6 Things to Look For On Any Resume

By Ashley Paskill on November 8, 2023

As an employer or a recruiter, most of your day is spent looking at resumes of applicants for open positions. If you are new to this, it can be challenging to know just what to look for on resumes, especially since you have so many and there is pressure to look at each one quickly. Knowing what to look for can help you save time when you are feeling overwhelmed and can help you narrow down your pool of candidates.

Extracurricular activities

Many college students and recent graduates may be applying for your job openings. Since they may not have the years of job experience you may be looking for, it is important to keep their extracurricular activities in mind, especially if they are related to the field you work in. For example, if the job opening is for a magazine or newspaper contributor but they do not have experience in a “real-world” newsroom yet, see if they have experience working at an on-campus newspaper or magazine. This is still a valid experience as they were doing things that use similar skills and they likely learned much of the same things they would by working in a newsroom. If their extracurriculars involved leadership of any kind, this shows they are confident and have the qualities of a good leader. Simply being involved in any capacity shows that they can balance a lot, including academics, extracurriculars, and possibly a part-time job.

Length

The goal of a resume is to highlight a candidate’s experiences in one brief document. Most hiring managers and recruiters advise applicants that the resume should only be one page. A resume should only show experience relevant to your specific field and job posting. Anything longer than a page, especially if the resume includes things outside of your listing, may show that the candidate may not be able to communicate as well since they struggle to keep their resume relevant to your company. However, if the candidate can appeal to the job listing and display everything while keeping their resume to one page, it shows that they can communicate concisely and filter out anything unnecessary.

Formatting

The formatting of the resume is one huge indicator of who a candidate is. A polished resume shows self-discipline and a care for professionalism. On the contrary, a sloppy resume format shows that the candidate does not really care about the job and may potentially lack time-management skills. Poor formatting also makes it more difficult for you to pick out the information you need to see if they are someone you want to hire.

Potential lies

One thing that is a red flag to look for is the potential of a candidate lying on their resume. Many candidates lie because they feel like the competition is tough and they want their resume to be noticed by you. Luckily, there are signs you can look for to help you see if a candidate’s resume contains lies. Make sure the dates match up and that each job title matches the skills and achievements involved. Check to see if the job descriptions of each position listed are neither too vague nor too detailed as either extreme can signify lying. This can be shown by having too many or too few bullet points under the job title.

Image: Anna Shvets via https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-black-long-sleeve-shirt-sitting-having-interview-4226115/

Relevant experience

One of the most important things you should be looking for on a resume is relevant experience. For more seasoned professionals, this will come in the form of real-world experience and full-time jobs. For students and recent grads, however, relevant experience will likely take the shape of extracurriculars, internships, or even part-time jobs. In these cases, you must look to see how the candidate showcases the experience to fit how their experiences can help within the scope of your specific job and company. If they are not making the case for fitting into the company, they may just be filling space and may not be in the job for the long term.

A cover letter

Even if your position does not require a cover letter, someone who includes one anyway is showing that they are willing to put in the effort for the job application. A cover letter gives the candidate some more space to expand on their resume. It gives them a chance to go into how their experiences have shaped them into being the best fit for your company and the specific role they are applying for. While a cover letter should not be the sole thing to base a candidate’s worthiness on, it shows that they are willing to tie up any loose ends and answer questions that may not be able to be addressed in the brevity of a resume.

Knowing what to look for on a resume can help you speed up the process of finding potential candidates to interview and eventually hire for open positions.

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