Top Recruiter: Things I rarely pay attention to on a 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 don’t look through stacks of resumes anymore. I hate paper. I do everything online.
There has been for many decades, a mysterious Wizard of Oz-type viewpoint of the recruiting world that I think is somewhat misappropriated. People seem to be truly fascinated by what goes on behind the curtain, when in reality, recruiters aren’t running the covert operation many think. “Does this candidate seem like they stand a chance of being a good match for this role? If yes, proceed to next step. If no, reject.”
Things I rarely pay as much attention to:
- Education. There have been times in my career where I could go a month reviewing hundreds of resumes and not recall looking at that section even once. However, I will say that as a university recruiter, I almost always looked at education first because experience is often lacking with new graduates. But if you are not a new graduate, experience is king. I can think of a few exceptions where perhaps a hiring manager wanted a certain pedigree (Wharton or HBS MBA, for example), but even that’s being de-prioritized more and more. I will also add that this changes drastically by industry and company. I currently work in tech, but I’ve also worked in management consulting, and education is huge in consulting. I’ll also add that some tech companies care more about education than others, for example, Facebook definitely more heavily favors engineering candidates who have demonstrated core CS fundamentals by obtaining a computer science degree. However, Facebook employs many engineers who never finished college.
- Fancy formatting. There are exceptions here. I say this with the caveat that I LOVE a creatively formatted resume. However, no amount of fancy formatting is going to make up for a lack of experience. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that if you’re applying to a position online, whether it’s a PDF or not, many companies’ applicant tracking systems parse your resume for information and convert it to pure text as the most immediate viewing format. Recruiters don’t often see how awesome your resume is. The original file is usually there for us, but many recruiters aren’t clicking through. If you’re going to do something fun with your resume, I recommend keeping it PDF and also be sure it converts to text fairly cleanly so it doesn’t come through our system looking wonky. Or just email it to an actual person.
- Uncomfortably personal details. In Europe for example, I’ve noted that it’s very common to list things like family status, citizenship, and sometimes even weight and height on CVs. It’s also common to include a photo. The US is a bit different, and by different I mean very litigious. Many employers are trying to avoid any type of discrimination, so often seeing that stuff on a resume can make recruiters feel uncomfortable. We just want to know about things that pertain to your work history. So please take your photo off your resume.
- Cover letters. There is a debate on this, but I’m sorry, I don’t read cover letters. I want to see the resume. Most of my recruiting colleagues agree, but I know there are still recruiters that do love and value cover letters. I find that a lot of candidates don’t even send them anymore. I’m of the mind that most companies that request cover letters only do so to weed out the people who haven’t bothered to read the directions.
If you take issue with anything I’ve said here, you’re well within your right. Recruiters are paid to be judgmental. I am nothing if not honest.