Applying for a job is totally unfair. You have just a few seconds to capture the attention of a hiring manager before your perfect professional resume, the result of hours and hours of writing, editing, crying and breathing into a brown paper bag, is unceremoniously tossed into the trash bin.
But the good thing is that it levels the playing field. Everyone has the same 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper that they need to somehow make into a 3-D image of why they are the best candidate.
There are, however, a few things that recruiters are looking at first. That means in those first few seconds, they’re going to be drawn into one or more of the below items on your resume.
Make 100% percent sure that these items stand out, error-free and well written.
Maddy Foley of Bustle.com writes it better than I could. She writes that a resume should grab a recruiter by the collar and shriek, very politely and very adult-like, “HEY, I WOULD BE GOOD FOR THIS JOB, I THINK.”
To sum it up in a few slightly terrifying words… first impressions matter. Just make sure your first impression is better than everybody else… play the game! The game is not as complicated as we might think. Experts say that a typical recruiter’s thought process is as simple as looking for a good match between candidate and role. If that is found, then you make it to the next round.
The information below will be primarily geared towards newly graduate students and millennials. We tend to have less meaty professional resumes, which means that we are already at a disadvantage side compared to folks who have a bit more professional experience.
But everyone has to start somewhere, right?
Many of the things a recruiter is looking at in the first ten seconds are commonsense. But take a look at this list and make sure that your resume will hit all the points a recruiter may be looking for upon first impression.
These are 15 things Recruiters want to see on your Resume in the first 10 seconds.
Your most recent role
This one is at the top of the page. It is likely to be the best indicator of where you are in your professional career, the skills you possess, and what you will bring to the table in terms of accomplishments.
Here is where a recruiter will form questions or opinions based on how long you have stayed at the position and whether or not you progressed.
Recruiters will see the skills that you’ve been working on most recently, which could be used as an indicator of your success in the job you seek.
The logistics of your life
Where do you live? Don’t list the exact details, but make sure you have the general area (state or city). Are you someone who will need relocation expenses covered? Will you likely need visa sponsorship?
None of these are things that employers are able to make decisions based on but people do look at these things to get clues about your candidate profile.
Logically organized and easy-to-follow
Especially for those of you who are going to put “organized and reliable” in some form or other on your professional resume… make sure the way your resume is written is indeed logical and that flow is from most recent to oldest experiences.
A resume that begins with your experience scooping ice cream when you were 16 not only makes no sense, but it also shows that you haven’t carefully thought through what information is most valuable to a potential employer.
There are no gaps
If you took a year off to travel, volunteer, or play professional tennis until your knee gave out… make sure you include it on your professional resume. Whether or not the experience was in a corporate setting is irrelevant.
Hiring managers will notice gaps and these will raise questions. It’s best to answer them up front, especially if the activity you were doing during the gap is marketable in and of itself.
Someone who took time off to do something useful and worthwhile (say, raising a child) won’t be thrown into the “discard” pile. Instead that’ll be just another tick on the list of formative experiences.
Social Media links
It’s 2017, soon to be 2018. Chances are you will be submitting your resume in a PDF format online. Any links you include should be clickable.
If you include a link to your LinkedIn (and you should), make sure that your profile is up to date and the picture you include is professional and appropriate.
Based on the copious research I’ve done and hiring managers I’ve spoken with about this, it is almost certain that if you include a link to any type of social media on your resume, it will be clicked.
I have an Instagram and Facebook, but would prefer that employers do not have access to either. Who knows what kind of crazy stuff is posted on Facebook from my sophomore year in college. Rather than point potential employers to that, I provide the link to my LinkedIn profile and my portfolio of writing contained on my personal website, both of which are appropriate and professional examples of who I am as a person.
On a side note, make your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter private before you begin the job-hunting (especially if you suspect there may be compromising photos or tweets or any sort of heavy political messaging that could prejudice an employer).
