What to Look For In a Resume

When a business decides they need to hire an individual, the decision can often inspire trepidation. The amount of work that goes into advertising, reviewing resumes, interviewing, calling references, negotiating salary and finally training the individual can be enormous. If you are familiar with recruitment you may have found ways to streamline these processes. If you haven’t, you can be stuck pouring over resumes for hours without every figuring out what sets candidates apart. To help keep it simple, here are a few key things that you should look for in a resume.

Cover Letter

The cover letter is your first impression of the applicant. This letter should be courteous and free of grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. The purpose of the letter is to highlight why the applicant feels they would be a good fit for your organization. Your initial impression of the applicant will help you determine whether to continue reviewing their application.


If your position requires specific qualifications that were listed in the job vacancy announcement, you need to make sure that the applicant has them. If the position requires certain certifications, remove the resumes that do not indicate that.

Employment History

Review the employment history of the applicant. It is important to note any gaps in employment, instances where the individual seemed to transition into a job with less responsibility, a history of frequent field changes, or a history of short-term employment with multiple employers. If any of these circumstances exist, it may indicate that the individual is unreliable, may not mesh well with others, has had issue handling responsibility, or has peaked in their career.

Skills and Education

Almost every new employee will require specialized training in order to understand your business, accomplish every day tasks and meld into the work environment. With this in mind, there are some skills that are intrinsic to a position. If you have an administrative opening, the individual you hire should have efficient keyboarding skills, operate general office machines, answer phones, use a PC or Mac and have knowledge of common software programs such as Microsoft Office. Look through the skills section and highlight the ones that are important to succeed in your business. After you read the experience section you may be able to judge what skill level they have in each area based on practical usage.


The experience section of the resume will detail what the applicant did in each position. Your job will be to review this information, mark the experience that is pertinent to your position and match that experience up with needed skills.


The details of an individual’s work history is important, but there is one more important piece of a resume – the success of the employee. Review the resume and see what contributions the employee brought to their previous employers and the industry in general. It is important to know that a person can do their day-to-day task and handle multiple responsibilities, but it is invaluable to find someone that will go above and beyond the call of duty to improve their position, enhance their company’s reputation, and be innovative to help improve the bottom line.

Many firms, especially when swamped with dozens or even hundreds of resumes, find it valuable to outsource reviewing of resumes, and/or the complete candidate sourcing process to recruiting firms. They can separate the wheat from the chaff, and perform first-level interviews, enabling companies to invest their valuable time only with those candidates that are worth taking a closer look at.

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