Resume Best Practices
How Do Employers Evaluate Resumes?
There are few things as important to a job search as writing a resume. You’re tasked with creating a concise document that captures your entire essence in order to grab an awesome opportunity. As you squeeze years of achievements and memories into a few bullet points, it’s not only important that you’re happy with how it reads, but that your audience likes it. And for the best odds of your audience—your future manager—enjoying your resume, it helps to know how they will read through it.
Here are some of the most common things they look for.
They look at your education
Even though your major and GPA don’t define who you are, these are likely the first stop on an employer’s journey through your resume. It’s a good jumping-off point for them to understand the topics you find interesting and gain a sense of how committed you are to your education and your future success. An employer will walk away from this section wanting to know:
- That you meet their GPA expectation
- That you’re studying something interesting and relevant to the job
- What school you go to (possibly several if you studied abroad)
They scan your experience for brand names and key stats
When looking at your previous work or internship experience, there are generally 2 key trends an employer will seek out: relevance and impact. A great way to show that you have relevant experience is through brand names. If an employer is looking to hire you for a media job, for example, and sees that you worked for a major TV network, that’s a great start to your application.
If your past companies aren’t famous or recognizable, don’t worry — the work you did can still be relevant, and the impact is key no matter the role. This is where statistics come in: always use numbers to describe what you did and quantify the impact. If you’re scanning a resume with roughly 400 words and suddenly the number 80% pops up, chances are you’ll notice it right away, and so will your employer.
They look for unique skills and hobbies
Hobbies and skills are treated very differently across industries, but no matter the volume, each fun fact adds a lot of personality to your resume. An employer may read 100 resumes in a day, and even if they gave yours a good score and positive feedback, they are likely to remember you more for citing your mastery of guacamole making than for simply being a good fit. Keep these items detailed and unique to you—many can say they like “travel” but not everyone lists “spontaneous trans-Pacific travel.”
For skills, each entry not only completes your profile but is also a new search keyword. On WayUp, employers are most commonly using search tools to find specific experience or skills. So if there’s a programming language you know, show it! The same goes for other things like being proficient in Photoshop or having an in-depth knowledge of social media platforms.
They’ll walk away with highlights and a few notes
Resume-readers love to take a pen or pencil and mark up your resume, circling those juicy numbers described above or writing down questions for follow-ups. Realistically, the final notes they produce will be 1-3 bullets. This should lead you to ask: Did each piece of my resume tell the reader something new? For example, say you worked in 3 restaurants, so you try to be thorough and give each its own header, dates and bullet points showing your responsibilities and impact. This could take up half of your resume and all an employer will walk away with is “has server experience.” Push yourself to condense items that tell the same story, and to expound upon experience that shares something new.
Even with all these best resume practices, each employer is a different person. The same exact resume in different hands might get reviewed differently. A common system for reliable decision making is for a company to have each reader give notes on a five-point scale (from “definitely hire” to “definitely don’t”). You can’t pick your resume reader but never forget that the journey begins with submitting your application.
At the end of the day, you’re the one telling your story. So be proud of your resume and tell it like it is, but know that targeting it to your audience will dramatically improve your odds of matching with a great opportunity. Ready to create your own? WayUp’s user profiles act as digital resumes, making it easy to put your best foot forward with employers.
Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Set Internship or Job Goals and find answers to common interview questions such as How Have You Displayed Leadership?.