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The #1 Thing Recruiters Want to See on Your Resume

Have you ever been charged with reviewing a pile of monotonous paperwork? While buried deep underneath your stack, did you experience a moment of realization that you couldn’t recall what you had been reading – for who knows how long?

Zoning out happens to everyone – including hiring managers.

Recruiters and hiring managers continually navigate a droning flow of resumes across their desks. Remaining focused and finding individuals with the necessary skill, culture fit, and motivation is challenging when everyone is some version of a “Results-driven leader of cross-functional teams with a history of meeting or exceeding goals.”

Adding quantifiable achievements to your professional experience section is a great way to attract hiring managers’ attention, as they stand out like oases in word deserts while legitimizing whatever claims you make in your summary. However, not every field easily lends itself to percentages and dollar amounts, and, also, everyone’s already doing it. Making your mark in today’s competitive landscape will require you to push your resume a step further.

To stand out, you must first fit in.

The advent of Artificial Intelligence-based robot gatekeepers (“applicant tracking systems” or “ATS”), which conduct initial resume screenings for most employers these days, has necessitated some standardization. ATS scanners can’t read fancy tables, images, graphs, and charts, landing ornate documents in the reject pile.

Therefore, today’s best practices prescribe simple, predictable formatting, with the header and contact information at the top of the page, followed by a title, summary, and keywords section. Depending on where you’re at in your career, your professional experience or education comes next, rounded out by certifications, training, and relevant volunteer work.

A resume written to align with this advice has a much better chance of passing through an ATS scanner, and that’s the first step toward getting in front of a hiring manager. Got it?

Images don’t work well with ATS scanners, but a picture painted with words is resume gold.

The ATS-catalyzed normalization of resumes has stifled some modes of creativity related to formatting and content. It’s now recommended to omit hobbies, interests, and other personal details that can negatively affect the algorithms by presenting unrelated keywords. For the first time in history, we must appease humans and robots during our job search. So, how do we meet algorithmic requirements while also capturing human empathy?

Improving your chances of landing a job interview this summer will require you to put the basic formatting in place, sprinkle it with numbers, and then add some color – but not in the conventional sense.

I’m talking about personality.

While a hint of tint will do, coating your resume with literal color can detract from your actual achievements and look unprofessional. Instead, animate your document and ease the tedium of resume reviewing for hiring managers by employing evocative language to illustrate your motivation and culture fit in the summary, complementing the skill you demonstrate in your professional experience section.

Once you’ve conformed, you can (and should) break the mold.

The #1 thing hiring managers want to see in your resume this summer is who you are. After meeting the basic algorithmic requirements, including a short story about your values, strengths, and inspiration will catapult you to the front of the pack. Here’s a step-by-step process to help you bring your personality to life with eye-catching, authentic, and meaningful language describing your personal brand (think of it as your “who,” “why,” and “how” – the rest of the resume is all about your “what”). These six steps will help you generate your resume’s summary section.

  1. Take the free VIA Character Strengths Survey.
  2. Select the top eight results and write down a comprehensive summary of how each one applies to your workplace behavior. How do you leverage each strength? How does it permeate your work? How does it impact your colleagues and your workplace as a whole? Include percentages and dollar amounts if applicable and be as specific as possible.
  3. Look back and the job descriptions that interest you and ask yourself, “Which four of these strengths would be most coveted for this role?”
  4. For the four you select, meld your thoughts into several succinct sentences concisely demonstrating your strengths and values as they relate to the job descriptions.
  5. Share the job descriptions and your paragraph with trusted colleagues and ask if they feel your words would resonate with hiring managers. Review and revise as needed.
  6. Implement your new paragraph in your summary section (just after the title and before your keywords).

Even if you pay someone else to write your resume, do this exercise and hand it to them to help them better understand who you are and what you bring to the table. By developing a unique and genuine summary in a world where everyone else is dishing out the same buzzy clichés, you’ll position yourself as an irresistible candidate for an interview.

Great news! You can also use the statements you generated in Step 1 for your LinkedIn profile and your interview elevator pitch (“tell me about yourself”). Click here to see an example of this process and learn more.

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