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How To Impress a Recruiter With Your Résumé in 10 Seconds

Connel Valentine Sep 02, 2018
You apply for job after job and never hear back.

How annoying is that?

Imagine someone looking at your résumé and tossing it in the trash.

It's a haunting image when you're on a desperate hunt for a job.

I'm sure you've heard about many ways of getting your résumé to stand out:

  • Your name big and bold to catch the eye

  • Clear contact details

  • Customizing your résumé to the job description

But something is critically missing from all this advice.

What is just as important is how recruiters interpret your résumé at first glance as well.

For example, your name should be bright and bold at the top to be seen.

That’s the easy part.

But what if I told you that if you had an Asian name in Canada, Asian-named applicants have a 32.6% lower rate of selection for an interview compared to Anglo-named applicants, even when both groups had equivalent all-Canadian qualifications.

Shocking statistic isn’t it?

So let’s dig through those “first glance” parts of a résumé and look into not only what recruiters see, but what they think.

Your Name

While nearly all résumés I have seen had the name clear as day on the top (no problems there), little is said about whether your name itself works against you.

Until our friends at Ryerson University and University of Toronto conducted a study that revealed some shocking statistics in Canada.

Ethnic names can hurt your candidacy by up to 60%!


An acquaintance of mine looking for his first job in Canada in the alcohol industry - which he had extensive experience in back in his home country - could not get a single call for an interview.

He suspected it could be his muslim name.

So he tried an experiment.

He changed it to Andrew Smith and applied to the same job with the same résumé he had submitted a couple of days ago.

And he got a freaking call for the interview.

Of course, he did not get the job because he eventually had to reveal his real name, and they dismissed him on grounds of dishonesty.

But his experiment worked.

So are Canadian hiring executives racists?

At this point, many job seekers pull out the racist card.

But it’s unconscious bias that’s at play here.

I’m guilty of this too. When I was recruiting for call centre staff, I would note the university to pass judgment on the candidate’s communication skills (shame on me!)

So what can you do about it? Change your freaking name?!?!

Not easy for many people to do, although it’s common to find Chinese folks anglicizing their names.

It’s really up to you. If you value you identity and would not sacrifice it for a job, I respect that.

But if a hiring executive sees Vikramasuriya Srinivasaraghavan on the top of a résumé, you might be better off with Vik Srini in a résumé, and “explain” yourself after you have landed the job offer.

Remember, recruiters are conscious of how they address you by name over the phone. The easier you make it for them, the higher the chances you receive that call.

And when they are ready to hire you, they won’t care what your legal name is to give you the job.

Your Contact Details

Right under your name comes your telephone number.

A lot of job seekers to Canada (for example) apply to jobs from abroad. And what do you think their contact number is?

Yup, it starts with +91 or +63 or +234


Hiring executives do not want to hire people from abroad, and your contact details are an immediate turn off!

However, if you are inbound to your new country, you can consider getting a virtual number and stick it on your résumé.

Here is a quora answer on that subject.

Email Address

Hotmail? AOL?

“Jeez how old are you?”

Who would’ve thought that one could be dating themselves with their email address?

Once again, our friend unconscious bias creeps in, and judgement is passed on your age based with an older domain name.

If you have one of these domain names in your email address, consider getting a live, gmail or yahoo account, keeping it professional of course.

Click here to learn how to create the Perfect Canadian Résumé that is guaranteed to get short-listed.


Home Address

This is a tricky one.

What if you live abroad? You can get virtual number, but not a virtual address.

This is where your cover letter comes in.

On your résumé put in your city of choice, and on the cover letter, state that you are applying from abroad and you will be arriving on so-and-so date.

Honesty - check!

You might be thinking “this is deceptive, that I'm stating an address that I don’t currently live in.”

That’s why you explain yourself in the telephone conversation. As long as you have a solid landing date at that destination that is in the very near future, they should consider your application.

After all, it’s better to receive a call than to not receive it all.

Most recruiters don’t read cover letters (I'm coming to that later) and if they think you were being deceptive, you can mention “I stated on my cover letter that I currently did not reside in Canada.”

Then it’s shame on them for not reading.


So now that we got the top information out of the way, let’s consider the overall “look” of the résumé.

At-a-glance, the document needs to look clean.

Remember, there is a very good chance that your résumé is going to be first (and only) viewed on-screen, be it a computer monitor or a mobile device.

And there is a big difference between viewing written text on screen versus paper.

