Résumé Guide: How to Format & What to Look for in a Résumé

Vector illustration of person inspecting resumes

Our recruiters look at thousands of résumés each month. We spend about 5 seconds looking at each and can tell quickly whether we should discard it or reach out to the candidate about a position. So what are we looking for? What’s the “secret sauce that results in a call?

The answer is relevant to candidates and hiring managers alike. Here is a list of things candidates should include in their résumés and recruiters/hiring managers should look for when sourcing talent.

Résumé Formatting:

  • Don’t include a cover letter – most reviewers skip these anyway (remember the 5-second rule). However, an overview or brief introduction at the top of a résumé is acceptable.
  • Keep the résumé on one page. Senior-level candidates may have a second page, but most recruiters will still only focus on the first.
  • Be concise by utilizing bullet points and industry-specific acronyms where necessary. Don’t use long-winded paragraphs.
  • Don’t go overboard with formatting. A clean, simple, black/white design is just fine.
  • Consider including a professional photo of yourself. There are pros and cons to this addition, but if you’d like to – go for it!

Résumé Content:

  • First and foremost: use proper spelling and grammar. This is a must!
  • Tweak your résumé for the specific job you’re applying for. Use phrases from the job description and other keywords that will grab the recruiter or hiring manager’s attention.
  • Include relevant work experience for the last 10 years. In most cases, work experience beyond 10 years is irrelevant or unnecessary.
  • Display work experience by both years AND months (not just years).
  • If you have “job hopped” or taken extended time off – explain why. Notes like, “laid off” “company closed,” “company moved corporate headquarters,” “took care of a family member,” or “traveled the world” all help a recruiter understand your situation.

And here is the secret ingredient…

  • Include specific metrics of past performance. Companies want to know what you’ve done that can be measured. For example, “increased sales by X amount,” “managed X number of people,” “worked with X volume of business,” etc. Successful metrics are objective, convincing, and THE thing that our recruiters are looking for in candidate résumés.

The secret’s out! Pivotal recruiters are highly experienced at navigating résumés in search of the items specifically included on this list. These items are good indicators. Opposite items are red flags. We can tell the difference in an instant!

If a candidate does not take the time to format a résumé properly, it’s a waste of our time and the candidates’. While recruiters and hiring managers only lose out on 5 seconds, a candidate risks losing out on years at a dream job. Said more positively, the time spent formatting a résumé properly will pay back in dividends!

Do you need a visual to compare? Take a look at a good example and a bad example of a résumé.

Ready to put Pivotal recruiters’ résumé expertise to work for your business?