Short of time? Tips on how to spot a good resume

Whether you’re a recruiter or the hiring manager at your organisation, it is essential to know how to spot a good resume. Research shows that under five percent of applicants actually get to the interview stage. As the professional who is shifting through resumes, your objective is to ensure that you are choosing the right candidates to meet in person. While it may be prove difficult to properly assess a candidate based on only a resume, there are certain clues that may help you make an educated decision on who to move forward to the next stage.

Formatting and Appearance

A good resume should look professional and polished. It should also reflect the tone of the industry of which the applicant is applying to. For example, if the position is a director role at a Fortune 500 company, then a colourful resume with pink borders is not appropriate. However, if the position is a creative one at a small start-up, which advises applicants to be nontraditional in their application, then it may be welcomed. As a recruiter or hiring manager, think about the culture of your organisation, while shifting through your resume slush pile. A resume is the first representation of the candidate; therefore, it should be clear and indicative of the type of individual who is interested in the role.

Relevant Headlines and Transferable Skills

If you have little time on your hands and a stack of resumes to review, skim through the resumes and look at the titles. Even though an applicant may not have the same title as the position that you are trying to fill, you may see career growth potential in their resume. A good resume shows a wide range of skills and experiences that can relate to the position being filled. If the applicant is from another industry, skim the resume for transferable skills. For example, if you are hiring a manuscript reader at a publishing house, an applicant may not have publishing experience. However, they may have editorial or appropriate teaching experience, which can be transferable depending on their previous responsibilities and knowledge base.


A good resume should always include the candidate’s academic history if relevant. For example, if you are hiring for a plumber or licensed security, search the resume for up-to-date certifications. If you are searching for a grant writer, it would be helpful to see if your candidate has completed a bachelor’s degree. Sometimes, previous experience is not needed if their education and degrees are in the right concentration, which may help them excel in the role. Whether the education section is listed on the top or at the bottom, it should be presented in a clear, professional manner. If the education section is confusing, then one can infer that the applicant may not be suited for the role.

Spelling, Grammar and Following Instructions

A typo should not immediately disqualify an applicant. However, if a resume has a series of typos, misspellings and inconsistencies, then it is not a good resume. As a hiring manager, read the first few lines of a resume and check out the titles. If there is more than one error on the page during your quick skim, then it is time to move on to the next resume. Additionally, search for buzz words relevant to your industry and the role. If the candidate is smart or experienced enough to include these terms, then they may know what it takes to excel. Applicants should follow instructions when applying. If the job poster requests certain material, then the applicant should adhere to these requests. If the applicant chooses to exclude a requested cover letter, samples, etc., then this may be a strong indicator that this may not be the right candidate for the position.

Even though a candidate may shine in person, they must be able to impress the hiring manager with their qualifications or interest in the position through their resume. Sometimes, it is advisable to take a chance on a resume that is far from perfect if the candidate comes recommended or has proven, strong expertise in the position or subject matter. However, if you are simply browsing through resumes, clear indicators of professionalism, interest, education and job titles can help you weed out those who are not the best for the role. By doing so, you will be allowing more qualified individuals to rise to the top and have a chance at obtaining the position.

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