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What HR Insiders Really Think of Your Resume

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Sheri Welsh

After almost 20 years in the recruiting business, I definitely have a bias for what I like to see in a resume and what I don't, but I wondered, "What do the HR experts have to say about resumes? What are their preferences when reviewing a resume for the first time?"

I turned to a seasoned group of local HR leaders to gather their input, whose experience in total spans more than 100 years in Human Resources! They are:

We posed the following four questions to the group and, as you'll see, uncovered some great insider information.

What are the first things you look for in a resume?

Premer shared, "At first glance, the resume needs to be clean and concise. If not I'll push it to the side and go on to the next. It needs to be clean and easy for me to get all of the information I need."

The first thing that Baldwin notices on the resume is the candidate's name.

She said, "I look at how someone's name is printed on the page and where it's printed. Small and tiny projects that candidates are meek and lack confidence in themselves."

Our leaders agreed that they tend to do a quick scan of a resume to immediately assess a candidate's overall job history and education.

Mei said, "I look for job history patterns. Are there gaps in their employment? Is each assignment they have had a progression built by design?"

Several of our experts also agree with Burkheimer who offered this advice, "Don't just send a generic resume to everyone. Have a base resume that you tweak for each job you're applying for. You'll appear to be a better fit."

What things do you think make a resume stand out?

Mei is immediately drawn to a good overall layout and well selected font.

She said, "I like to read a resume that is easy on the eyes."

Akers likes to see "awards or honors received based on results or things they've done with an employer. We are very focused on results and like to see overachievers."

Chabot agreed, and added, "A resume stands out when it is written clearly and succinctly and does a good job of describing the candidate's skills, accomplishment, technology, and systems used in a manner that a layman can understand."

Premer said, "Strong LinkedIn and Twitter participation or writing for a blog stands out to me. We're all in sales. If someone isn't selling themselves, I wonder how they will sell for us."

She went on to share that, "Having a lot of community involvement is very important to me. If I have ten resumes in front of me and three have good community involvement listed along with their experience these will be the three candidates that I call first."

What are your pet peeves?

Our experts agreed on many items that they just don't want to see in a resume, including:

  • Errors - grammatical, spelling, typos
  • Lengthy or flowery objective statements
  • A listing of job duties with no description of real accomplishments
  • An incomplete address, including missing cell numbers or email addresses
  • Quotes from other people
  • A resume written in chronological order instead of reverse chronological order
  • Paragraphs of information instead of bullet points
  • A listing of every training session you've ever had
  • Personal information such as age, race, religion, marital status
  • Personal photograph

Chabot also cautioned candidates about the resume length which she says should be, "one page for someone early in their career and no more than two pages if they are advanced in their career."

What's the quickest way for a resume to land in your reject pile?

Our experts overwhelmingly agreed that excessive job movement and gaps in employment history throw up immediate red flags for them.

Burkheimer said, "That's an immediate turnoff for our managers. If someone has moved around a lot I won't even get to into reading their resume."

Mei noted that the fastest way for a resume to drop off of her desk is to show "sloppiness."

Baldwin agreed and said, "Attention to detail is reflective of the kind of work that you might do for our company."

Chabot mentioned that a candidate who "applies, but doesn't have anywhere near the qualifications required for the role feels like a spam resume and I'll let it go right away."

Time is at a premium for these busy HR leaders. Premer said, "We get so many applicants here. If I can't quickly see what I need to see in a resume it will get put aside and I'll never get back to it."

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