5 Things Hiring Managers Notice About Your Resume at First Glance

IMG_1108  We all know that a well-written resume is the way to go when applying for jobs.  Every day,  all across the world,  job seekers email resumes to what seems like thousands of companies along with a litany of other applicants. And aside from getting a response from the recruiter, never get to see what’s happening on the other end- and how they can use it to their advantage.

One thing you don’t see is that most recruiters use a software-based keyword search to find qualified applicants and save time.  Some know them as ‘resume robots’- or less affectionately as, ‘the bots’.

High-end job-seeker platform The Ladders.com gives this example of how it works:

Employers often use Boolean searches to seek local professionals. For example, if a company wants to hire a project manager in the Dallas area, it may conduct a search that looks like this:

” ‘project manager’ AND Dallas.”

This means all resumes not including these two words are automatically eliminated.

Translation: If you indicated keywords that are relevant to the job post being filled, then it’s very likely that your resume will make it to the hiring manager’s desk.

Who-and what-really matters

Most people are trying to figure out what the ‘bots’ are thinking. Others are burning the midnight oil trying to decode the HR folks. More are obsessing over how to write the perfect resume.

However, no one seems to be trying to get inside the head of the one who matters most…

The hiring manager.


And that’s what today’s blog is about—hiring managers. Because they are the gatekeepers between you and your dream job once you’ve survived the keyword hurdles to get to the next round.

One former hiring manager with 30 years experience shared these inside tips with us:



1. Know something about the position. Studies show that Hiring Managers have a 10- second attention span when first laying eyes on your resume. So you have to grab their attention with what’s most relevant:

Experience. RELEVANT Experience.

With a huge pile of resumes on her desk at any given time, the veteran hiring manager immediately scans resumes for indicators the candidate has first-hand knowledge of the specific role being offered.

In other words, does this person already have experience doing the tasks the job position requires? (The more specific, the better).

And yes, good hiring managers know that people can’t always have experience doing that exact job; however, they try to find the closest thing possible by scanning your resume for strong keywords relating to the job duties at hand. The goal is to make the job transition as smooth as possible for you and for them.


2. Education. Showing you have an educational background gives you a basic foundation and shows you have enough impetus and structure to complete tasks in an organized environment.

And for all you college dropouts, don’t be dismayed. Hiring managers aren’t always looking at a college degree as a dealbreaker. First, did you graduate from high school? If yes, then do you have some post-high school education of some kind?  According to the hiring manager, she looks to see if the person has SOME college or post-high school training.

Really, since everyone has a degree (or two, or three) these days, education is complementary to your relevant experience. The more relevant the experience and/or training, the less important college is. If the position is in IT, for example, an IT certification will suffice (actually it’s way better, but that’s for another blog).



3. Look professional. Does the resume look professional? Hiring managers notice the quality of your resume paper and/or cover letter (if a CV is requested), the ‘cleanness’ of the typography, or if there are any obvious impairments to the physical resume itself.


proofreading 24. The three S’s: Spelling, Style and Syntax.

Also under the umbrella of professionalism, hiring managers immediately spot typos and misspellings that the ‘bots’ may have overlooked in their thirst for keywords.

The hiring manager we asked says she immediately detects:

Font size and style consistency.  Does your resume look like alphabet soup with different sized fonts (outside of titles, etc.)  Do you begin in Times Roman and switch to Arial and then to Helvtica-all on the same page?
Writing tone  (If someone writes in a professional tone or if they write the way they speak, Text, or Tweet). One HR person shared that it isn’t uncommon nowadays for him to get resumes with social media acronyms like LOL (laughing out loud) IMO (in my opinion) and IDK or ‘I don’t know”. (How those made it into a resume is beyond the scope of this blog).
Name spellings.  Hiring managers are people, too. Remember you’re emailing that resume to a human being with preferences. Misspelled names are offensive.  If her name is Kristen and you wrote Christen, hopefully your resume doesn’t catch her in the middle of a bad day. What about the company’s name? Also offensive if you misspelled their name. Make sure you address the resume with the correct company name, and spell it correctly.
Flow and Organization.  Is the resume congruent in neat, easy-to-read sections? (Remember that 10-second window…) The hiring manager isn’t looking for clown colored paper and crazy headlines. They want to see the gist of your qualifications in a once-over eye scan. As the veteran hiring manager explained, after a first glance, resumes typically go into one of three piles: the final round candidates (we’re going to hire one person out of this group pile), the fallback candidates (the “we might keep on file for future openings” pile) and the recyclables pile (pretty self explanatory there). If it were basketball, there would be the starting lineup (final round pile), the bench (second round pile) and the ones who didn’t make the cut (recyclables).

These details (i.e. one typo) are not things hiring managers typically nitpick over to make or break a candidate, but in the case of the 30-year veteran, picking up these things have become intuitive, almost subconscious, over the years. Carelessly put together resumes without adequate proofreading make it that much easier to be disqualified in the final round where the competition is highest-If you make it that far.

With a huge pile of resumes on her desk, a coffee cup ring or unidentifiable grease stain earns an immediate wastepaper basket 2-pointer. The same goes for email resumes with sloppy spelling and spacing between words, sentences and paragraphs, which earn the Delete button. As one hiring manager put it:  If the person doesn’t care enough to present the very best now, they certainly won’t after being hired—yet another headache for HR down the line.


questioning female
5. Gaps. This recruiter shares that she instantly zones in on what she calls ‘gaps’, meaning any long periods between jobs. So for example, if an applicant worked from 2001-2003 with the next job position in 2010-2012, a red flag goes up, making hiring managers less likely to call that person in for an interview. (Unless their knowledge of the position at hand is very pertinent).


One thing we know for sure:  Applying to jobs can be stressful, frustrating and requires a great deal of patience and resolve. One can even say that certain criteria used to weed people out or qualify them is unfair and unreasonable. But, as they say, knowing is half the battle. Fortunately, there are sites like Recruiter.com and our very own Boon app which are examples of staffing resources that are solely there to help you — the job seeker find the job that is the best fit for you without jumping through all the hoops.

Today’s Quiz:

With approximately 10 seconds to catch the eye of your next hiring manager, think about the following:

Do you have someone you trust who can provide a constructive critique of (or proofread) your resume before turning them in?

Does your resume meet the above 5 qualifiers? If not, where are you weakest?

What is one thing you can do today to improve it?


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