What to Look for in a Resume

April 09, 2019 4 Corner Resources 4 Corner Resources

Many blog posts and articles concerning resumes cover topics such as things to include in a resume (and what not to include). Knowing what to look for in a resume is important for hiring managers. What we’ve realized is that articles about what to look for in a resume when hiring are often not comprehensive, and many repeat the same information.

As a professional staffing and recruiting firm, knowing precisely what matters on a resume and what to look for in a candidate is essential to what we do. Our team at 4 Corner Resources (4CR) is dedicated to helping large and small businesses alike find the best candidates in an effort to be a valuable resource and partner for our clients. With these things in mind, our team has put together an article that shares a few insights we’ve learned over the past 14 years about what matters on a resume and knowing what to look for when reading a resume:

What to Look for in a Resume Tip #1: Organization, Functionality, and Formatting

An amazing resume should effectively tell a narrative of the candidate’s professional history and experience. According to a CareerBuilder survey, job candidates frequently have less than one minute to grab a hiring manager’s attention. The survey reports that two in five spend less than one minute reading a resume, and 19% spend less than 30 seconds doing so. This means that their resumes need to be written in a way that communicates the most relevant information quickly without making the hiring manager search for it.

A resume that showcases a candidate knows how to write a resume in a way that presents their narrative effectively is a strong indicator of a potentially valuable employee who can advocate successfully for your company.

When reviewing resumes, ask yourself:

  • Is each candidate’s resume organized and coherent?
  • Do they tell an engaging story?
  • Does the candidate provide an executive summary instead of an objective statement?
  • Is the content scannable? Do they use bulleted lists instead of massive paragraphs?
  • Is the content concise and honest, or is it full of fluff?
  • Is the content readable or is it riddled with typos and misspellings?
  • Does the applicant use engaging action verbs?
  • Is everything crammed together on a page or does it include sufficient white space?
  • Do they provide up-to-date contact information?

What to Look for in a Resume Tip #2: A Demonstrated Record of Success

While showcasing all of their skills, experience, and expertise is essential, a candidate needs to go beyond including a simple laundry list of responsibilities and skills. They also need to demonstrate success and achievements through examples of their work initiatives. This means knowing other important things to include in a resume that helps them stand out. For example:

  • A marketing manager who provides statistics of successful campaign outcomes that resulted in increased customer engagement, leads, and conversions demonstrates the value they can bring to your business.
  • A chief financial officer (CFO) who demonstrates how they increased their company’s profitability — such as including an example of how they increased profitability by X% due to reducing operating costs by X% — will be significantly more attractive than one who only provides general statements about their work.

These numbers and statistics help to paint a more vivid picture of their abilities and value than a simple list of skills and responsibilities ever could. Knowing what makes a good resume can help you separate top-tier candidates from run-of-the-mill applicants.

What to Look for in a Resume Tip #3: Tailored Content

When reviewing resumes, pay attention to how they are written. For example, when looking at a specific resume, does the applicant come across as generic in their approach — writing content that could have been written for a variety of companies or jobs — or do they use language and examples that are specific to your organization or position? Do they use industry-related keywords or key phrases from your job description? And, do they speak to the goals, needs, and culture of your organization?

An amazing resume is tailored to each specific job application and should demonstrate that the applicant took the time to research and learn about your company.

What to Look for in a Resume Tip #4: Red Flags

Carefully reviewing a resume is more than knowing what makes a good resume; it’s also essential for you to “read between the lines” of the provided information to identify any worrisome (or missing) information.

  • A Stagnant or Backtracking Career. Does it look like the candidate’s career is progressing in an upward trajectory? Or, does it appear that their career has plateaued or is going backwards? This is when knowing what to look for in a resume is particularly important. You can determine this by looking at their job titles, responsibilities, etc. to see if there is a clear career progression from point A to point B.

  • Employment Gaps. Keep in mind that some gaps in employment may be intentional or could be beyond the control of a job seeker. It’s vital to establish which is the case and verify that the candidate has a reasonable explanation for the missing period of employment. Were they unemployed because they took a break to care for a sick family member? Were they fired due to poor performance and unable to find another job? Or, did they choose to leave jobs off their resume altogether?

  • Overlapping Employment Dates. A surprisingly common red flag on some resumes is listing jobs that overlap in dates. This could be because the candidate simply typed the wrong information (an indication that they may not be good self-editors) and did not catch it during proofing, or it could be an indication of dishonest behavior. While it’s possible for some applicants to have worked more than one job at a time, use critical thinking about the type of job, its operating hours, and location to ensure it appears logical. If nothing else, be sure to ask the candidate about the potential discrepancy.
  • Irrelevant Information. Does the job applicant include information that is irrelevant to the position? This could be citing “captain of the high school volleyball team” as one of their accomplishments when they are in their mid-30s. If a candidate does not have any recent accolades or achievements, that is a major red flag.
  • Inappropriate Contact Information. Email is an essential method of communication in the business world. How an applicant presents themselves is exceedingly important because they will represent your business if you hire them. If they use an email address such as “ironmanwannabe@gmail.com” or “partyanimal@yahoo.com,” it is a warning sign that they may not be the candidate you want representing your company.

Work with Recruiters Who Know What to Look for in a Resume

As part of an award-winning staffing and recruiting firm, the 4 Corner Resources (4CR) team is dedicated to connecting our clients with the best candidates and vice versa. When reviewing resumes, we evaluate everything from each applicant’s specific knowledge and skills, to their level of experience and career progression, to how their values align with each client’s company culture. With each job candidate, our technical recruiters provide job candidate feedback to help them learn and grow as professionals.

With a 92% client retention rate after placing more than 5,200 candidates with our clients, we have a proven record of success helping businesses of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. This can help you rest assured that your company’s recruiting and staffing needs are in the best of hands with our team of staffing professionals.

To speak with one of our technical recruiters, contact us today by clicking on the image below. If there are particular questions that you would like our recruiters to answer, please be sure to share them in the comments section below.


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