How to get recruiters to shortlist your resume

A big tip is that if you make a recruiter’s job easier, then it may help get your resume into the shortlist folder.  Most recruiters are great people who love their job of matching great candidates to jobs where they will excel. However, there are things you can do to increase your chances of success.

Most recruiters have a constant number of vacancies to fill and experience pressure especially when every company wants their candidates yesterday.  For some vacancies, there could be hundreds of candidates.  Similarly, managers have to recruit for a vacancy in their team and must do it in addition to their day job while they are usually short-staffed.  This often leads to a shortage of time and may lead to your resume not being looked at fully.

With a few easy steps, you can make it easier for the recruiter to put your resume in the shortlist folder.

 1.      Resume is a career summary

A resume is a summary of the last 10 years or so of your career.  Depending on your career, it should probably fit on 1-2 pages and no more than 3 pages.

A curriculum vitae or CV is usually a full career history.  Some employers such as universities do require a full CV but generally, corporate roles only require a resume.

  • Ensure you include your accomplishments or achievements and not the role description or duties. A reader doesn’t care about what you were supposed to do but wants to know what you did do.
  • Cull each role to 2 or 3 bullet points.  Use a maximum of 4 bullet points for your most recent job where each bullet is relevant to the job for which you are applying.
  • Remove old or irrelevant roles. The recruiter doesn’t need to know what you did last century.  If relevant, you can add one line “Prior to 2000, a range of roles which include ….“ and then list the relevant jobs on one line.
  • Review your education and certificates to see if they are relevant for this application.  Recruiters want to know your degree(s) but they don’t want to know that you did an Excel course 7 years ago.
  • If you feel uncomfortable with a shortened resume, consider a line at the end which says “Full career history CV available upon request”.

2.      Make it easy for readers to quickly understand your skills and experience

Recruiters and managers have large workloads and can have hundreds of resumes for a single job.   Don’t assume they will read everything on your resume. 

On many occasions, a recruiter will quickly read the top section and then make a decision to read on or to discard the resume.

  •  Ensure that the top third of the first page is very engaging.  Consider printing the page and cutting off the top third. See if it sells you enough for the reader to want to know more.
  • Have clear sections for your resume: Profile, Summary, Experience, Certifications, and Awards with the relevant headers.
  • Ensure that it is obvious why you are applying for this job.  If it is not obvious from your resume (perhaps the job is outside of your field or location), then ensure a cover letter tells the story.
  • If you think that the reader may not know your current employer, perhaps it is small or local, add one or two lines to describe the company, perhaps the industry and a key product. 
  • Remove all TLAs (three letter acronyms).  In many companies, there are lots of words and terms that don’t make sense outside of the company.  Review your resume to see if a person who does not work in your company or industry would understand the meaning of each bullet point.

3.      Ensure your resume is well presented

Attention to detail is important.  Many recruiters immediately reject a resume when they see errors in spelling or grammar.  The focus on detail is important for every aspect of your resume.

  • Ensure that spelling is correct.  Have 2 or 3 people proofread your resume, preferably people with excellent attention to detail.
  • Confirm consistency through the whole resume including font, paragraph spacing, alignment, and size formatting.  Arial or Times Roman are the best fonts to use.
  • Check the grammar and consider using a program such as Grammarly.
  • Ensure that you are sending the correct file type for the submission.  If the company is using an Applicant Tracking System, use .doc files.  If it is going to a person, then use a .PDF format.
  • Use your name in the resume filename.  Often recruiters will move all the resumes to one folder. It is helpful to have the filename contain your name, for example, John Smith. This makes it easy to find your resume.
  • Do not call your file “resume 28”. Recruiters may think that you have been applying for lots of jobs and are probably having trouble getting one.

About Job Toolbox

Job Toolbox runs one-day workshops in Australian capital cities to give people the tools and skills to move to their next or ideal job. In the Job Toolbox workshop, you will learn critical career success skills including:

  • developing a career plan to highlight the steps to your next or ideal job
  • creating a convincing resume that targets any job you apply for
  • enhancing your LinkedIn profile to ensure that recruiters find you
  • preparing for the interview so you can answer interview questions with confidence, and
  • negotiating your salary effectively

The Job Toolbox workshop was created to give everyone, in any role, in any industry, the skills and tools to create and action their own career plan to achieve their career goals.

Book a workshop

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