It's one of those "million dollar questions" job seekers have: How do I get my resume noticed and make myself stand out as a job candidate? I'd like to share some insights, from an insider's point of view, that may or may not surprise you. And, although many of our positions at MCPc are technology-related, my comments generally apply to most professional positions.
I remember the first time I brought a pile of resumes home to review in the evening after work. That was ten years ago, before resume reviewing went high tech, which I'll get to momentarily. Anyway, my husband was astounded at the time, or lack thereof, that I actually spent reviewing each resume. How, he wondered, could I ever get a feel for a candidate through such a brief perusal of their resume? What a shame considering all the time and effort they no doubt put into creating the documents.
But herein "lies" an important recruiter mantra (pun intended)!
Resumes are marketing pieces; applications are legal documents. The point is, when a recruiter looks at a resume, they can easily scan it for some key leading indicators of a candidate's potential success and easily recognize falsehoods. What I was looking for was:
- Keywords such as required certifications,
- Accomplishments and responsibilities, clearly presented with bullet points,
- Brevity - a lengthy resume is not effective.
Resumes today are keyword searched.
Here's the "high tech" part I mentioned: Nowadays, many resumes come into company databases through ads or online applications, and can be scanned for keywords. This makes it even more important for candidates to mention keywords, industry catch phrases and certifications they possess on their resumes, so that programs searching for such words recognize their resume as being qualified. For example, if the certification required for a position is not listed, the resume won't even make it to the recruiter for review if they have assigned that certification to the keywords they are searching.
So, let's say your resume contains the keywords necessary to end up in the recruiter's inbox for a position; it must then be formatted properly. What I mean is it needs to be:
- Clear and concise
- Devoid of all typos
- Not too long, with bullets for easy reading
- Packed full of accomplishment-centered wording
Recruiters want to see that you understand the big picture - what you've done to contribute to your prior employer's success. For additional information, check out the many resources available online: we use http://www.dice.com/ and http://www.monster.com/ for our large candidate search engines, but many industry segments have their own specialized services and databases as well.
Connect with the Recruiter
After meeting all of the above requirements, if you can do so concisely, feel free to incorporate a few fun facts to warm the recruiter up to you as well. Ever hear of the halo effect? Wikipedia's definition explains that, "the first traits we recognize in other people influence our interpretation and perception of later ones because of our expectations."
In other words, candidates can be judged as being better qualified simply if they have something in their background that the recruiter can relate to, such as an affiliation with the same school or groups. Do your research and tailor your resume accordingly. For example, if you worked for a company that won the NorthCoast99 Award and you see that MCPc also won that award, you might want to mention it on your resume for a job here. Or, if you see on LinkedIn that the HR director of the company you're applying to volunteers at the same agency as you, be sure to include that in a list of organizations in which you're involved.
If your resume stacks up similarly in comparison to others in terms of qualifications and experience, information like this might help yours stand out to a recruiter if you share similar interests.
Are you an HR or corporate communications professional? What do you look for when evaluating resumes? To everyone else, what is the best resume-writing tip you've ever received?
Beth Stec is the Director of Corporate Communications and Human Resources at MCPc, and is responsible for the development and management of personnel programs and policies. Connect with Beth on LinkedIn.