By: Alan Davis
What is the Recruiter Looking for in Your Résumé?
Whenever I’m asked to review a résumé, I invariably give the same advice: “Put yourself in my position – the recruiter – and go through the same résumé review process that I do.”
When a recruiter reviews a résumé, it is often against very specific screening parameters, based on the Job Specification. Most Job Specifications can be broken down into the following combination of factors:
- academic achievement.
- a minimum number of years of experience and demonstrable achievements in one or a number of job types.
- specific knowledge.
- language skills, etc.
The basic screening parameters are therefore derived directly from the Job Specification, and often there are no more than five or six of them.
Even when the résumé is not being evaluated against a specific job, the recruiter generally wants to get a quick read so that your experience and skills can be pigeon-holed into some form of a database (which includes the recruiter’s own memory).
So how do you make your résumé recruiter-friendly?
First of all, follow the basic rules, which are as follows:
- black print, large enough to read (and be scanned) on white paper
- liberal use of space – don’t make it look crowded.
- no fancy graphics.
- no more than two and a half pages (preferably two).
- liberal use of bullets.
- include a “career objectives” statement.
- job history in reverse chronological order.
- no unaccounted-for gaps in time.
- limit the superlatives.
- be impeccably honest – don’t even exaggerate.
- complete contact information – make yourself easy to find.
- include volunteer activities – shows that you are a caring human being.
- be cognizant of the fact that once the résumé has been scanned into a database, it may be subjected to a keyword search. Make sure that key words associated with your specific career are included.
Before deciding on the actual content, remember that the purpose of the résumé is to help the recruiter decide whether or not to grant you an interview – and this decision is often based on a review against the screening parameters mentioned earlier. The résumé is not a substitute for an interview – so don’t overload it with excruciating detail of everything you were responsible for in every job you’ve ever done. Stick to a combination of the scope and specific (and preferably measurable) achievements, for each position.
If your experience covers a time span of twenty years of experience, you may expect that it will contain more information than if you have two years. However, you should weigh the amount of description toward your more recent experience to the point that some of your earlier and less-relevant jobs might be described by title only, or with one line of description per job.
Be aware that the résumé screen is only one part of what is often a lengthy and carefully-crafted recruitment process. Make this part of the process as easy as possible on the recruiter. The recruiter has limited time and is faced with a pile of résumés, not just one. We can’t read every word on every résumé, so if we can select you in, at a glance, you’ve made our job easier and your chance of being selected have considerably improved.
Incidentally, the same basic guidelines of clarity, simplicity and brevity apply equally to the covering letter. If you are unable to summarize in no more than two paragraphs why you ought to be considered further, what message are you giving to the recruiter about your ability to communicate effectively? These days, e-mail is the preferred medium for written communication, so unless you are specifically requested to mail or fax your résumé, send the cover letter by e-mail and attach the résumé. It is a good idea to send a test to a friend’s computer so that you can see how it looks at the receiver’s end.On the following pages is an example of a “dream” résumé. It meets all the criteria that the
recruiter is looking for. How does your résumé measure up?
Alan Davis & Associates Inc. (450) 458-3535 – www.alandavis.com
Alan Davis is founder and President of Alan Davis & Associates Inc., a specialized recruiting practice
with offices in Quebec and Ontario. He is a 22-year veteran in the recruiting and selection arena and
has managed many recruiting campaigns, both in Canada and overseas. He was the architect of the
Canadian Astronaut Recruitment Campaign. His company provides specialized services in recruitment,
selection, and interview training. He is a regular conference speaker and a frequently -published author
on these topics.