Writing or updating your resume can be stressful, especially if you have limited time and aren’t sure what to focus on.
After working with hundreds of job seekers as a Recruiter, I’m going to reveal the first three places I look on your resume, so you can optimize it to grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, and get more interviews.
1. Your Recent Work Experience
The first thing employers are thinking when they evaluate your resume is, “does this person have the skills and experience necessary to come in, learn this role successfully, and start contributing to our efforts quickly?”
The best way to decide this is by looking at what you’ve accomplished for other employers, so if you have any work experience at all, it’s the first place a recruiter or hiring manager is going to look.
I’d recommend spending more time on this section than any other when writing your resume.
Also, make sure your employment history is on the top half of the first page so that it can be easily found.
The only sections I’d recommend putting before your work experiences are your name and contact information, and a one-paragraph professional summary statement. After this, jump right into your work experience.
2. Your Career Progression and “Story”
After looking at your most recent work, I’m now scrolling down to the bottom of your resume and reading upward. I’m looking at your educational background and then trying to piece together the moves you’ve made since then.
I’m looking at job titles and responsibilities you’ve held. I’m looking at the dates of employment for previous positions, and how long you’ve been with each employer.
If you have big gaps in employment or an unusual career progression, it’s not a deal breaker; however, I’d recommend addressing it in a cover letter.
As a recruiter, if I spot some concerning moves or gaps, I’d often look for a cover letter to see if there’s an explanation.
Try to make your work history as clear as possible, and be upfront about addressing any “red flags” or unusual moves you’ve made with the recruiter you’re working with, or they won’t feel comfortable forwarding your resume to a hiring manager.
Also, try to show progression whenever you can, within companies and when changing between companies. Even if you received a slight upgrade in job title with a company, make sure to highlight that (for example if you advanced from Sales Associate to Senior Sales Associate).
3. Accomplishments, Results, and Metrics
I mentioned earlier that the first thing employers are asking themselves is: Do you have the skills and experience necessary to come in, get up to speed, and start contributing quickly in this role?
Well, one of the best ways to show them you’re up to the challenge is to highlight past results, metrics, and results you’ve achieved.
This isn’t something most job seekers do enough of on their resume (in fact many job seekers don’t do this at all), so it’s a great way to stand out.
Try to be very specific in your resume bullet points. Add numbers and data wherever you can, and phrase things as accomplishments rather than responsibilities.
For example, rather than saying, “responsible for handling 50 customer support requests per day,” you could say, “Handled 50 customer support requests per day, achieving a 98% customer satisfaction rating”.
Now you’re sharing what you actually did and achieved, not just what you were responsible for.
There’s a big difference between an accomplishment and a duty, and you will stand out if you focus on writing about accomplishments.
Here are some specific numbers you can put in your resume bullets as you do this:
- Percent increases/improvements you achieved for the company’s goals, or your own individual goals
- Dollar amounts (revenue you brought in, cost savings, etc.)
- Headcounts (e.g. “managed 20 people across three different groups,” or, “trained seven new team members”)
Then before your interview, review your resume and make sure you’re ready to talk about these accomplishments when they ask.
The “10-Second Rule”
You’ve probably heard the statistic that a recruiter only spends 10 seconds looking at each resume. The truth is we spend that much time scanning and deciding if we should keep reading.
If it looks like a good fit, we’ll continue reading for much longer and then pass your resume on to the hiring manager and recommend they interview you.
The 10-second rule is just an estimate of how long we spend deciding whether to keep reading or not.
Now that you know the first three places we look during this time, you can make sure your resume grabs attention and gets you invited to interview.