On screen, you need to see a lot of white space so that it’s easy on the eyes.

Everything “on top of the fold” or on the first half of the first page is extremely important.

Keep it clutter free so that the reader can easily absorb the amazing information about yourself in that area.

Below is a picture of a résumé from one of my favourite books called The Motivated Résumé and LinkedIn Profiles by Brian E. Howard.

This book is about résumé and LinkedIn advice from certified, award wining résumé writers.

Notice how the top half “feels” open and easy to read.


The most important section that makes or breaks the shortlist.

In North America, experience trumps education for most coperate jobs, such as HR, IT, Sales and Marketing, Finance, Customer Service etc.

There will exceptions based on your industry.

This is why it’s critical that your experience must be on the first page.

Once again, “at-a-glance” means it’s all about that first freakin’ page!

There are 3 components to the experience section so let’s break it down.

#1 GapsCommon knowledge states that gaps over 3 months starts to raise some red flags with recruiters.

If you’ve been struggling with your job search for over three months, start to consider filling those gaps with volunteer experience - highly regarded in North American culture.

The best place to volunteer is within your industry, specifically associations that you should be a member of.

Google “Marketing Associations in Toronto” if you are looking for marketing roles in Toronto for example, and connect with the people from this association.

You will easily find their names online.Let them know that you are interested in assisting with any upcoming work.

Membership is not free, but this is how real networking is done.

#2 “20## - To Present” - Once again, unconscious bias favours those who already have a job. Not much you can do about this if you are unemployed, but I just wanted to point it out.

After all, it’s about “first glance.” It’s something to consider if you’re planning on leaving your current job before finding a new one.

#3 The companies you work(ed) for - Working for high profile companies certainly has it’s appeal.

There is nothing you can do to change the past, but it’s certainly something to consider for the companies you are targeting for your future.

If you have experience working for Microsoft, Oracle and HP, then you stand a good chance being placed with opportunities with SAP.

Likewise if you worked for smaller organizations, it’s a good bet you have a better chance if you target start ups.


I know I said that education isn’t as important as experience. But it’s still important when you’re talking about “at-a-glance”.

When a position is opened up, the hiring manager and recruiter sit down to create the wish list you know as the job description.

The important stuff comes out first of course, in terms of skills and responsibilities and years of experience.

Finally, the recruiter will ask “What about education level?”

Manager: “Oh yea, I guess we need that. Ummmm, let’s say bachelors degree”.

Didn’t sound very important did it?

Nonetheless, it’s still a check box in the recruiter’s mind when they glance through your résumé.

“The manager asked for a bachelor’s degree, so that’s what I’m going to look for.”

Once again, the importance of education depends on the industry and maybe even the organization (I have read that Google highly values education)

It also depends on the culture. In many parts of Asia (for example India), education is highly valued, which is why it’s common to find résumés from Indian candidates state their education right at the top.

In North America, keep the education on the second page, and extremely brief - just the level of the degree, the major, and the university.

Some résumés I have seen go into great detail elaborating on the education - it’s just a waste of space which could be better used for focusing on experience.

Overall Content

Three important factors to consider for content:

#1 KeywordsYou hear it time and time again, and you’re wondering if you’re nailing the right keywords in your résumé. 

Unfortunately, it’s here to stay, but you don’t have to break your head over it.

Here are three tricks to capturing those keywords and help your recruiter see them at a glance.

Technology to the rescue - enter JobScan.

Use it to weed out the keywords from your job description to make sure your tagging a good chunk of them. It offers 5 free scans a month.

Another option that is free, but less recommended is to use a free word cloud tool such as WordItOut or Wordle.

Not as great as JobScan as it wasn’t design to look for job description keywords - that was JobScan was built for - but it is a free alternative that’s better than nothing.

Finally, a little trick that works well to help recruiters spot those keyword at a glance is to bold them in your résumé.

A recruiter once told me that he appreciated that I did that.

A skills or competence section is a great place to capture keywords in a bullet point format.

Remember, the recruiter has those keywords resonating in his/her mind as s/he glances through your résumé. Make them easy to spot.




#2 Proof - The recruiter may not be a subject matter expert in your field, but they know enough to understand what will impress a hiring manager.

And a résumé which just has a task list in the experience section will go into the reject pile.

I use a simple formula for my clients.

For each responsibility, I ask three questions:

1 - How do you do this today?
2 - How do you do it differently?
3 - How can you prove it?

#3 Grammar and Spelling - I’m not going to spend too much time on the importance of this because any job seeker knows it’s important.

