Executive resume writer and former search professional Lisa Rangel shares six ingredients on your resume that a recruiter should be able to find fast.

As a search firm executive recruiter-turned-resume writer, I am often asked, “What do executive recruiters look for when they first read a resume?” 

Allow me to first point out an incorrect assumption: resumes are not in fact read by recruiters and search professionals. They are scanned the way most of us scan websites looking for information. 

Think about the last time you looked at a website: You probably didn’t read the entire page or site to determine whether you wanted to take an action or make contact. Most likely, you scanned a page or two on the site, looking for specific keywords and phrases and assessing the visual feel and the content to decide if you should keep clicking through the website or move on to the next search result. 

If you didn’t see something you liked or needed, or if you respond to the user experience, I suspect that you moved on to the next result happily provided by your search engine of choice.

Reading resumes is not very different. 

And this process can take most recruiters as little as 15 seconds….some studies say just six seconds. Your mileage may vary, but suffice it to say that you have a very a short period of time to make a positive impression, no matter how you slice it. 

When performing an initial scan of a resume to determine which candidates I would call, I always looked for the following initial pieces of information, and I trained numerous recruiters to do the same.

  • What job are you applying for?
    In your summary section, have a target title outlining the job you are pursuing, even if the organization has not posted an opening by that title. Don’t risk letting the recruiter decide what job you are qualified for within their company or in their client’s organization. The recruiter may wrongly assume the role you are pursuing and call you for the wrong role. Or worse, if they are not able to decide, they will put your resume in the ‘no’ pile and move on to the next candidate who spells it out for them.

  • Where have you worked?
    If the recruiter has to put effort into finding the names of the places where you have worked recently, and the basics about what those firms do, you are likely to end up in the ‘No’ pile. More than just the names of your past employers are needed to give recruiters important context. An IT Director position at a mid-size regional company firm is very different from an IT Director position at a Fortune 500 company, despite the identical title. Make your employers’ names stand out and include a brief summary or a few bullets about the business they are in, locations, revenues and headcount.

  • When did you work there and for how long?
    Recruiters need to know the chronological order of your employment. Period. Functional resumes or a format that disguises the dates will work against you. They annoy recruiters because they force them to work harder to find the dates and put things into context. A recruiter must have timeframes in order for your resume to have meaning.

  • What are the numbers?
    Recruiters may not take the time during an initial screen to digest every stat and detail, but they still want to see numbers on your resume. When I scan a resume and see no numbers present, it automatically makes me wonder if this person is achievement driven. Companies do not want to hire task masters—they want achievers. Include metrics in some form on your resume—they don’t always have to be financial—to communicate that you are an achiever and that you can articulate in that manner.

  • Where did you go to school?
    Once again, knowing where you went to school helps recruiters put things in context. Contrary to what you might think, recruiters aren’t always looking for candidates who went to an Ivy League school. If you attended a community college and then went on to a Fortune 100 management job, that tells a great story. Similarly, if you attended a prominent school and are engaged in a start-up initiative, that is also an intriguing story.

  • Does your resume look good?
    Ideally, when recruiters click to open your resume, you want them to think, “This person gets it.” You have just a few seconds for that first impression and only one shot to get it right. When a recruiter reads your resume, are they thinking, “What was he thinking with this format?” Is the format dated, visually unappealing and simply hard to read or understand?

    I suggest steering away from Times New Roman and using more contemporary fonts, such as Calibri, Cambria, Arial, Verdana, or Arial Narrow, for example. A hint of color, subtle borders and shading effects in MS Word can make your document pop visually, while still being viewed as a conservative presentation.
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