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6 Things Employers Look for on Your Resume

Don't miss these important elements...

by Janna Kefalas in Job Search, Resumes

As job seekers we often feel like resume mind readers. We wonder…

What do employers really want to see on a resume?

Should I include this?

Or delete that? 

After sending off tons of resumes and hearing radio silence, it’s easy to feel a little “resume insecure.”

As a recruiter I was reviewing tons of resumes each week, so it quickly became obvious which elements were critical in helping me determine if a candidate was a strong fit…and which ones just got in my way.

So here are 6 resume must-haves that will help you land in the virtual YES pile:

Resume Must-Have #1 – A Skills Summary

Since getting your resume through the applicant tracking system is so dependent on skills matching from the job description, creating a skills summary is vital.

And…even if your resume makes it in front of human eyeballs, recruiters are only spending anywhere from 10-30 seconds reviewing it. Therefore, you want to make it painfully clear that you have the right skills for the job.

First, take a close look at the “responsibilities” and “qualifications/requirements” sections of the job description to see which skills the employer values most for that role.

Then create a skills summary at the top of your resume (under your contact info) and list out these specific skill sets.

One thing to note — hard skills make more of an impact than soft skills (which are better assessed in an interview setting).

So based on your job function, hard skills might include: account management, event planning, Photoshop, payroll processing, Javascript, social media marketing, Trello, etc.

But this also means that you’ll need to alter your skills summary slightly based on each job description. So no sending off the same resume for each application! (I know who you are…) 🙂

Resume Must-Have #2 – Accomplishments, not just Responsibilities

Employers don’t care that you just did something, they want to know how and how well you did it. They’re interested in results and ideally want to know some hard data.

So make sure the bullet points under your Experience section start with an active verb and include metrics, illustrating a positive outcome.

Here’s a little bullet point makeover for ya!

• Was responsible for planning fundraising event.

• Planned and executed 400-person, 2-day fundraising event, leading to a 35% increase in donations.

Notice how the second bullet point is written as an accomplishment statement: action→result, with more details and data. Packs a bigger punch, right?

Now, you may not be able to add metrics to every bullet point, but do your best to highlight the outcome of your action.

Resume Must-Have #3 – Your Most Relevant Experience Only

Sometimes as job seekers we think, “Let’s show them everything we got!” But that often leads to listing every single job we’ve ever held and detailing every skill we possess.

Trouble is, recruiters are flying through your resume as quickly as possible, and everything that isn’t relevant to the position they’re hiring for is just a distraction.

So again, tailor each resume to the job description and only include what’s critical to the role you’re applying for, both in your Work Experience and Skills Summary sections.

If you’re worried that removing an unrelated position would create too large a time gap, you can always create an Other Experience section below and include it there.

Resume Must-Have #4 – Clean, Easy-to-Read Formatting

When I was recruiting I saw some real doozies when it came to resume formatting: 4 different font styles, 3 different (loud) colors, and font sizes ranging from 6pt to 20pt.

Sometimes everything was crammed onto one page with virtually no margins — or it extended onto four!

So do those recruiters a favor and save their eyeballs. Keep your resume to one font style and a 10 or 11pt font, depending on the font style you choose. (Your name and section titles can be a little bigger.)

Colors are overrated and often hard to read, so stick to black or a dark shade of gray.

And always, always print out your resume before sending. You’ll be surprised how the spacing can appear differently once you have a hard copy in your hands.

Resume Must-Have #5 – Clear, Concise, Error-Free Writing

Don’t let silly typos or run on sentences derail your chances of landing an interview!

Recruiters and hiring managers view your resume as a writing sample. In their mind, how well you’ve written your resume is a great predictor of how well you’ll compose that sales letter or year-end report.

So keep your writing crisp and to the point. Also, proofread that resume, line by line, at least twice! Better yet — get it into the hands of a trusted friend or career coach to catch any mistakes and provide some honest feedback.

Resume Must-Have #6 – Impressive (and Relevant) “Extras” 

It goes without saying that employers are going to be most focused on your work experience, skills and education.

But other relevant experience and achievements may allow you to stand out from the pack.

► Aside from your traditional education, have you completed any certifications or additional coursework that would be of value to the role at hand?

► Have you won a relevant award or been recognized in a significant way that might impress employers?

► Are you a member of any professional associations or have served on a board within your industry?

► What about related volunteer experience that shows you go the extra mile?

One thing to note — I wouldn’t include hobbies or anything that might reveal religious or political affiliations. (No need to distract with information that could potentially work against you.)

Wrapping It Up

As you can see, having a well-crafted resume with these 6 elements can really help you shine as candidate.

It may seem like a lot to tackle initially, but once you delve into the work, you’ll build your “resume confidence” and start seeing some serious results!