Recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds skimming each resume, according to a 2018 study by career website Ladders. "If they're interested, they're going to spend more time," says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume. But at first, "they're spending less than 10 seconds deciding whether or not to delete your application."
Recruiters "tend to spend the most time looking at the top third of that resume," says Augustine. That top third often includes the executive summary or a section that summarizes your strengths and experience. It's typically 3-5 sentences.
When writing your summary, think about how you'd want to pitch yourself to your prospective employer, highlighting skills and experiences relevant to the role you're applying for and giving proof that you could be successful in it. Be succinct, clear, and engaging.
While recruiters are looking at that top portion, they're also "going to look for validation of that information throughout the resume," says Augustine. "You have to be able to back it up with examples."
Say, for example, your executive summary mentions that you're a great salesperson. When you lay out your job experience, include specific, helpful examples. If you beat your sales quota consistently in your last position, include that in a bullet. If your technique was so good your boss tasked you with training new sales hires, make sure to mention that.
It's important to keep in mind, says Augustine, that "yeah, they're only spending 7.4 seconds [on first read], but if that gets you into the 'for further consideration pile,' then the rest of the resume must follow through."
Recruiters are also "looking for relevant keywords, skills, and experiences" throughout your resume, says Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. That is, they're looking to see if what's important to the employer in a new hire for the role is reflected in the resume.
"Job descriptions are typically written in descending order," she says. "The most important and most relevant parts of the job are towards the top and then it goes down towards the bottom to the least important."
Video by Courtney Stith
Depending on the role you're applying for, you should consistently be editing your resume to mirror language in the job description ― as long as it's actually reflective of your experience.
Read the job description thoroughly to get a sense of what the company's priorities are, then tweak your resume to include whatever relevant experience you might have that matches what they're most looking for. You can even use some of the same words featured in the job description.
If they're looking for someone with management experience and in your last position you led a team of five and regularly beat quarterly goals, include that as a bullet. If they're looking for someone well-versed in various coding languages, give specific examples of the platforms you've used to write code and what you did with them.
Whatever those priorities listed at the top of the description are, those are the ones a recruiter will be looking for upon initial scan to gauge your candidacy and decide if you could be a fit.
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