I am often asked about what I look for when I read a CV and how long it takes to screen a resume.

This process can take as little as 10-15 seconds – especially when I receive over 150 applications for one role, as it was the case with a  one role I was recently recruiting for.

When performing initial reviews, this is the information I look out for:

1) Do you have the relevant skills?

If you have the skills listed on the job description, make sure the recruiter knows it within 3 seconds of looking at your resume. It is important you have either a Summary or Skills section, which is tailored depending on which job you’re applying for.

If the job you’re applying for has a different title to what you’re currently doing, it might be worthwhile putting the target job title in the summary section as well. I’ve recently spoken to a client who I thought had a good resume – until she’s sent me examples of jobs she wanted to apply for. Her resume was not tailored to these jobs and I’d never even guess she wanted the role based on her recent position.

2) Where did you work?

Sometimes the same titles mean different jobs or at least jobs at very different levels in other organisations. Director of Finance at a small training company and a Director of Finance at a Fortune 500 company are very different jobs, despite the same title.

Typically, if you’re applying to work for a large multinational organization, they’d want someone who’s worked for a similar type of a company before.

3) How long did you work there?

Recruiters need to know all the dates of your employment. Functional resumes or any format that disguise the dates only annoy us, since we need to work out the dates and put things in context.

It is good having a Skills section on top of your resume – in fact I’d always recommend it –but make sure you list your experience in reverse chronological order. And if you’ve had some short-term jobs and you were let go e.g. because of redundancy/being laid-off, I’d mention the reason for leaving. When I see a lot of short-term jobs with no explanation that they were contracts, I am unlikely to call this candidate for a permanent job.

4) Is there a career progression?

Can you demonstrate increasing levels of responsibility? Do the titles make sense? (You’re a VP of Sales for a 5 person company? I could be, too!) Do the responsibilities listed match what I’m looking for?

5) Where are the numbers?

While recruiters might not pay attention to every small detail on your resume in that first scan, they want to see some numbers/tangible achievements. Resumes that are very “duty oriented” and don’t show any quantifiable results are not that attractive to top employers.

6) Where did you go to university?

Now, this won’t be relevant to every job and I personally think experience counts more than education, but in some of the companies I’ve recruited for, hiring managers often wanted only people from the top 10-20 universities in the country (at least for the management or analytical positions).

7) Does your CV look good? Is it easy to read?

It is important your CV is well formatted and without spelling mistakes. I sometimes see resumes with 3 different fonts or some complicated tables, and this is doing damage to your presentation. Also, can you present ideas clearly and concisely? Bullet points work better than long pieces of writing.

For more information on how recruiters read resumes, check out my FREE 5-day video course “You’re HIRED!”




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