Recruiters have very little time to review your resume. Here’s how to make sure it gets selected, not rejected

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You may have slaved away for hours producing what you think is a perfect resume, but recruiters open several resumes every day and they naturally don’t have much time to devote to each one. So make sure that silly mistakes don’t mean yours gets overlooked.

“We receive between 25 to 150 applications per mid-to-senior vacancy advertised. If the resume comes on its own, without a verbal introduction or referral, we tend to give between 30 and 60 seconds to screen it before marking it for either rejection or an exploratory conversation,” says James Austen Nash, associate director, Charterhouse Partnership.

Why some resumes get selected in seconds

Recruiters typically first scan resumes for length of tenure and whether well-known firms are listed, he says. Clearly formatted resumes that get to the point quickly always receive more attention. And it’s better to create your document in a standard Microsoft Word format, instead of putting it into tables or a PDF file, both of which can be difficult for recruitment systems to open.

Jane McNeill, director at Hays Banking, adds, “A good resume clearly sells what qualifies the candidate for this particular role and what contribution he or she can make. Listing relevant experience is obviously important for most jobs.”

Why some resumes get rejected in seconds

Spelling mistakes, unexplained work history gaps and a lack of synergy between the role and the job seeker’s experience can all contribute to a rejection, says McNeill. “As a recruitment firm, however, we would be unlikely to completely 'bin' a resume because a candidate may be appropriate for another position.”

Austen Nash warns against long introductory pages. “The majority of senior finance recruiters have technical finance backgrounds and have either worked or studied within the field they’re recruiting. We want to get straight down to the details of what you’ve done, who you have done it for and where you did it, highlighting your achievements.”

Photos are another no-no, he adds. “You will never be judged on appearance; we care about your work. Including a picture means you are provoking an unnecessary point of discussion/difference that does not always go in your favor.”

Good candidate, bad resume

Having a bad resume can sometimes kill your chances, even if you are in reality a good fit for the role. “I would like to say that generally we don’t miss people who could have been good due to poor resumes, however, the truth is we do. I would estimate we lose about 20 percent of individuals who may have otherwise been suitable for further conversation,” says Austen Nash.