Top Recruiter: Seconds with Your Resume
This question originally appeared on Quora: What do recruiters look for in a resume at first glance? Answer by Ambra Benjamin, Engineering Recruiter.
I’ll highlight how I personally absorb a resume. I should preface this by saying that currently I primarily recruit for senior-level software engineers. In my past life I recruited for PMs, MBAs, finance, sales, and pretty much all of it. Everything I’m about to say broadly applies to all of these fields. I also was a campus recruiter, and you read resumes of new grads a bit differently since experience is less meaty. So for non-new grads, here’s how it goes in my brain:
Most recent role. I’m generally trying to figure out what this person’s current status is, and why/if they might even be interested in a new role. Have they only been in their last position for three months? If so, probably not the best time for me to reach out, right? Unless they work for Zynga, or somewhere tragic like that (said with great respect for Farmville, the app that put Facebook apps on the map). If it’s an incoming resume, I’m wondering why the candidate is looking now. Are they laid off? Did they get fired? Have they only been in their role for a few months and they’re possibly hating it? But most importantly, is their most recent experience relevant to the position for which I’m hiring?
- Company recognition. Not even gonna lie. I am a company snob. Now don’t get all Judgy McJudgerson about my judgy-ness. Hear me out. It’s not even that I think certain companies are better than others (although some most certainly are). It’s purely a matter of how quickly can I assign a frame of reference. This is also known as “credibility.” Oh you worked at Amazon? Then you’re probably accustomed to working on projects at scale. You’re at a well known crash-and-burn start-up? You have probably worn many hats and have been running at a sprinter’s pace. There are some pretty blatant if/then associations I can make simply by recognizing a company name. Because recruiters have generally been doing this job for awhile, we notice patterns and trends among candidates from certain companies and we formulate assumptions as a result. There are edge cases and our assumptions can fail us, but again, this is a resume review; we’re talking a less than 20-second analysis. Assigning frame of reference is often more difficult to do when a candidate has only worked for obscure companies I’ve never heard of. When I can’t assign company recognition, it just means I have to read the resume a little deeper, which usually isn’t an issue, unless it’s poorly formatted, poorly written, uninformative, and wrought with spelling errors—in which case, you might have lost my interest.
- Overall experience. Is there a career progression? Does the person have increasing levels of responsibility? Do the titles make sense? (You’re a VP of Marketing for a five-person company? Heck, I would be too.) Do the responsibilities listed therein match what I’m looking for?
- Gaps. I don’t mind gaps so long as there’s a sufficient explanation. Oh you took three years off to raise your children? Fine by me, and might I add: #respect. You tried your hand at starting your own company and failed miserably? Very impressive! Gap sufficiently explained. Whatever it is, just say it. It’s the absence of an explanation that makes me wonder. Still, I understand that sometimes people feel uncomfortable sharing certain things in a professional context. If you had a gap, surely you were busy doing something during that time, right? Get creatively honest and just name that period of your life in a way that shows you acknowledge that it might raise an eyebrow.
- Personal online footprint. This is not required. But if you have an online footprint, and you’ve bothered to include it in your resume, I’m gonna click. This includes personal domains, Quora profiles, Twitter handles, GitHub contributions, Dribbble accounts, or anything a candidate has chosen to list. Two out of three times, I almost always click through to a candidate’s website or Twitter account. It’s one of my favorite parts of recruiting. You never know what you’re gonna get.
- General logistics. Location, eligibility to work in the US. I try to make some raw guesses here, but this is not a place of weeding someone out, more just trying to figure out their story.
- Overall organization. This includes spelling, grammar, ease of use, ability to clearly present ideas. If you’re in marketing and you’ve lost me in the first three bullets, I have concerns.
- Total time it takes me to do all of above: < 25 seconds.*
Note: I will likely later read the resume far more in-depth, but only if I already know I like the candidate. It takes me way less than a minute to fully digest a resume and flag that person for follow-up. I read a resume pretty thoroughly once I know I will be speaking to that person on the phone or reaching out via email. But I will not thoroughly read a resume of someone who did not pass the above categories. Recruiters move quickly. I’m trying to remove the barrier for people who might struggle with getting their resume properly acknowledged.