This question originally appeared on Quora: What do recruiters look for in a resume at first glance? Answer by Ambra Benjamin, Engineering Recruiter.
I don’t look through stacks of resumes anymore. I hate paper. I do everything online.
There has been for many decades, a mysterious Wizard of Oz-type viewpoint of the recruiting world that I think is somewhat misappropriated. People seem to be truly fascinated by what goes on behind the curtain, when in reality, recruiters aren’t running the covert operation many think. “Does this candidate seem like they stand a chance of being a good match for this role? If yes, proceed to next step. If no, reject.”
I’ll highlight how I personally absorb a resume. I should preface this by saying that currently I primarily recruit for senior-level software engineers. In my past life I recruited for PMs, MBAs, finance, sales, and pretty much all of it. Everything I’m about to say broadly applies to all of these fields. I also was a campus recruiter, and you read resumes of new grads a bit differently since experience is less meaty. So for non-new grads, here’s how it goes in my brain:
- Most recent role. I’m generally trying to figure out what this person’s current status is, and why/if they might even be interested in a new role. Have they only been in their last position for three months? If so, probably not the best time for me to reach out, right? Unless they work for Zynga, or somewhere tragic like that (said with great respect for Farmville, the app that put Facebook apps on the map). If it’s an incoming resume, I’m wondering why the candidate is looking now. Are they laid off? Did they get fired? Have they only been in their role for a few months and they’re possibly hating it? But most importantly, is their most recent experience relevant to the position for which I’m hiring?
- Company recognition. Not even gonna lie. I am a company snob. Now don’t get all Judgy McJudgerson about my judgy-ness. Hear me out. It’s not even that I think certain companies are better than others (although some most certainly are). It’s purely a matter of how quickly can I assign a frame of reference. This is also known as “credibility.” Oh you worked at Amazon? Then you’re probably accustomed to working on projects at scale. You’re at a well known crash-and-burn start-up? You have probably worn many hats and have been running at a sprinter’s pace. There are some pretty blatant if/then associations I can make simply by recognizing a company name. Because recruiters have generally been doing this job for awhile, we notice patterns and trends among candidates from certain companies and we formulate assumptions as a result. There are edge cases and our assumptions can fail us, but again, this is a resume review; we’re talking a less than 20-second analysis. Assigning frame of reference is often more difficult to do when a candidate has only worked for obscure companies I’ve never heard of. When I can’t assign company recognition, it just means I have to read the resume a little deeper, which usually isn’t an issue, unless it’s poorly formatted, poorly written, uninformative, and wrought with spelling errors—in which case, you might have lost my interest.