This probably sounds pretty archaic, but if you work at a place with a reputation… you know what I mean by that… then make sure to keep that bolded and visible on your professional resume.
It may or may not make a difference, but with just a handful of seconds to grab someone’s attention, you best make use of all the weapons in your arsenal.
In all of my research, one of the things that hiring managers are keeping an eye on is your progression. From Project Coordinator, to Project Manager, to Team Lead, to Department Manager, you get the picture.
Show that you are worth hiring because you are dedicated, loyal, hardworking and ambitious.
Nowadays, the first person at a company you’ve applied to who will read your resume is not even a person.
Large companies use software to sift through the tons of applications they receive and pull the ones that could be relevant to the position being searched for using keywords.
Make sure you tailor your resume for each position by keeping the job description nearby and adjust your language accordingly. If the job description mentions “attention to detail” as a requirement, use that phrase.
Formatting, font type, spacing, margins
These things didn’t seem particularly relevant when you were writing college essays and they probably don’t seem particularly relevant now… but they are.
You can get creative with your fonts. As long as they are (or look similar to) Cambria, Calibri, Georgia, or Times New Roman. A word of warning – if your professional resume is run through a parsing software, lesser known fonts may not be recognized, which could result in a bunch of gibberish on the side of the recruiter.
Stay on the safe side and toe the line between too creative.
Let’s face it. Someone who is applying for a professional position where they will primarily spend their time sending emails and attending business meetings may not be the most creative soul. That’s fine.
But you must still have a resume that is, on first glance, something that a hiring manager is willing to invest the extra time to pause and skim.
The easiest way to make sure that your resume is visually sound is by having an artistic friend take a quick glance. This has a lot to do with negative and positive space, both concepts from Art History that went entirely over my head.
Get someone’s help if you need to!
You have to make sure that your professional resume is visually pleasing but you don’t have to be the one to do it.
On a side note, lucky for you that I’m giving awesome resume templates. You may visit my Free Resume Templates Downloads page to choose from my collections and use it during your job application.
At first glance, if a recruiter sees a resume that runs on for more than one page, they’re going to quickly check to see if ALL of the words on those pages are full of content and relevant. That takes all of a few seconds.
Chances are you do not need more than a single page of normal sized text (in the 10 to 12 range) using normal margins. If you do need more space than that, seriously consider why and cut out anything (down to the word) that is not 100% necessary.
The fewer words you have on the page, the more impact each single word will have.
Make sure your word choices are perfect and each bullet point is just as long as absolutely necessary. No longer.
Be creative, but within reason
Almost all of us enjoy and exercise our creativity in some way. Whether it’s a particularly elegant mathematical formula or a stellar design for the house you are designing.
But instead of including graphics, photos, crazy text or tables. Keep the formatting simple.
Note that if a computer parses your resume before it gets to the desk of a recruiter, tables can cause issues and the text may become unreadable; Be careful when including hidden tables for formatting.
Don’t include an objectives section
The objective section has been obsolete for quite sometime now. If someone has your professional resume on their desk, they know what your objective is. There is no need to waste words explaining that to them.
Instead, if you feel it will be helpful, skip explaining that you are on the hunt for a job as a legal secretary and instead include a brief summary of your professional experience as it relates to the position you are looking for.
If you have relevant experience, which many of us millennials may not have, feel free to tie that in here. Otherwise, there is no problem and no disadvantage to skipping this.
This is a hard thing to show to recruiters in just a few words, but make sure to infuse your resume with your own personality.
This might look like including a few emotion-based phrases like “excited”, “thrilled”, or “enthusiastic”.
Don’t get carried away. The bulk (99%) of the resume should be cold hard facts and numbers.
You are looking for a professional position. That means that you need to fit the bill at first glance.
Professional Resumes with formatting issues, grammar or spelling mistakes, profanity or negative language are much more likely to be tossed aside than those adhering to a basic level of professional language and look.