I would like to read your story

I recall my career service coordinator in my university telling me that a resume is basically your story. As the protagonist and author of your story, it is hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job writing it but yourself. He shared this insight with me more than a decade ago, but it still stands true. 


However, I have learnt with time and experience that a resume isn’t a complete story, but just a  collection of significant chapters of the story. It is crucial to do your homework to paint a picture of your career and project yourself in the best light.


I feel resumes have been treated as the inferior cousin of ‘interviews’ which is quite unfortunate. A study conducted a few years ago stated that candidates have about 6 seconds to grab a recruiter’s attention with their resume. This is much more stressful than the 30 second elevator pitch, but with a little hard work and guidance, you can whip up a great resume.


The last few months have been chaotic to say the least. Clients are more selective as they haven’t had candidates work from home at such a large scale. The talent pool has also increased in the last few months and along with it competition as well.  


So to help stand out against competition, candidates need to have a great resume. Coming from a talent acquisition agency environment, I would like to share my experience on what kind of resumes catches my attention. 

Despite the changing recruitment landscape, the crux of recruitment remains the same – solid resumes and good communication between the candidates and recruiters. Agency recruiters who work on a large volume of requirements have the opportunity to speak and work with a diverse pool of candidates every day. A normal day for a recruiter involves reviewing about 50 plus resumes and talking to 30-40 candidates. 


Whether your resume reaches recruiters or ATS, the key point to remember is to submit a resume that speaks to the job that one is applying to. Trust me when I say ATS isn't as forgiving as recruiters are. I don’t follow a strict Do’s and Don’ts list while screening resumes, but experience has certainly taught me and my team about the kind of resume that typically works for us and the hiring manager.





There are scores of articles and templates detailing how to frame a resume. You will be fine if you just follow the basics stated in these articles/templates. 


The true game changer is your content. I start scanning resumes for recent relevant experience and how they could be a potential fit for the position. Personally, I don’t care much about resume formatting and style as long as it looks decent. I do have a pet peeve though. I find it difficult to accept resumes with spelling mistakes especially when you have spell check and Grammarly easily available. It is always advisable to get a second pair of eyes to scan through the resume before submitting it. 

The discussion on the number of pages a resume can be has been done to death. It would be absolutely unfair to ask a candidate with 20+ years of experience to summarize their resume in 2-pages. At the same time, you don’t want to present recruiters with a manuscript. It would be great to keep your resume within 4 pages or so. Just bear in mind that recruiters read several resumes in a day, and you want to keep them engaged with your resume.





Nobody talks about summary and that is why I feel it is important to talk about it.

Most resumes start with the standard summary/objective. The summary should convey a snapshot of your intent, experience and skills. If you mention in your summary that you have 5 years of experience working with JS frameworks, be sure to follow-up with the details in your experience. When I read 8 years of a specific skill mentioned in the summary, and nothing mentioned in the projects, my first guess is that it has been included just because the job stated it.


The takeaway is that you need think of the summary as an index to your project experience and do justice to it.






Stick to the facts. I know this feels like a ‘Duh’ moment, but it needs to be said. If you have little or no experience with a certain technology, it is best to omit it from your profile. Honesty truly goes a long way in creating a long-lasting relationship with recruiters.


On a good day a recruiter is reviewing about 50-60 resumes for multiple positions. After a few months in this game, most recruiters can pick patterns in the resume. It is okay to use someone’s resume as a benchmark, but your story is and has to be yours. If we start seeing same lines and terminology show up in multiple resumes, it impacts our opinion of such candidates. We love and respect seeing original work. Resumes not only give us insight into a candidate’s experience but also their thinking and style of communication. 





My organization works mostly with IT positions. IT positions typically draw a large number of candidate. My biggest advice for candidates is to check if they have the mandatory skillsets that the job requires.


Typically, junior recruiters are going to hit Ctrl+F or Command+F to look for the key skillset match before proceeding to read through the resume in detail. Seasoned recruiters will start with the recent relevant experience and scan through the candidates’ profile in about 10 -15 seconds. If you don't have the key skills, recruiters are going to move on to the next.


If a Java Fullstack candidate applies to a .Net Fullstack position, the candidate will not be considered. Instead, it would be wise for the Java Fullstack candidate to call or email the recruiter and explain that they are looking for a specific job. There is a better chance that the recruiter may reach out to you with a suitable position in the near future. I have had success placing few candidates who reached out to me this way. Think out of the box to make yourself stand out to the recruiters.




KISS - ‘ Keep it Simple and Specific’. We are looking for short and simple bullet points to convey the specific work you have done. We love to see numbers only if it applies to the situation. If you have managed to increase the revenue by increasing clients and reducing expenditure in some way, paint the big picture.  


Nobody said writing resumes is easy. If it were, you wouldn't have resumes gurus and consultants out there helping tons of candidates. You have to spend a good amount of time writing and re-writing bullet points till you feel you have nailed it. This will also help you prepare for your interview.




Yes, you have indeed. Feel comfortable to use action verbs to showcase your achievements. If you have earned certifications, be sure to include them along with the expiration date. It is a welcome change as not many candidates tend to provide dates to recruiters. Also, don’t shy away from including any sports or professional clubs that you belong.  If I am reading 30 resumes for a position, I need some references to help me remember the candidate I'm reviewing. These are a few honest ways to set yourself apart from the crowd. 





In today’s world, it is surprising to see candidates without a LinkedIn profile. If you have a LinkedIn profile, make sure it is current and matches your resume. If you are a UI/UX developer, you are expected to have your portfolio on a website. Managers at many companies feel more confident speaking to candidates who have a GitHub presence. 


Sometimes blogs and presentations on SlideShare can actually help you grab a recruiter’s attention for a job. So if you are not yet online, its time to get in line with the rest. 





Cover letters have lost its value with most IT positions. If you have gaps in the resume, include it in your resume highlighting when the gap happened or in your email to the recruiter. Your email is the preface to your resume. If you are interested in relocating be sure to include it in your email with the reason. Recruiters are typically concerned about working with candidates for relocation. It helps if you are upfront and it builds a strong trustworthy relationship with your recruiters. Also, include the method of communication that you prefer and the time if you are okay receiving a call. Your email doesn’t need to be elaborate, but these points could help set yourself apart from the crowd.


Remember a resume is your introduction to an organization. It deserves the luxury of your time and effort. Like any good author, understand the premise, your audience and expectation to make your resume spark. With a little hard work, your resume can announce your arrival with a bang.


Popular posts from this blog

An Interview with Vidya Sankaranarayanan from Brihadisha

Recruiting 101: Building a Talent Pool

An Interview with Gladys Burke from ADJ Enterprises