Providing the information employers need
An employer's initial assessment of a resume usually involves one or more reviews to determine how closely the person described in the document matches the profile of an ideal candidate. In most cases, the information provided in the resume about a person's field of employment, experience, and skills is compared to the requirements specified in a position description or recruiting requisition developed by a human resource department and/or hiring manager.
Often, a quick evaluation is performed first to eliminate those individuals who clearly are not qualified for the position because they have no background in the requisite career field or lack adequate experience. Then a more detailed assessment is performed to identify those candidates who best match the position specifications and should be interviewed by phone and/or in person.
To best represent you in this evaluation process, your resume must present your qualifications in the right vocabulary and in the right place.
- The right vocabulary. Recruiters look for terms that express the skills and knowledge required to qualify a candidate for the available job. Because most recruiters don't have a working background in the technical fields for which they recruit, the greater the similarity between the terms they use and the terms found in your resume, the easier it is for a match to be identified. So express your qualifications in the vocabulary of recruiters. To determine the exact words and phrases to use, check the employment ads in your local newspaper and other publications for positions similar to the one you're seeking. See how recruiters are describing your skills and background, and then include their terms in your resume.
- The right place. The sheer volume of resumes that employers must review for each position precludes them from spending more than a moment or two on each document. In such a situation, even qualified candidates can be overlooked if their skills and experience are hard to find in the body of their resumes. To make sure that your resume isn't missed for the position you want, summarize your credentials in a paragraph titled "Profile" and place it at the top of your resume, just above the experience section. Although other sections of your resume provide much more information about your capabilities, this up-front summary ensures that even a harried reviewer can quickly find and evaluate your potential match with an open position.
Today, resumes can follow one of two paths when employers receive and process them.
When you send your resume by mail or fax to an employer's human resources department, the document goes through several steps:
- The employer quickly reviews the resume to assess its match with the requirements for a specific open position and/or the employer's general hiring needs. If no match is possible (for example, you're a pastry chef and the organization manufactures surfboards), you may not be notified, and your resume will be immediately discarded. If, on the other hand, your resume demonstrates the possibility of a match, you may or may not be notified, but your resume proceeds to the next step.
- In most cases, your resume is then entered into a computerized resume management system. Employers now receive so many resumes from prospective candidates that even small and mid-sized organizations have turned to these systems to help them organize and use candidate information. Basically, a resume management system enables an employer to store the contents of your resume in a database where it can be subsequently located for further review. If your resume is not entered into a computer, it likely will be stored in a traditional paper-based filing system. In most cases, the original of your resume always remains in a file in the human resource department. When recruiters or hiring managers want to review the document, copies are made and distributed as necessary.
Because most organizations use copies rather than the original of your resume for internal distribution, produce your resume on high-grade white paper. Only your copy shop appreciates your using more expensive colored paper, and it's an investment that can affect the clarity of subsequent photocopies.
- If you're applying for a specific position, your resume is next subjected to a detailed review to assess your qualifications for that opening. If you seem like a good match, you may be called by a recruiter who will conduct a telephone interview to obtain additional information and further evaluate your credentials.
- The resumes of the best-qualified candidates are then sent either electronically through the resume management system or by paper to the hiring manager for review. Based on that evaluation, a decision is made about whether or not to invite you in for a face-to-face interview. If you receive an invitation, your resume probably will serve to help develop and organize the questions you will be asked. If you do not receive an invitation, your resume normally remains in the resume management or paper filing system so that it can be considered for future openings.
- Your resume travels cyberspace as e-mail. When it arrives, the employer downloads the message and quickly reviews your resume to assess its applicability to a specific opening or the organization's general hiring needs. If your credentials match a current or anticipated vacancy, the resume file is transferred to a resume management system. In many cases, the employer sends you a return e-mail message indicating the receipt of your resume and its status.
- If you're applying for a specific position, the computer file of your resume is then retrieved from the system and subjected to a detailed review to assess your qualifications for that opening. As in the paper resume process, you may then be called by a recruiter who will conduct a telephone interview to obtain additional information and evaluate your credentials.
- The resumes of the best-qualified candidates are sent electronically through the resume management system to the hiring manager for review. From that point, the process proceeds exactly as it does for a paper resume. A decision is made about whether to invite you in for a face-to-face interview. If you receive an invitation, the development and organization of questions you'll be asked will stem from your resume. If you do not receive an invitation, your resume normally remains in the resume management system so that it can be considered for future jobs.