Recruiters Read Resumes

How Recruiters Read Resumes


If you are frustrated with how long your job search is taking and why you’re not getting enough interviews despite sending out many applications, it is time to understand how recruiters read resumes.

In my eight years of recruitment experience and six years of working as an interview coach, I’ve worked with thousands of people who could definitely get more interviews if they only understood what I am about to cover in this article.

The first thing to understand is recruiters do not actually “read” resumes. Most likely your CV/resume will be given a maximum of a 10 second overview – a one glance for key elements within a document that determine whether you are to be called for an interview.

As a job seeker, your first task is to pass this resume scan – and here is my number one tip on what you need to do: grab the reader’s attention immediately.

You might be a multi-talented and multi-dimensional professional, but to pass the resume scan you need to be easily categorized into a role a recruiter actually understands.

If you are a project manager for example, the recruiter needs to understand this in three seconds of opening your resume, so make it obvious with your headings, the language you use, and skills you list. An effective summary section will help the recruiter identify if you are a viable candidate for the position quicker.

Instead of an objective that can pigeonhole your focus too narrowly or an introduction that adds nothing to your background (e.g. “I am a results-oriented team player” or “I can work on my initiative” etc.), use a powerful headline instead.

Tell them who you are and what you do immediately. Come up with one powerful sentence or phrase to “grab” your reader. Think of this like a headline to a major front-page news story. What is going to grab that reader to want to read further?

For example:

“A seasoned project manager who excels at identifying and solving problems, and has saved an employer more than $300,000 while completing in excess of $1 million worth of projects during the past 3 years.”

Can you see how easy it is for the employer to see how they will get return on their investment if they hire you?

Employers can receive hundreds of applications for each vacancy, so it is important you make your application stand out and get short listed for an interview.

I’d really recommend you should send less applications, but also you should customize each and every resume that is sent out and tailor it to the “hot buttons” that will catch the employer or recruiter’s attention within 5-10 seconds.

Don’t make the recruiter work. Your best interests are served if you make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to understand your resume (and do so in a few seconds).

Your Next Step

For four more tips on how recruiters read resumes, and also to find out why you are not getting hired, how to sell yourself successfully in a job interview, and how to negotiate your best salary yet, you can download my FREE “You’re HIRED!” video course via the button below.


Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Margaret Buj

Margaret Buj is an Interview Coach who helps smart professionals around the world get hired, promoted, and paid more.


  1. I was really impressed by the money part, expressing things in dollars and cents really does catch the eye, there. What wasn’t mentioned was whether there might be a pending federal court case associated with the revenues.

    • Hi Bert, you obviously should never reveal confidential information in your interview. But you do need to quantify your results so you can easily say you’ve reduced time it took to do something by 20% or increased sales by 20% or whatever. Thanks for commenting.

  2. It is really important you highlight your strengths in your resume. Put first in your resume if you have any previous award and your past employment. In that case, HR’s can easily see your experiences and potential.

  3. I agree with John K. and Leslee. Show us something for the general office worker who does their work well and on time but is not in a position to save thousands of dollars for the company.

  4. Excellent post!

    While saving your employer $ is always a top (and easy) choice in making an opening statement, not all of us has had the opportunity to do so. The post should also expand for employees who aren’t rain makers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *