivery. Timelines were totally fulfilled as planned. – Antonio, MBA, Biotech Industry
3. Job Titles: Were Your Career Moves Strategic or Random?
Strategic moves, demonstrated via your roles or titles, require knowledge of career paths but should also make as much sense as possible, to the reader. Timing will also play a part in how a recruiter assesses your title against the amount of time in each role. For example, the title “Manager” indicates a very different career level than “Assistant Manager” or “Senior Manager.” This matters to recruiters because they are tasked with finding candidates at just the right level for the hiring manager’s needs. A recruiter can pick up on your career path, level, approximate trajectory, and skill set all based on a quick scan of titles, making this an extremely important part of your resume.
How to Leverage Your Job Titles
Pay special attention to how you display your titles on your resume – making them easy to find, read and piece together (when considering the flow of all titles listed). Likewise, if you have been in a role with a fluctuating title or something that does not translate to the traditional title for someone in your position, adapt the title so that it will make sense to a recruiter. In order to do this without providing false information, I recommend using your formal title, followed by a standardized title directly after.
If you’re moving every 12-18 months into the same type of role with different companies, this isn’t necessarily strategic. However, if your constant movement is upward or an upwardly mobile lateral move, you’re in good shape. This demonstrates your ambition through promotion and the gaining of greater responsibility in the organization.
Before you make a career move, take a step back and assess how this will look on your future resume when those dates are set in stone. Don’t just take an opportunity as a quick exit strategy because it will come back to haunt you later when trying to explain in an interview. Part of your career strategy should be career path exploration. Doing some basic research and exploration up front will help you get a really clear sense of the potential paths available and needed to create a cohesive career track and reach your ultimate end goal in the future. You will also want to consider negotiating your title, if possible and if necessary for creating more cohesive resume tracking. Here are some tools to help you figure out strategic next moves.
The Simple Fix for Making Your Resume Recruiter-Friendly
Take the time to really format these 3 resume parts in a visually clean way that leverages recruiter perspective. There’s no greater turn-off for a recruiter than being unable to find these 3 resume parts. If the recruiter is confused and can’t find what they’re looking for, this is a sure-fire path to the trash because they have a whole stack of more resumes to go through after yours.
The Bottom Line When it Comes to Recruiters Scanning Your Resume
If you’ve ever skimmed a document in a hurry, you’ll know what it feels like to be a recruiter scanning resumes. The initial resume glance is all about capturing high-level info and not so much about digging into the details. Adding tens of bullets will not serve you well if these 3 resume parts are off point.
If you want to be fully prepared to capture a recruiter’s attention, with a skimmable and fully keyword optimized resume, check out our best-selling package, The Works. It covers all the bases—resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and a 30-minute phone consult with one of our recruiting & career strategy experts—to give you the best chance at getting hired.