Did You Ever Wonder What That Recruiter REALLY Thinks About Your Resume? And What Can You Do About it?

Did You Ever Wonder What That Recruiter REALLY Thinks About Your Resume? And What Can You Do About it?

Recruiters review resumes for a living (among other things...). A busy recruiter easily reviews THOUSANDS of resumes every month. Did you ever wonder what recruiters like and dislike in a resume?

I decided to ask them! I conducted a highly informal poll (totally nonscientific - I asked a bunch of corporate and agency recruiters and HR managers in email and on LinkedIn) what they like to see in resumes, and what they don't care for. Here are the results, according to real-life recruiting folks!

FYI, these comments reflect the feedback of 20 or so HR folks, and are listed in no particular order. I didn't leave any out, so there are some recurring or slightly conflicting themes. Ready? Let's dive in!

I LOVE a resume that...

*Has enough detail of actual accomplishments, not just responsibilities. I love when results are indicated clearly.

*Is one page.

*Reads like my job requisition!

*Has achievements/metrics vs tasks.

*Is concise and to the point.

*Is organized and straight to the point.

*Provides clear details of one's work history

*Follows the STAR approach (in other words - details a Situation, Task, Action, and Result)

*I do love resumes that have the last 10 to 12 years of experience, each with less than 15 bullets, and a snapshot of skills at the top with a summary. Much easier to read and evaluate.

*When it is really focused on their expertise and their passion of what they do. Showing immediately their dream job.

*A resume that indicates contract positions and reasons why the person left a previous position. It can aid in pre-explaining tenure issues.

*Is organized and shows me what I am looking for, right away. I also like an executive summary, right at the top.

*Has a relevant work history for the job they are applying for.

*Is a clean, concise, well-constructed resume.

*Catches my attention at first glance. Good me format, experience, industry or education.

*Is visually appealing, in chronological order, has details on job duties, and is grammatically (well-written) proficient.

*Really paints the picture of what they do in their job.

*Easy to read, legible font.

*I LOVE a resume that reads like a menu and not a cookbook.

*Has proper formatting.

*Includes a hyperlink link to LinkedIn (or professional social media) profile.

*Accurate employment dates and specific job duties.

*Clearly highlights skill set.

*Clean, concise with relevant information to the role they are applying to.

*Easy to read, quick to see what you want and what you can do for me. Drolly serious bogs me down and I stop reading.

*I also like it when the candidate provides a brief snapshot of the company they worked for; # of employees, annual revenue, industry, and the title of who they reported to as well as number of direct reports.

*A resume that is easy to read (bullets not paragraphs, no small or crazy font and is set up traditionally in a proper format).

*Nicely formatted and easy to read w/ bullet points


It drives me BANANAS (in a bad way) when I see in a resume...

*An objective line that has nothing to do with the position applied (i.e. seeking a job in marketing when the job is technical).

*Their SSN#, nationality, marital status and # of kids.

*No email/phone, and spelling errors.

*Resumes with typos, gross grammatical errors, and incomplete sentences.  But what really drives me crazy is when candidates include their work history back to the 1970s and the resume is 5 pages long.

*When a title does not stand out immediately.

*When I see misspelled words on a resume

*When I see a resume for someone with 5+ years of experience, but has crammed it onto one page. That is not the way to market yourself. Having two pages does not disqualify someone - it simply makes the document easier to read.

*I do not care if you garden, or whatever in your spare time...that is up to you and won't help you get the interview.

*When a resume shows detail on personal information: Birth date, Marital Status, Religion, # of kids etc.

*When candidates don't take the time to research the company they are interviewing with.

*Incorrect job titles referenced in cover letters. We know candidates use cover letter templates but they should take the time to ensure the information quoted is correct.

*Resumes with pictures, age, gender, WEIGHT! No, no, no! This is a big trend in Latin America that is slowly creeping up here in the states.

*A picture on the resume. Unless you are applying to be a model, just no. And weird personal details also do not belong. I also can't stand non specific and useless objectives.

*Major typos, or it's poorly formatted.

*They have worked less than a month at a job and list a half page of their responsibilities.

*That is not in chronological order and does not provide detailed summary of job duties and has misspelled words.

*When a candidate writes a stock introduction in the resume and leaves the wrong title they are pursuing or company name. They batch send it to any company and they don’t take the time to change this.

*Resumes that are too long, 5+ pages.

*Illegible font.

*Cluttered resume with blatant typos

*It drives me b.a.n.a.n.a.s when I see in a resume the word "Manger."

*In different fonts and sizes (that is obviously not on purpose).

*Spelling errors.

*Disorganized format.

*Not putting months with employment dates - If you only put 2013-2014 I assume you were there for a short period of time and immediately start questioning it.

*Poor formatting.

*Poor grammar or spelling.

*Contains portrait pictures.

*Lacks employment dates (Month/Year).

*Does not list dates of employment on their resume.

*Does not spell check.

*The objective is not remotely close to the role that they are applying for (please leave off the objective altogether).

*Typos, including spelling the name of your degree incorrectly. This is suppose to be the "best you" -- find friends to quintuple check your CV.

*When I see in a resume with misspellings.  What an indication that the person does not check their work.

*Generic objective statement, poor formatting and typos.

If there's a message here, it's that there are plenty of things in a resume that can annoy a recruiter and get you knocked out of the process. Here are some key takeaways to make sure your resume doesn't take an express trip to the circular file:

  • Organize your thoughts. Organize them well. Tell a clear story about who you are, what you do, and what you can contribute.
  • Typos and misspellings will kill your application, they demonstrate carelessness. As does putting the wrong job title on the resume or cover letter.
  • Keep it short but relevant. 2 pages, maximum, unless you've got a compelling reason to go beyond that. But most of us don't. Your mommy may believe you're special, but you're not special enough to have a 5-page resume.
  • Leave out the personal stuff unless geography dictates it. In some countries, it's normal to include portraits, social security numbers, dates of birth, etc. The United States is not one of them, and the same rule applies in several other countries. Know your market.
  • Readability matters. Use an attractive font. Format your resume so that there is enough white space. Typeset your pages. If you can't maneuver Microsoft Word, hire somebody who knows the application well to format your resume.
  • Dates of employment are important. Know them. List them.
  • Consider format. There are a lot of creative ways to format a resume. Before doing something trendy or unique, ask yourself if your audience will receive it well. Some career fields, like marketing, may better accept a creative format as a sign of the candidate's own creativity. Others, like IT or accounting, not so much.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).

Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.