Hiring Tip #10: What to Look for on a Resume

A colleague asked today “What keywords should I look for on a resume?” I wish there was a list and you could just scan resumes looking for keywords. (Yes, there are software packages that do that. I’m not talking about tools and technology keywords. Don’t get me started on ruling out people because they’re missing a language or something else learnable.) Here’s what I look for in a resume:

  • The summary and objective. Not everyone has a summary or objective, but if the resume has one, I look to see how similar it is to the open position.
  • Some description of the value the person provided at each previous position. I love it when candidates quantify their value (“saved $10 in every meeting”), but I’ll take something like “improved build process.” (Candidates, if you did, talk about how much time you saved. Remember, senior managers care about time, money and customer experience. Any time you can relate your work to saving time or money, or improving customer experience, you’ve described useful value.
  • The context in which the candidate has worked. Small or big projects, which kind of industry, long projects, canceled projects, releases every 10 minutes, whatever. You want to look to see how well the context the candidate has worked in translates to your context.
  • Action verbs. Savvy candidates know that the best resumes have action verbs to describe work. “Worked on” is weak. Any of: led, designed, developed, improved are great, the more action-y the better.

Here’s what I don’t look for, unless it’s somehow relevant to the job: classes, education, hobbies, any personal things at all. There’s no guarantee the person learned anything applicable in those classes or in that degree. Hobbies might satisfy my personal curiosity, but aren’t relevant, and personal things aren’t relevant. (If a candidate writes down anything, it’s always something like “excellent general health” — why would someone say otherwise??

)So, I can’t offer you keywords, but if you read with some discernment, you’ll be able to read resumes quickly.

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