How Recruiters Read Resumes (in just 4 minutes 37 seconds)

You submit a job application, your resume makes it past ATS, and it lands on the hiring manager’s desk.

Then what??

I consulted with a career coach and seasoned corporate recruiter to learn the 5 steps every recruiter uses to quickly evaluate if a resume should be advanced to the interview phase.

At each step, she is looking for specific pieces of information. If she finds what she’s looking for, she advances to the next step. If she doesn’t, she moves on to the next resume.

Your goal is to make her job easy by delivering what she’s looking for, putting it where she expects to find it, and making it easy to read.

Step 1: Counting fingers and toes

The recruiter first scans the resume from top to bottom to verify the presence of all required components: work experience, education, credentials. This is a quick check-the-boxes scan.

Time: 2 seconds


Step 2: Verifying the timeline

The recruiter next scans the resume from bottom to top, checking the dates along the right margin. Are there adequate years of work experience? Are there gaps in the timeline that may raise a red flag?

Time: 5 seconds


Step 3: Summary section

The recruiter skims the resume’s Summary section. She’s looking for a job title that matches that of the target job, keywords that align with key qualifications for this job, and promises that the candidate solves business problems and generates results.

Time: 30 seconds


Step 4: Roles and contributions

The recruiter skims the Professional Experience section to evaluate the candidate’s essential functions and how the candidate contributed to each organization. Does this candidate have experience doing what is required for this job?

Time: 1 minute


Step 5: Deep Dive

Only after the resume has met expectations on all the previous 4 steps, will the recruiter take the time to dig into the resume’s bullet points and give them a closer read. Here she’s looking for accomplishments: teams built, revenue increased, sales made, processes improved, clients won.

Time: 3 minutes


That’s it! Now you know exactly what happens once your resume reaches a recruiter’s desk. Armed with this knowledge, you can make sure your resume delivers the right content for each step of the process.

As always, Upword Resume is here to help you create an ATS-optimized, recruiter-pleasing resume that will get results. We use our relationships with career coaches and recruiters as a real-time feedback loop to make sure the resumes we create work in the real world.