Working with recruiters is a great way to get your resume in the hands of decision makers. Because recruiters get paid when they fill positions, your interests are aligned as you’ll both profit when they find you a job. As a resume writer, part of my job is maintaining currency on marketplace expectations for resumes (what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for). So, what do recruiters look for in a resume?

Through personal relationships, social media, and professional organizations, I’ve identified the top four things that most recruiters are looking for when they review candidate resumes:

1. Justification
When a recruiter recommends your resume to one of their clients, they are vouching for your experience and skillset (see below). As such, your resume needs to look clean and presentable to their client (ample white space,  proper font size and non-ridiculous margins) with sufficient content to convey a sense of professionalism and respectability. It boils down to one simple rule – you have to make the recruiter look good.

2. The right format.
There’s a reason we send our clients their resumes in Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF formats. PDF looks great across all devices, and works well when you are sending your resume to the person who will be evaluating it. When it comes to recruiters; however, the nearly universal preference is for Microsoft Word documents (.docx, .doc, .rtf). Recruiters often put their contact information, logo, etc. on the resume prior to sending it to their clients, and frequently they will make changes to your resume to more accurately target the employer/position they have in mind for you. PDF offers some editing capability, but is not a good choice when sending your resume to recruiters. 

3. Easy To Read List of Skills
There’s nothing worse for a recruiter than recommending a candidate who just doesn’t have the skills necessary for the job. Accordingly, when working with one, you’ll want your resume to list key skills and abilities for the job(s) you’re targeting. For an administrative position, this might be ‘clerical support’, ‘document management’, ‘telephone reception’, etc.; while an IT help-desk analyst might list ‘desktop support’, ‘Active Directory management’, ‘hardware break/fix’, etc. Listing your skills in a dedicated section of your resume lets your recruiter (and their client) identify your strengths with one quick glance.

4. Relevance
Recruiters, more so than internal hiring managers, only care about relevant skills and experience. Your resume should be very tightly focused on experience that relates to the job you’re pursuing. If you’re looking for a new sales job, leave off (or very briefly summarize) your experience as a painter. The same goes for volunteer or community service – working with Big Brothers Big Sisters makes you a wonderful human being, but including it on your resume only creates more work for the person(s) evaluating it.

Follow these pieces of advice and working with recruiters can be a rewarding and career  defining choice!