Reading Between the Lines of your Resume

By James Hu

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We’ve all seen this popular resume heat map from Business Insider showing which parts of a resume recruiters and hiring managers zone in on. But do you know what they are truly evaluating when they see each component? Once you understand what hiring managers infer from your resume, you will be better able to create a great resume and more equipped to qualify it in an interview or inside a cover letter.

 

Image taken from Business Insider

Current and Past Positions

What do you do now, and how have you grown?

Your current position tells recruiters a lot about what you, as a candidate, can bring to their company. Hiring managers will often check to see if an applicant has a title similar to the open position, as it will show expertise and comprehension of what needs to be done. Recruiters will also scan for the companies you have worked with, which can help to identify industry experience.

When moving from the first position to the second position, a hiring manager will be checking to see if you have grown in title. This would help reveal additional responsibilities and upward mobility. Recruiters are looking for ambitious, motivated individuals who are looking ahead. This will help reveal if a candidate is a big picture thinker, how they are regarded in their field, and capability for growth.

Often times, recruiters using Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS, will search for the exact title of the position they hope to fill to bring those candidates forward. If you do not have that job title, or a similar one, in your resume, consider adding it to a career summary, so you are not ruled out. For example, if I was a long time Operations Associate looking to become a Human Resources Director, my career summary could include a line, such as: Enthused to further specialize as Human Resources Director after implementing a successful company wide training program.

 

Start and End Dates

Are you someone who stays in a position, or do you constantly job hop?

If a recruiter is looking for someone who will grow in the company, seeing longer dates may be important to them, as it demonstrates commitment. If you don’t have much experience or are looking to establish permanence in something that you are certain is the right fit, express that within your cover letter and your interview.

If you have been with a company for a long time, it not only shows your commitment to the job, but it also reveals that the company wanted you with them! It is almost like a vetting process for hiring managers. Once they’ve seen how you have done in another position, they are able to infer how you will do in their own company.

If you do not have much prior career experience, try writing a hybrid resume, which combines skills and experience. By highlighting your experience in this type of resume, a hiring manager will focus more on what you have done in your positions than how long you have been in those positions.

 

Education

Do you meet the position requirements?

The first thing to look at with education is the highest degree attained. Many positions require a certain degree, whether it be high school or a JD. If you do not have that degree, the hiring manager need look no further at your resume. Therefore, when applying to a position that requires a degree, make sure it is visible and explicit on your resume. Because there is a high chance the company is using Applicant Tracking Systems, write out the name of the degree as well as its abbreviation, as oftentimes ATS isn’t sensitive enough to determine the difference.  

What can I learn about you from your education?

Did you follow a career path matching your degree? This is not a deal breaker by any means. Many people find new passions and interests as they go for life. Having studied marketing though going into a marketing field, it is easier for the recruiter to see what your job knowledge might be. If you have always worked in marketing and studied marketing, you may have a different perspective than someone who studied History or English and then transitioned into marketing.

Aside from matching degrees, educational can help classify someone or help the hiring manager to gain a deeper understanding of that person. If you studied acting and are going into sales, for example, the hiring manager may infer that love performing, being in the spotlight, and are able to speak well about a product of company. Or maybe your Philosophy Minor shows a deeper concern of the human condition when you are applying for an Account Executive position at a nonprofit.

Recent graduates should consider including relevant course information and accomplishments, as it can help to round out a resume with less career experience. For those who have been in the career world for a long time, this section can be thinned out.

 

What about Applicant Tracking Systems?

Applicant Tracking Systems are a great tool for recruiters looking for a specific skillset to fit a position, as they make it easy to track the applicants who match. ATS “looks” at resumes differently by parsing them and then ranking applicants skills, positions, or experience.

While they may sort more by the essential keywords of a resume than the names, dates, and positions, they still reveal the same information as a hiring manager- just in a different way. For example, while a person looking at your resume will see whether your experience matches the open position, ATS will display what you have done by skills and keywords. In addition to scanning your resume for keywords, many Applicant Tracking Systems also include cover letters when conducting keyword searches. Be sure to always include an ATS compatible template to optimize results.

 

 

The last thing you should think is that your resume does not matter because no one reads it. In fact, the opposite is true. You should pay more attention to your resume keywords and formatting when your resume will be cross checked between man and machine. To make the most of your resume, tailor it to reflect the keywords in the job description in a natural fashion. The job description is your built-in source to exactly what a hiring manager is looking for, so you don’t even have to read between the lines there! If the job description is not well written, then one can gather more information by LinkedIn-search people with similar titles at the company and identify a pattern in their job responsibilities.


 

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