Job searching sucks. Sorry — it just does. I can't put a positive spin on it because it's the worst. So often it feels like you're just kind of floating, anonymous and invisible, through online job app after online job app, right? The bad news: yeah, recruiters tend to absorb your entire resume in a few moments. The good news: Top engineering recruiter Ambra Benjamin has taken to Quora to impart some information on the things that recruiters immediately notice about your resume — and with a little effort, they're all things we can easily paint in the best possible light. The more you know, right?
With the job market as it is (which, in case you've been literally living under a rock, is bad), and more Millennials streaming into the workforce every day, it's important to set yourself apart from the herd at each possible moment. A great way to start is with a killer resume that grabs a recruiter by the collar and shrieks, very politely and very adult-like, "HEY, I WOULD BE GOOD FOR THIS JOB, I THINK."
Does the question “What do recruiters look for in a resume at first glance?” freak you out? I for sure got nervous, and then immediately pulled up my own resume because I'm masochistic and enjoy pain and suffering, I guess.
But that's where Benjamin's knowledge — and the knowledge of other experts, which is readily available thanks to the wonders of the Internet — comes in. I highly suggest reading her whole answer (it's chock full of valuable stuff), so head on over to Quora to take a look at it. In the meantime, here are five useful tips I learned from her post, along with a few other tidbits I found while researching the topic further. First impressions matter, right?
1. Your Current or Most Recent Position
Benjamin notes that obviously, if you're currently employed, recruiters want to know why you want this job as opposed to the one you already have — especially if you're been in your position for a relatively short period of time. Important, too, are the skills you've most recently been flexing. Yes, experience is always important, but specific abilities can get flabby if not exercised.
However, you may want to avoid using current work-associated pieces of contact information on your resume. As Amanda Augustine at The Ladders points out, the contact info you provide is (of course) how potential new employers will be getting in touch with you — so using your business email or office phone number has a strong chance of tipping off your boss that you're looking for a new position elsewhere. Protect your own best interests and list your personal email and phone number instead.
2. Overall Experience
Ideally, writes Benjamin, your resume will show professional growth over time. There should be a cohesive, flow-y vibe to the whole thing — Intern becomes Department Coordinator becomes Assistant Manager becomes Associate Director, and so on and so forth. Make sure your jobs relate to one another — or, if they really, really don't, try to illustrate why you chose to leave one job and begin another one.
I know, I know — you might be wondering, “But do job titles really matter? What about my skills and responsibilities?” Adam Dachis at Lifehacker explains that yeah, the titles kind of do matter — especially later on down the line. “You need to care about your job title because it can get you a better job later on,” Dachis writes. “Let go of the egotistical reasons that might make you want something like 'Senior Manager' and aim for the title that'll get you better work later on. You may not need it now, but planning ahead can mean avoiding unemployement later.”
Not in, like, the Microsoft Word spacing of your many, many talents, although the overall organization and aesthetic appeal of your resume is also important. In this case, Benjamin is talking about big gaps of unemployment. If you can't figure out a tactful way to explain these on your resume, be prepared to address it in an interview.
There are a number of ways to handle the "what does this gap mean?" conversation, but many experts recommend being just being honest. The Muse, for example, spoke to career coach and The Essential HR Handbook author Sharon Armstrong about how to explain a gap in your resume, and she recommended, “Don't hide it; explain it. During the entire process of conducting a job search, maintain your integrity and demonstrate it. Jobs come and go, but being known for being truthful… can last a lifetime.” Besides, odds are that you picked up some useful skills during your time of unemployment. Trying to get hired right out of school? Mention any volunteering or extra classes that you took in the interim.
Some recruiters likely will pass up your resume if it seems spotty. But if you work with what you've got, you'll find that you've still got a lot to bring to the table.
This is probably less relevant for certain jobs, but if you are applying for anything within the tech realm, Benjamin says words that directly apply to the potential job function — HTML, and other programming languages if that's your field, for example — are important to note. She even mentions Command + F-ing the heck out of some resumes if they're hard to follow.
But! Also remember that not all buzzwords were created equal. Recruiters speaking with Fast Company recommend avoiding superlatives, cliches, acronyms, and words that have essentially become meaningless over time (like “utilize.” Seriously. Don't use it). The lesson: Use buzzwords, but choose them wisely.
5. Online Footprint
Your mom was kind of right about your future boss finding that embarrassing Tumblr post from 2009, but only if you lead your employer to it. According to Benjamin, most recruiters will check out any sort of external links you provide, whether it be Twitter, a personal website, or a LinkedIn profile, so be extra, extra, extra sure that what you attach to any sort of application is polished and indicative of your readiness for the job, and not your readiness for the world's first sure-fire hangover cure.
Head on over to Quora for more tips from Benjamin's post — then get out there and get employed!
Correction: An earlier version of this article did not properly credit Ambra Benjamin. We regret the error.