22 Aug

5 Key Things Recruiters Look for in Resumes and Cover Letters

Posted by Jamie Dargie

Your resume and cover letter are the first thing that lands with the recruiter. It is your first piece of introduction, and much like first impressions – it is the first point of assessment too.

A customary search online will give you countless “tried and tested” resume templates that have a high success rate and are “guaranteed to ensure a follow-up call”. But the trick that is missed is recruiters don’t want your introduction to be supplied in a factory setting format. They are looking for highly customized, personal and felt experience that is easily reflected by your resume and matches the job description.

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Let’s do a quick run down of five things that every recruiter is looking for when reading job seekers’ resumes and cover letters:


1. Does The Applicant Care About This Specific Job?

It would be ridiculous and illogical for a recruiter to expect the resumes they receive to be completely constructed from the ground up for the exact position in question. Job seekers simply don’t have the time to do this, and there’s only so many ways you can spin your skill set.

That said, a resume should always be tailored to some extent for the job sought. Job seekers should ensure their listed skills are relevant, that an objective (if stated) aligns with the role offered, and that the whole resume isn’t just a vague stock of generic abilities. In a resume alone (to say nothing of cover letters), the applicant should be showing that they actually value getting this job, not just that they need a paycheque from anywhere that could give one.


2. Is He/She Willing To Step Outside of a Comfort Zone?

Regardless of the job in question, the ability to grow is universally one of the most important traits an employee can have. All resumes and cover letters should in some way suggest that the person wants to be better at what they do in the future than they are now. Not only is arrogance a difficult trait to get along with, but an employee who thinks the hard work is done the moment they’re hired probably won’t be a very rewarding addition to your team.


3. Is The Applicant Qualified for This Job?

This is an obvious step, but it’s a step nonetheless. Depending on the title, qualification sometimes has some leeway. If the workplace has the resources to substantially train an employee, their personality and other such traits may well be the most important part of their application. But many jobs, and especially specialized trades, require at least some base knowledge. Always make sure that as an applicant, you possess the requisite certifications and education for the job position offered. 


4. Is The Applicant Motivated and Hard-Working?

While hiring managers should always be understanding of gaps in resumes and the odd difficulty or stumble that wasn’t the job seeker’s fault, resumes and cover letters should generally reflect motivation and hard work.

Okay, so you didn’t work from the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2015, but how was your performance at the jobs you had before and after? And besides a reference or two, what do you have to show for it? Resumes and cover letters should have at least a few tangible numbers and facts on them. Every resume is going to talk up its writer. But one that can declare that the job seeker has “helped plan a $200,000 construction” or “presented in front of 250 people daily” has some real, material weight to it.


5. Is The Resume Layout Contemporary and Easy to Understand?

When it comes to resumes and cover letters, how you present something is probably as important as what is being presented. Check for the various resume templates and play around with the layout. Remember: the employer is not looking for anything flashy and with layers of design (unless it is for a job position that requires such skills), but also don't let him think you don't care enough about the opportunity to even spruce up your resume a bit. Check resume templates from Harvard Business Review and other acclaimed organizations. There is no mandate to keep sticking with one too. If one particular style doesn't work, try an alternate and check for its conversion.

As mentioned before, all resumes and cover letters are your first point of introduction to your prospective employers. And when a professional career hinges on how you open your introduction, it better be right. State a well-crafted objective that really speaks what kind of a professional you are and what type of job you are looking forward to. Mention the goals you achieved and the teams you spearheaded in your past roles. Neither fudge dates or key numbers, nor fake an important skill (such as being bilingual for a bilingual position), or fib outright about a previous position. Remember, the employer is a skilled professional at looking through the candidate’s claims. If you foresee a working relation with him, the first thing you should do is respect his experience and eye for detail.

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Jamie Dargie

Jamie is responsible for leading, developing, and executing the vision, strategy, and business objectives for Eastern Canada, including Toronto and Montreal. A recruitment expert across three continents for over 20 years, Jamie possesses deep industry knowledge having run multi-disciplinary teams for international and domestic recruitment campaigns within contingent search and workforce management for RPO and MSP projects.

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