What Do Employers Look for in A Resume?


Find out what exactly matters for employers in a resume

Have you heard that 40% of employers spend less than a minute to determine if your resume is interview-worthy? With this limited time frame, it’s naïve to expect that they will read it top to bottom. Instead of reading the document through, hiring managers rather scan them to spot the details they deem the most important. And only if the initial screening was satisfactory, they give a resume a deeper consideration.

So, what the essential elements that employers look for in your resume are? And how recruiters read and evaluate the incoming applications? Our expert resume writer has the answer. Hiring managers and recruiters are the target readers of your resume. So, as you adapt the resume based on their expectations and demands, you’ll get every chance to get noticed and shortlisted.

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10 elements that improve your resume’s likeability for recruiters

It’s time to look at the resume from the employers’ point of view. Learn the top things that employers pay attention to in the first place:

1. Readability and neat layout

The way your resume looks creates an initial impression about you. And this impression can be irresistibly good if you submit a well-designed resume that uses an easy-to-read font and a skimmable format. On the contrary, you can discourage the recruiter from reading your application if the document is visually busy, cluttered, poorly structured or the font is too small. Poorly formatted resume make a subtle impression that you don’t value recruiter’s time or didn’t bother, both of which won’t work in your favor. So, take enough time to polish the document visually.

2. Company names and job titles

If you’ve worked for a huge international company such as Google or Amazon, this will bring you more attention than if you worked for an unknown small business. Company name is not everything, of course, but a reputable brand will pique the recruiter’s interest for sure. So, if you were an employee in a well-known company or are affiliated with them in any other way (i.e. these companies were your vendors or clients), be sure to show off this fact.

Similarly, you might want to adjust the job titles so that they better reflect the nature of your work. If you were hired as a receptionist but in fact undertook a lot of office manager’s duties, feel free to give yourself an Office Manager title.

3. Dates of tenure

In addition to job titles, hiring managers quickly browse dates. They want to know how many months (or years) you’ve spent in each role. Sticking with the same employer for 3+ years is interpreted as loyalty, whereas holding a number of jobs for 2-3 months can be seen in job-hopping. The latter is often seen negatively by employers as they assume you’re hard to work with or tend to underperform.

If that’s the case with you, reveal their concerns in advance. If you were laid off because of merger/acquisition, or the company went out of business because of coronavirus pandemic, you can mention this fact under the company name. Were the frequent job changes caused by other factors? Use a cover letter to explain that.

4. Education

Education itself isn’t a key concern for recruiters. In fact, 36% of jobs advertised require high school diploma only. Yet, if the job asks for a specific degree (i.e. Bachelor’s in Marketing), you need to make sure it’s to place. The name of your school matters as well – an MIT graduate will definitely get higher chance for consideration. Career experts recommend that you also list relevant certifications, training, and MOOCs – it will show the recruiter that you’re motivated for professional grown. Moreover, improving your skills constantly is one of the key things to do for career success.

5. Accomplishments

Employers love accomplishments for a few reason. Firstly, listing accomplishments shows you as an ambitious candidate who is eager to make a difference, not just to show up in the office. And secondly, they allow the employers a proof of your professional competencies. Any sales rep can, for example, assist customers and help with additions to purchase, but few can double sales in just one quarter.

If you struggle figuring out what your accomplishments are, follow our advice. Any professional situation when you exceeded expectations or were recognized by management can count as achievement. Just be sure to add figures and context for maximum impact.

The job seems to stress you out recently? Find out how to handle workplace anxiety: https://resumeperk.com/blog/how-to-deal-with-anxiety-at-work.

6. Your skillset

Since hiring managers look for an employee to perform specific tasks, they need to be sure the candidate has the right combination of knowledge and skills. Ideally, your resume should persuade them that a) you’ve got the exact skillset the employer asks for and b) you are proficient in all of those skills. Resume consultants recommend that you list the most important skills after the career summary and then prove those skills by examples below in the resume.

Among the skills which are in demand for a vast range of jobs are communication, customer service, problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.

7. Matching experience

The key word here is “matching”. Not all kinds of experience matter – sometimes it’s even helpful to leave the irrelevant experience out. If you are looking to continue your career line, the previous jobs already have similarities with your target one. Yet, you can go even further and target it even more. For example, if you’ve worked as an office manager but would like to apply for project management role, highlight the experience in budgeting, managing staff, and creating schedules.

If you’re switching career or industry, the task is tougher. You need to explain how your previous experience translates to a target role. The hiring manager won’t do this work for you – the connections should be obvious at a glance.

8. A consistent career story

Your resume should read like a coherent career story, not a kaleidoscope of jobs which are barely interconnected. Simply put, the logic between your career movements should be obvious. A hiring manager has to understand why you started an X job, then proceeded to Y role and worked your way up to Z. If connections between your career choices aren’t easy to follow, consider touching upon the underlying theme between them in a career summary or a cover letter.

Ideally, if your resume can also display the vertical or horizontal progression. If you were promoted or were given more responsibility, be sure to specify this fact.

9. Strong online presence

73% of employers have hired a candidate through social media. This statistic alone shows the growing importance of online presence for an effective job search. Obviously, once the recruiter has studied your resume, they’ll want to know better about your personality as well. And social media works perfectly for this purpose, sometimes revealing even more than the candidate intended to share.

The rule of thumb is to polish your both LinkedIn page and personal social pages in advance. Remove any information that can make an inappropriate impression. Also, make sure that the online profiles send the same message and highlight the same qualities that your resume does, forming a holistic story. If you plan to apply online via different platforms, take a look at these tips for searching a job online.

10. Keywords

The hiring manager won’t specifically look for keywords when reading resumes. Yet, if your resume lacks them, it may not make it to the hiring person’s table. If the company uses ATS – most of employers use them these days – a keyword-poor resume will be tossed before a human reviews it. So, read the job listing carefully and mimic its language, including skill names, qualifications, and other requirements. This will increase your chances to pass an electronic selection successfully. Just be sure to avoid “keyword staffing” – copying and pasting the keywords mechanically and turning your resume into an unreadable mess.

Bonus: What employers look for during an interview?

As you start getting interview invitations, it’s also important to know what traits the employer pays attention to at this stage:

Your general preparedness. Have you researched the company, the key facts about it and its values? Do you give well-thought-off answers to questions or mumble and say something as “Erm…I’m not sure…”? The interviewer sees in a moment if you’ve done your homework, and see lack of preparation as lack of motivation. 

Your culture fit. Employers want to hire someone who respects and share their values and mission – it reduces turnover and makes teamwork more productive. So, share that you’re aware of company’s values and explain how they align with yours. Dress appropriately – clothes reflect your culture fit, too!

Your awareness of your strengths. An interview is no place for shyness. You should confidently explain what your strengths are and how they can help the company. Similarly, you need to share your past accomplishments and explain why they were valuable for your previous employer.

Is your interview is going to take place online? Learn the tips to nail a video interview: https://resumeperk.com/blog/top-15-video-interview-tips.

Get a resume that the employers will love

If you feel stuck in your current job, want to earn more or are simply looking for better prospects, start your job-hunting efforts with creating a strong resume. Whether your old resume simply needs a little makeover or you need a new one, contact our resume editor online. Our professionals will create an outstanding resume for you, taking the employer’s requirements and your strengths into account. All new customers are eligible for a 20% discount – learn more about our services and prices.

Not sure how your resume looks in the eyes of the employer? Send it to us for a free review, and receive feedback from a pro resume writer.

Our experienced writers can create a powerful resume suitable for each position. However, you may also request a specific resume depending on the job you are applying for, thus it will be tailored individually for your profession:

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