What HR professionals look for in a resume

hrA human resource professional’s first view of the candidate is through the resume. As a document that showcases the professional competence of the job seeker it should be written in a manner that compels the HR to call for a meeting. A well written resume can catch the attention of not only the potential employer's HR but also recruitment organizations that field selective resumes to their clients who need talent.

HR managers consider the relevant skills and competencies required for the position and in addition, focus on the cultural fit to the organization as well. In order to identify suitable resumes at the first level, recruiters leverage technology to shortlist resumes. Applicant tracking systems and key words help sift suitable resumes from those that are not.

In 2016, management professional Sue Kaiden had come up with a compilation of contributions from professionals in her book: Find Your Fit; A Practical Guide to Landing a Job You'll Love. In the book, Michelle Riklan, a professional resume writer talks about `labeling’, an interesting term that relates to product and consumer. When a consumer visits a supermarket, the individual looks for a specific type of product under a brand. If specifications are not displayed clearly on the label, the consumer will most likely lose interest and move to explore another brand.

Riklan says this is how potential employers feel when they pick up a resume and cannot immediately see who the person is, how can the candidate fit into the organization, and what is being offered as skills and experience. If the resume does not highlight this information clearly HR will not take focused effort to find it but will swiftly move on to the next resume.

So, what goes into that perfect resume which captures the attention and interest of the HR, the gatekeeper to the path that leads you to your dream job?

  1. Write for the job posting: A generic resume does not excite a recruiter. Read through the job description (JD) very carefully and customize your resume to highlight your skills and experience that show you are a good fit. List out the unique skills and qualities you have that will demonstrate your potential to handle the role. We have talked about key word search; words from the JD which directly relate to the competencies or qualifications should feature in the resume so that they come up in the resume tracking system.  
  2. The objective statement: The opening sentence should be a hook to get the attention of the HR. The objective statement does not talk about a candidate's dream role or aspirations but is a point to prove that this resume is an apt fit for the position to be filled.
  3. Professional experience: It is said that going through a resume needs just a 6-10 second scan for a HR professional. A text heavy resume looks uninteresting and is tedious to review. The high level information your resume offers should present your career accomplishments in a quantifiable manner. Use numbers with regard to revenues, timelines and resolutions.  For instance, `handled customer complaints effectively’ sounds lukewarm and ineffective. Instead, `tightened processes to achieve 70% reduction in customer complaints’ will spark an interest in the recruiter to take the step towards the next level of discussion.
  4. Brevity is the soul: Sue Kaiden recommends CAR:

    Challenge: What was the challenge?
    hrAction: What action did you take?
    Results: What was the result and how did it impact the organization in a positive manner?
    Precise and accurate summary of each work experience communicates to the recruiter your capabilities and the potential you possess to handle the job. As far as possible, support your statements with adequate data by way of quantifiable accomplishments.

  5. All about language: Experience, skills, qualifications and capabilities on one side, typos and language errors, when spotted can result in immediate loss of interest.  Resumes need a thorough review and edit before a HR Manager lays hands on them.
  6. Resume challenges: A visible gap in the experience summary can raise HR’s antennae. Though not a reason for rejection, you must have a plausible explanation for gaps or short term jobs listed in the resume.
  7. `Interesting’ interests: HR people who are actively into recruitment go beyond job related competencies. Hobbies reveal more about you as a person and HR is interested in knowing the candidate as a person.  Unique hobbies and extra-curricular activities where you can show depth and talent will be a good value-add to your resume.

Recruitment is all about differentiating a good resume from the average ones. Assumptions will be made on what is presented in the resume and therefore it important to provide correct information, in the right amount and in a professional format. This will ensure you don't miss the mark but hit the bull’s eye of a HR manager’s keen interest.