Anatomy of a Resume: The Recruiter’s Guide


Recruiters love resumes about as much as retailers love checkout software programs. Their existence is completely essential . . . and also totally tedious.

We all know recruiters, HR and talent acquisition experts are passionate about their work, but there’s not a hiring manager out there who enjoys the sheer pleasure of sifting through resumes. Once you close in on that highly capable pool of informed candidatesthat’s when things get interesting. In the meantime, there’s an art (and a bit of a science) to separating the wheat from the chaff – and lots of tricks to getting it right.

Read on for the employer’s quick visual guide to what to look for – and what to overlook – in a typical resume.

anatomy of resume recruiter

1. Look beyond perfect formatting. Presentation matters, but don’t let an overly crowded or poorly designed resume prevent you from finding the right candidate. Unless you’re recruiting for a design position, take a moment to skim before you pass.

2. Give informed candidates credit. If you’re looking to hire quickly, an out-of-state applicant might not be right. But even if you can’t pay moving costs, don’t assume that it won’t work. Many job seekers – especially informed candidates who have applied through Glassdoor – really are ready to move on a dime for a job they love that fits their life.

3. Look for skills that pop. A quick-glance summary of the most critical information about a candidate, including soft and hard skills, is a great sign that she or he is an informed candidate, which means your new hire will be more likely to flourish at your company.

4. Look for relevant experience. If the candidate has included key skills that match the job posting, it either means they’ve spent time researching your company and the opportunity – and then tailored the resume accordingly. Or, it means they’re perfect for the job. Either way, it’s a win: you’ve got a highly qualified informed candidate or a veritable purple squirrel on your hands.

5. Don’t automatically pass if you see gaps. Breaks in employment history aren’t necessarily a bad sign. Focus instead on relevant skills – and look for at least some evidence of thriving with one company for whatever is considered to be a healthy stint in your business sector.

6. Find safety in numbers. Look out for concrete data points that quantify a candidate’s experience. That way, you can better understand the scope and context of their work – and know that they fully grasp the impact their contribution makes on business.

7. Trust your instincts. Especially if a candidate has limited work experience, be careful not to skip over job experience that isn’t directly related to your open role. The applicant may be trying to demonstrate the qualities or skills you’re looking for – and a great hiring manager knows how to spot those abilities or attributes.

8. Suspend preconceived ideas around age. Don’t make the mistake of ruling out candidates after you do the rough math (even semi-subconsciously) to determine their approximate age. There are plenty of young professionals who are ready for bigger things – and there are many very capable older professionals who might be happy with a lower-level position or ready for a career re-set.

9. Remember that well-rounded people boost your culture. Each candidate is unique and this section, detailing clubs/organizations, volunteer experience, etc. can help you determine if they’re going to be the kind of addition that elevates your team’s morale – and maybe even your company’s collective culture.

10. Reward brevity. If you happen to be wired as a matter of personal policy to finish what you started, give yourself a break. When you’re on page 4, the candidate has used 8-point type, and you’re not feeling it – give yourself free license to move on.

With your well-vetted stack of highly qualified, informed candidates, you’ll soon be interviewing a handful of great potential hires. And there’s also an art (and a bit of a science) to that. Download Glassdoor’s guide, How to Conduct Better Interviews, to make sure you’re getting your first meetings with top talent right.

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