6 things startups are looking for on every resume

Resume writing can be tricky. There’s a tumultuous sea of advice on how to build a perfect resume, and many of the recommendations job seekers receive are downright debatable. Learning to cater your resume to the hurried glance of an HR representative is a skill in and of itself.

What exactly do HR managers and recruiters look for while sifting through a meter-high stack of resumes? To set the record straight, we sat down with Gorilla Group, one of Chicago’s fastest-growing e-commerce solutions companies.

Gorilla Group team members at a company meeting.

Stick to the basics

It sounds obvious, but one of the first things HR representatives check is the strength of your resume’s backbone — that is to say, if it’s got up-to-date descriptions of your education and job experience in addition to accurate and professional contact information. Focusing on the absolutely essential will make sure your resume is compelling at its core.

What about the oft-recommended objective statement or sections that detail personal interests or special skills? Nix the objective and don’t waste space by saying you’re proficient in Microsoft Office, according to the sage advice of Libby Rapin, Gorilla Group’s human resources director.

“We see personal interests a lot on resumes but they aren’t something we need or even always look at,” Rapin said, “but they could be a talking point if the interviewer and interviewee share similar interests.”

Describe your accomplishments, not your position

When you’re writing about your previous job experience, what recruiters really want to see is what you bring to the table. That means showing them what you’ve achieved — using quantitative metrics — instead of providing them with a day-to-day description of your responsibilities. Stick with “increased unique monthly visitors by 300%” instead of “wrote blog posts,” and you’ll stick out to HR.

“The most effective thing you can do with your resume is to include your accomplishments and not just write out your job description,” Rapin said.

Presentation matters

How much does color, design, and overall creativity weigh into a recruiter’s decision to reach out for an interview? It depends on the position, but ultimately, overall appearance, formatting, and organization do indeed make a difference.

“For our creative team, we like to see some design/layout elements, but as long as a resume is neatly organized, concise, and doesn’t have grammar errors, it will still catch our eye,” she said.

Include supporting documents

With the increasing capability to apply directly to jobs using your LinkedIn profile, including beneficial supporting documents — like a cover letter or your resume itself — makes you stand out as a top candidate.

“We are starting to get more and more candidates that are actually applying through LinkedIn with just their profile and not attaching a resume, which isn’t ideal, but doesn’t stop us from calling a candidate,” she said.

Sometimes, those supporting documents — especially if they make your application shine — can land you the job. Rapin said she once received a poem in place of a cover letter from a candidate who has since become a team lead at Gorilla.

Grammar, Grammar, Grammar

Once you’ve finished updating your resume, go back and read it. Then, reread it, and then re-reread it, and then send it off to someone whose editorial advice you trust. If there’s a mistake — even a relatively small one — it may make a recruiter toss your otherwise perfect application in the trash.

“We have seen people say they are detail-oriented in their resume, but then they have grammar errors, so that never looks good,” Rapin said.

Keep it brief

You’ve heard this one before. Try and keep your resume around one page. HR reps sometimes receive hundreds of resumes for a single position, meaning they don’t have time to read through your 12-page novella. Depending on how long you’ve been out of school, it may be time to leave that internship you had sophomore year of college on the cutting room floor.

If your resume is overflowing, try and cull as much irrelevant, redundant, or insignificant information as possible. “You should never submit a 5 page resume, but we unfortunately see this a lot from candidates that are contractors and now looking for an FTE role,” said Rapin.

Originally published at www.builtinchicago.org on May 15, 2015.

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