What I will share though is a nifty tool that can help anyone ensure their résumé is polished.

It’s called Grammarly, and I used it everywhere.

It does a super job of not only correcting spelling, but even suggesting alternate words to boost your writing skills.

Job Titles

The easiest transition to make is a parallel one.

If you’re applying for a business analyst role, recruiters will scope your job title to see if you are/were a business analyst in your last role.

Also, they will skim your job titles across your career progression, just to make sure that you have remained true to your cause and brand.

If you’ve been hopping from one industry to another, that could cause a problem at first glance.

Enter your cover letter - where you can explain your reason behind your moves.

If you are, however, applying for a more junior role for whatever reason, you might be considered overqualified.

That’s something you have to watch out for.

It’s a vast subject on it’s own, and I’ve written a blog here about it.

Major Turn offs at first glance

#1 Résumés longer than 2 page - The purpose of a résumé is to short list you for an interview - nothing more.

For most corporate jobs, you don’t need more than 2 pages of clear, cleanly formatted information for a recruiter to make that call.

A long résumé shows that you’re not focused on what’s being asked for in the job description, and your relying on the recruiter’s withering attention to find all the juicy details buried somewhere in your résumé.

No good. So keep it short and to the point.

#2 Personal Details - While common practice in some parts of Asia, photographs, passport details, marital status, lengthy addresses, parent’s names (yes, I’ve actually seen this!), makes recruiters go “Ugh!”

#3 Word Clutter - White space is important, as mentioned before. Look at Christopher Jones’ résumé above - so easy on the tired eyes of a recruiter.

#4 Fancy Formatting - While it will greatly impress your friends and family (and maybe even the hiring manager), your primary résumé is that same old traditional boring document recruiters have come to know and love.Fancy résumés may appeal to the creative industry.

But traditionalist industries like finance, IT, HR, engineering, law may still prefer the boring old text format.

Not to mention, ATS technology so far does not parse graphical résumés.

That being said, infographic résumés are trendy these days.If you are communicating your skills and experience outside the hiring process, such as at networking events, or direct emails to hiring managers, it’s worth a shot!

#5 Objective Statement - The first piece of content the recruiter sees at the top of your résumé, and you’re stating what you want rather than what you can do for the position.Get rid of the objective statement right now - please!

Replace it with a professional summary. Here is how you can do that.

After the glance

Following the advice above will get you past the first 10 seconds under the recruiter’s scrutinizing eyes.

*Phew*, that’s a lot of content for just 10 seconds.

Now comes the real fun part - impressing them well beyond the first glance and dazzling them with the rest of your credentials.

After all, your goal is to get called for the interview, not just have someone glance over your résumé.

Make sure the rest of the experience of your résumé consistently provides proof and context to your soft skills as we have covered.

Cover Letters

A lot of recruiters will tell you they ignore cover letters.

A for good reason - because job seekers suck at writing cover letters!

But cover letters can also be read after your résumé has been reviewed.

Why not? It’s an attached document after all.

Another thought - don’t assume cover letters are limited to just the online application attachment.

If you are boldly reaching out directly to recruiters and hiring managers via email, the content of your email is the cover letter.

You really must know how to dazzle them with your cover letter if you want to stand out.

Also, as I mentioned a couple of times, if you feel certain aspects of your credentials work against you (such as your location, job titles etc.) the cover letter is where you explain yourself.

If not, you are relying on the recruiter’s own assumptions - usually won’t favour you.

After the cover letter, 87% of recruiters (according to a 2016 research by JobVite) are going to check your online footprint.

Starting with LinkedIn.

If you’ve not been giving your LinkedIn profile as much attention as your resumé, you’ve just compromised all that hard work and effort for nothing.

Check out this article I posted which explains how ridiculously simple creating cover letters can be.

And if you want to learn more about the biggest mistakes made on LinkedIn profiles, this article will shock you!

10 second and counting!

These simple tweaks to your résumé will make the difference as to whether you job applications go into the shortlist pile or the junk pile.

Remember, recruiters are stressed out folks.

They get bombarded with résumés and job requests.

Giving your résumé a makeover with the tips above will have them breathing a sigh of relief when they open your profile.

Putting their mind and ease means they click on that big, beautiful "Shortlist" button on their screen after reviewing your résumé.

And the next thing you know, your phone will be lighting up for the first call screening interview from them.

You've just past the biggest hurdle in a job search - getting that first call!

Happy résumé building!

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