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Core Considerations That Will Make Your Resume Outstanding

A look at the what, why and how of resumes

Your resume has one primary purpose, to get you an interview, which is a major step in securing the job that matters most.  It needs to position you as a top candidate, with the skills and education that match the requirements in the job posting. The resume needs to  be engaging and position you confidently, honestly, and persuasively. Simply put, it is your primary marketing asset and is continually subject to revisions based on career stages or changes.

Let’s get into this by looking at the elements that will help your resume stand out from the crowd. Hiring managers and recruiters spend an average of less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume, and the  majority of this time is spent in specific areas that we’ll explore shortly, but first let’s consider these key points. An Outstanding Resume must be:


The first key element of a great resume is that it is targeted to a specific role or type of role. Focus on the skills required for the job you seek; delete anything and everything extraneous, regardless of how important you may think they are. Do not be a hoarder of your past. Let go and become…


The “ten-second resume” requires you to tell your story in as few words as possible.  Boil down every sentence and word for maximum effectiveness. 


Remember you are selling you! Present a clear understanding of who you are, and what differentiates you from other candidates. Use the summary section to get this information across as succinctly as possible. 


This is important. Prospective employers want to know what you have accomplished in previous jobs. We’ll be looking at using achievement statements to express your value (ROI) to the organizations you have been or are currently associated with.

If you were to use a mantra as you work on your resume, a good one might be something like this: Targeted, Concise, Branded, Show ROI…Oh my! (repeat…)

When I am looking at a resume I look to really see how this person  was a value-add to the companies they’ve worked for or interned for. What did they bring to the team? It is important to have everything quantified – hiring managers are always looking at numbers; did you reduce costs in a certain amount of time, or process a certain amount of paperwork in a given week? Please document this work on your resume!”  

Advice from an anonymous recruiter

Surviving The Initial Resume Scan

Studies have shown that when recruiters scan resumes: where they look, what they look for, and how long they review a resume. Most spend about ten seconds making their initial “fit/no fit” decision. This highlights the  importance of a highly targeted, concise resume with no extraneous information. 

The majority of recruiters quickly scan the following data points: Name (heading),  previous position/employer start and end dates (by year – no points for months), Current position/employer start and end dates  (visible ROI for employer?), education and other, more subtle, points like format, length, style and font, overall look and feel. 

Beyond these points recruiters do little more than scan for keywords to match the open position, which amounted to a very cursory “pattern matching” activity. Explanatory copy becomes extraneous filler and has little to no, (or negative), impact on the initial decision making.

Who Reads Your Resume And What They Look For 

Your resume will likely be read by various people – an initial screener, Human Resources and/or the hiring manager, and perhaps members of the team. Each group has unique needs and focuses on different parts of the resume, providing it gets through the initial screening. Let’s  explore each audience and what they seek. 

Initial Screener: 

Your resume may get a “first pass” review by an initial screener. They will look at specific details to make sure  the resume matches the position/company needs. Their goal is to cull the candidate pool quickly. Some of the  information they for: 

  • Do you have the required degree and/or certification?
  • Are you located where the job is, does it matter?  
  • Experience that fits the job requirements? 
  • Specific software or other technical skills Required? 
  • Do you have related industry expertise?

Applicant Tracking Software: 

Increasingly, the initial scan is performed electronically by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), a software  application designed to help recruit employees more efficiently. It is estimated that roughly 50% of all mid sized companies and almost all large corporations use some type of applicant tracking system. 

ATS systems primarily use keyword searches to find candidates that most closely match the requirements of a  position. 

To increase your chances of being selected, rework your resume using keywords from the job posting in your resume. 

Human Resources (HR): 

Whether the initial screening is electronic or human, the next reviewer, depending on company size,  is likely to be from Human Resources. The HR specialist will look to answer these questions: 

  • Do you have the experience needed to do the job? 
  • Will you be a good fit with the company culture? 
  • Are there any red flags that may indicate problems? 

HR usually spends more time on the second point. They will carefully read your summary, noting tone and word  choice as personality indicators. They focus on your previous employers and how long you were in each  position. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are carefully assessed. Sloppy formatting or cut-and-paste errors  rarely slip by unnoticed. Red flags may pop up during this review. Having a number of jobs in a short period of time or gaps between  periods of employment are typical red flags. HR will look more closely at these situations to see if they can  determine the cause. Some red flags are minor and won’t stop you from moving to the next level, while others are too big to ignore. We’ll cover how to address red flags in the Summary section. 

HR will also look at the resume holistically. Does it tell a story of a person who provides increasing value to the organization(s) they have worked with? After the initial pass they will likely look online at social media as part of the background check and add additional information obtained to your file as it moves along the process for consideration. Be sure your online presence will further your career, not derail it. 

Hiring Manager: 

Another reviewer is the hiring manager who would likely be doing the “HR” for companies that are not large enough for a full HR department. This person will look very closely at your previous  employment, education, and most especially – your accomplishments. They look for a candidate who can do  the job with enthusiasm and bring some energy to the mix. They seek a person who has a passion for the position and a commitment to the company mission, vision and values. 

Team Members: 

This group often includes peers that you would be working with along with management.  They will review your resume and file to make sure your skills match the needs of the job. They are looking for clues about your fit into the culture, and more specifically – the immediate team. 

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