5 things you should look for in a resume

When you’re faced with a mountain of resumes to assess, the differences between each can start to blur. So, what are the most important attributes to look out for?

Sorting through resumes can be a tricky task, particularly when you’re overwhelmed with applicants.

After all, it’s not just about reducing the pile of applications to a manageable shortlist to interview.

We asked two experienced recruiters and an organisational psychologist for their tips.

Are cover letters still relevant?

It may be the first thing you see but the cover letter is becoming less relevant, says Joss Godbold, Regional Director of Page Executive.

“I’ve read hundreds of cover letters and almost every person writes the same thing: ‘proactive’, ‘team player’, ‘conscientious’…,” says Godbold.

“Recruiters don’t read them when it’s obvious that they’re just cut and pasted. A succinct couple of sentences relevant to the particular job is much more effective.”

Is spelling a big issue?

Views differ on how much weight to put on the way a cover letter and resume is presented, including the spelling and grammar. Naturally it’s more important for some jobs than for others.

Godbold estimates that between five and ten per cent of CVs he sees have spelling mistakes. “Often the mistake is right next to a statement talking about how strong they are on attention to detail,” he laughs.

“It’s a minor point, but in a market where most of my colleagues are receiving at least 100 applications for any role, the little things can make a big difference.”

Emma Mirls from Adecco Group says most CVs with spelling mistakes and other errors land on the ‘no’ pile for roles in business support, office administration and marketing.

Do qualifications really matter?

Obviously, the answer is yes for technical and professional roles but, where it’s optional, don’t overlook those without tertiary qualifications in the field, warns organisational psychologist, Michelle Pizer.

“Be careful about writing off someone based on particular selection criteria. You might be missing out on a gem,” she says.

Pizer mentions a client, “a highly experienced marketer who’s run a multi-million dollar business for more than a decade”. But she doesn’t have the tertiary qualification now called for in job ads for the roles she’s applying for.

“An employer would be lucky to get her,” says Pizer.

Does the timeline make sense?

Candidates who’d spent years in each role were once thought of as more reliable and trusted employees. But times are changing.

“It used to be a big deal but it’s not anymore,” says Mirls. “I think the tech revolution has assisted. The IT industry is more project based and that’s influenced the rest of the job market.

Nonetheless, the timeframes in a CV or the “narrative” of a working life can tell a story about a candidate, says Godbold.

If there’s a lot of movement in a CV with big gaps between roles, Godbold looks for an explanation. “It’s always going to be difficult for a candidate to hide that and they need to have reasons why. If they’ve had four roles in the last three years, that’s not good. But if they’re all contract roles, it starts to make a bit more sense.”

“The CV should answer more questions than it asks,” Godbold says.

How important is the resume anyway?

As technology increasingly takes over the recruitment process, the value of resumes has diminished.

“Fifteen years ago, CVs were 90 per cent of the process; now they’re 30-50 per cent of the process,” says Godbold.

“For example, the way an online profile looks is important, including the quality of the profile photo,” he says.

Social media has become an important screening stage, says Mirls.

“It’s about making sure that candidates are genuine are putting forward who they really are. The ones who are trying to fabricate a bit of their story to recruiters aren’t getting away with as much anymore,” she says.

“We jump on Instagram and Facebook and sometimes we’re shocked. We might get a great candidate based on their CV – they look fabulous for the role – and we go onto their Facebook page and it’s terrible.”

“Even just a Google search is a screening stage that’s an absolute must. We Google search the names of all of our candidates,” Mirls says.

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