How to “read” a Resume

Chris Allaire
Chris Allaire

When we run across a bad resume, the first impulse a lot of us have is to toss it in the thanks-but-no-thanks pile. Who has the time to slog through a resume that’s incorrectly formatted or poorly organized?

But here’s the thing: Some of the worst resumes are sent in by perfectly good job candidates. A few might even be excellent.

Here at Averity, a top recruiter in technology, we’ve seen a lot of “bad” resumes. Sometimes, especially with younger applicants, they include information that isn’t relevant at all. Those from more seasoned professionals often have the opposite problem. They include all their experience, which can sometimes go on for pages and pages. Either way, it can make reading through them quite a chore.

That’s why we work with all our talent on presenting exactly the information that companies are looking for, including salary range, most relevant skills, goals and motivations for their next career move, reasons for looking, who they are as a person, and what is important to them. 

We boil all that down to what we call the “X Factor.” That’s a sentence or two describing what sets them apart from the crowd. We make sure that you know the key information about the candidate right away.

A lot of employers ask us about the best way to read resumes. The first thing we tell them is to actually read them. Don’t rely too much on your company’s applicant tracking system or keyword searches. They are great at searching for certain terms, so there’s no reason not to use them to filter out applicants that don’t meet your basic requirements. But even the best ATS platforms, the ones that take advantage of the latest advances in artificial intelligence, aren’t always on the mark when it comes to deciding which candidates are worth bringing in for an interview.

First, take the time to glance through the applicant’s cover letter. This is where many applicants mention experience that didn’t seem to fit on the resume. It’s also where they might bring up related experience that make them valuable team members. Look for a mention of why the applicant thinks they would be a good fit at your company — that’s a good indication that the applicant has done their homework.

With online applications widely available, job-seekers can apply for a nearly unlimited number of jobs at the same time. But that doesn’t mean that they should send out the same documents to everyone. As you review the resume itself, look for evidence that they have tailored it for the job you have posted. The experience they highlight should be relevant to your company.

Don’t limit your search to candidates with a narrow range of skills. It’s understandable that you want to find the most qualified person for the job. Certain skills are not negotiable. But consider everything the candidate can bring to the table. For example, they might have project management skills that would make them valuable on an upcoming campaign.

Don’t forget the so-called “soft skills” like creative thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication. Often overlooked, these skills are critical when building a strong team. I recently spoke with a business owner who had recently hired two or three entry-level staffers who had less experience than he initially was looking for. He said he was confident that could bring them up to speed on the technical aspects of the job. What he couldn’t do was teach them intellectual curiosity, emotional intelligence, and how to work with others in the department.  

It used to be that gaps in a resume raised red flags for hiring managers, but almost half of all employers say that is no longer the case. They realize that many people have left their jobs because of changes in the job market. A gap of more than a few months is something that will probably come up in an interview, but is no longer a deal breaker.

So what should catch your attention? People move from job to job more often than they did in the past, but frequent job hopping can signal someone who isn’t likely to stay around for long. On the other hand, staying at one job too long might show a lack of ambition. The same goes for a series of jobs that don’t show any advancement. All of these are certainly worth asking about.

The point I’m making is that you should keep an open mind when you’re reading through a resume. If someone doesn’t have quite the qualifications you’re looking for, consider their other skills. You might find that someone whose resume doesn’t quite measure up has a lot to offer.

Chris Allaire
Chris Allaire

Chris is an entrepreneur, pilot, avid golfer, pretty awesome cook, crab cake connoisseur, guitar player, and a proud husband and father. When Chris isn’t playing with his 2 daughters or traveling with his incredible wife, he is recruiting for Open Source Engineers in New York City. His love for recruiting stands just shy of his love for the Boston Red Sox. Chris has almost 20 years of recruiting and staffing experience on a National level with over 10 years in New York City, both contract and full time.

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