HR MATTERS: What Employers are Really Looking at When They Review Your Resume

Searching for a new job? Just graduated and entering the workforce? (Congrats!) Keeping your eyes open for new employment opportunities? Then you need a strong resume!  

I’ve reviewed many, many resumes over the years, and let me tell you, a lot of them are terrible. And, to be honest, the ones that are well done rise to the top – even if they might not belong to the most qualified candidate. I have several clients right now who have received hundreds of applicants for open positions, and you better believe the resume review part of the hiring process is critical to getting an interview. In fact it’s usually one of the very first steps in the overall process (i.e.: no one reads the cover letter if the resume isn’t good).


5 Ways to Help Your Resume Stand Out

  1. Pretty! It needs to be visually appealing. No really, it needs to look good. There should be white space, good margins, a professional font, consistent formatting, easy to read.

  2. Brevity! It shouldn’t be longer than 1 page (front and back) unless you have had 10+ years in the workforce (and honestly even then I would advise that less is more) or you are in a field where a longer resume is standard (i.e. academics). Which brings us to #3…

  3. Clear & Concise! It should read with clarity, there should be no fluff. Use action verbs, and mix them up—when you use the same word over and over again your resume is boring and shows poor writing skills and a lack of creativity. There is no need for long sentences. Resumes are for the facts—just enough to make the reviewer interested enough to bring you in for an interview to hear the details.

    Include some numbers to show impact (but as with all things, don’t be obnoxious with the facts and stats).

  4. Proofread! Review it and then send it to your most grammar-savvy friend to review and edit. Then review it again. Do not have a typo or a spelling error on a resume.

  5. Customized! Create a standard resume that you customize for the specific position. You probably have a ton of skills, you won’t be able to share them all in one resume. Highlight the skills and experience listed in the job posting – using the exact key words is recommended, especially for government or university jobs with online applications.

As a bonus, about the overall process: follow the directions of the job posting. If they ask you to save a file in a certain way—do it! If they ask you not to call—don’t call! If they tell you who is reviewing resumes, address your email and cover letter to that person.

Good luck! And to everyone currently hiring—I hope this helps you find the right person to hire!

We do hiring work here at The Spark Mill, and are always willing to do resume reviewing among the many steps it takes to help you find your next superstar employee. Feel free to contact me to learn more.