How Managers Review a Resume

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When hiring managers, HR managers, or recruiters open a resume and skim through it, a few common events take place that carry over from one situation to the next, regardless of the industry or job requirements. Some employers are looking for a specific skill, while others are looking for signs of a reliable employee. But in most cases, the resume review process looks something like this:


Recruiters like to keep the needs of their employer clients at the forefront of their resume review process, which means that if the employers emphasized a specific set of necessary skills and these skills don’t appear in the resume , the review won’t progress very far.

But at the same time, recruiters often have years of experience in the business of resume reviews, cover letter reviews , and the hiring process, and sometimes they know things that managers don’t. They often recognize a host of green lights and red flags that the managers themselves don’t have the training or experience to see. So that being the case, recruiters tend to skim down the page looking for the items below above all others. 

1. Experience levels that meet employer requirements—two years in a professional agency, five years at the management level, three years on the factory floor, etc.

2. Degrees and certifications that meet employer requirements—a master’s in public health, CPR certification, level 2 teaching certification, a bachelors in aerospace engineering, etc.

3. A professional tone. Recruiters recognize undercurrents of honesty and confidence even better than hiring managers do. They pick up on very subtle impressions and indications of competence.

HR Managers

HR managers may not be intimately familiar with the requirements of the specific position, but they understand the company and its culture, and they recognize the kinds of traits and qualities that will fit in here. They also usually know the hiring manager on a personal level (sometimes a bit better than an outside recruiter) and they recognize traits that the manager tends to find appealing or off-putting. HR pros are usually looking for items like these:

1. A general sense of organization and polish. A well-formatted resume goes a long way at this stage.

2. A sense of research. HR managers like resumes that show a degree of customization and familiarity with the company and the position. They don’t usually appreciate resumes that look like part of a mass mailing campaign. 

3. HR managers usually start with the summary, and as they read, they keep one question at the forefront of their thoughts: “will the hiring manager be impressed with this person?”

Hiring Managers

Hiring managers usually have the highest level stake in the resume review process. After all, they’re the ones who will have to work with this employee every day, and their success will depend on the employee’s success. So managers usually approach resumes with questions like these in mind: 

1. “If I hire this candidate, will she make me feel proud of this decision? Will she make me seem competent and smart in front of my own boss?”

2. “Is this person ready to share the burdens we face in this department? Will his team of coworkers be able to depend on him? Will they like him and trust him? Will our clients and vendors like him and trust him?” 

3. “If I hire this person, will she stay? And will she be able and willing to accept the salary we intend to offer?”

Review Your Resume from a Reader’s Point of View

Before you submit your resume and cover letter to potential employers, step into the shoes of your readers and potential employers. Make sure you like what you see, and make sure your accomplishments, your tone, and your formatting choices convey a sense of competence and reliability. Use the tools and resume building resources on LiveCareer to make this message clear. 

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