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How to Get Your Resume to the Top of the Pile

How to Get Your Resume to the Top of the Pile

As a hiring manager in a Fortune 100 company, I read through thousands of resumes and cover letters in my career. Since HR and recruiters would pre-review the resumes for grade point average, degree and other minimum requirements, every resume I saw was from a top performer or a top student so everyone was “qualified”. However, some of these resumes went straight to the top of my pile and some went to the bottom. Why? Here are seven tips for becoming the candidate a company wants to call in.

The first thing that moved a resume up was a positive statement from a recruiter. If the individual had been interviewed at a job fair and the company recruiter was impressed, he/she would write a little note to that effect. So never underestimate the value of a pre-interview at a job fair,

The second thing that moved the resume up was a recommendation from someone I knew or someone who knew someone I knew. A positive recommendation from someone whose opinion I valued and who already knew the candidate had the skill and talent we were seeking, quickly moved that resume to the top. Network, not just to hear about jobs but to get a favorable recommendation.

If I didn’t have any recommendations, I would skim each remaining resume in 15-30 seconds. (With 30-50 resumes on my desk, that’s as much time as I could devote.) If they were multi-page, I read page one to decide if it was worth going further. So if I wasn’t caught by page one, the resume went to the bottom. Put the most important information on the front page.

Obviously spelling or grammar mistakes or a poorly written resume went to the bottom of the pack, but 99% of the resumes I would review were grammatically correct and neatly printed. A well written resume is an expectation, not an advantage.

In addition to deciding whether the person’s skills were a fit in our organization, I would look at his/her other activities to get a view of how well rounded the individual was. For example, I had an engineering candidate with excellent credentials who was also the president of the debating club. This told me the candidate was not only technically capable but could communicate effectively as well. Leadership positions in nonprofit, volunteer or other organizations (not publicity chair but president or an obvious leadership position) also caught my interest.

I looked for specifics in a resume. A line that you cut costs at your prior position or expanded revenue was expected. More importantly, by how much and what size budget did you have? Include the specifics and drop the jargon.

Finally, as I read the resume, I would try to imagine this person in our organization. The more you can connect your resume to the requirements of the job and the skills the hiring manager is seeking, the better.


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