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Recruiters Offer Differing Resume Guidance. What Should a Job Seeker Do?

Recently, Revision Resume attended presentations by multiple recruiters offering advice on proper resume creation. We regularly engage in this type of experience so we can ensure that our resume writing is up to current industry standards. In this blog we want to highlight the areas in which the recruiters were in agreement, as well as the areas in which they differed due to personal preference.

Recruiter providing a presentation

Resume Creation Tips Recruiters were in Agreement About

Limit Your Resume to 10-15 Years of Work Experience

All of the recruiters indicated that a resume is not a full biography of your entire life experience. You do not need to list your cashier job from high school now that you have been in a career for the last 10 years. Including irrelevant information -- such as old roles that don't align with the current opening -- can be distracting for the person reviewing your resume. It is best to just include the last 10-15 years of work experience.

Multiple recruiters also mentioned that age discrimination does exist. By eliminating old information from your resume, you reduce the risk of being seen as outdated.

Align the Resume with the Job Posting

The recruiters each mentioned that the "spray and pray" method doesn't work. This is a common job seeker approach where one resume is created and then it is used to quickly apply to dozens of jobs. A truly effective resume must be aligned to the individual job posting, so narrow down the number of job postings you select to apply for. You can create one base resume and then spend a bit of time tweaking it before applying to each specific role. The goal is to make sure the resume showcases how your skills and experience match the individual job opening. This increases the chance of being called in for an interview.

Keep the ATS in Mind but Don't Try to Beat it!

Computer program to represent an applicant tracking system

A common refrain from the recruiters is that an applicant tracking system (ATS) is not something that needs to be "beaten." They have heard of job seekers that use white font to hide keywords or try other tricks to "beat" the ATS, but this approach won't work. Instead, recruiters suggest you keep the capabilities of the ATS in mind when crafting your resume. Recognize that not all applicant tracking systems are able to parse graphics or tables, and keep your resume simple. In addition, be sure your contact information is at the top of your resume, but not contained in the header. To learn more about how to create a resume compatible with applicant tracking systems, read our blog "What is this Applicant Tracking System I Keep Hearing About?" Keep in mind, that if you decide to try to "beat" the ATS using a trick such as the white font method, you will likely be caught and your integrity questioned, eliminating you as a candidate for the opening.

Don't List Your Responsibilities on Your Resume. List Actions and Results!

All of the recruiters highlighted the need to go beyond just listing job responsibilities. What you were supposed to do in your job does not provide them the information they are seeking. Instead, include the actions you took and the results you obtained while in the role. Give examples of your accomplishments and demonstrate how they provided a benefit to the company. Including specific metrics is a great way to strengthen your resume and help you stand out compared to the competition!

Use a Chronological Format for your Resume

In the United States, a chronological resume format is highly preferred by recruiters, regardless of your previous work history. Recruiters indicated they want to be able to see the previous roles a job seeker has held in order.

Apply as Early as Possible

Recruiters stated they start looking at resumes as soon as the first ones come in for a job posting because they want to get potential candidates in front of the hiring manager as quickly as possible. So, it is best for job seekers to try to submit their job application within a week of the role being posted, if possible. Having Indeed or LinkedIn notify you when a new job is posted meeting your criteria can help allow you to quickly submit an application.


Recruiters in these presentations all emphasized the importance of an error-free resume. Resumes with spelling or grammatical errors are often discarded. A job seeker needs to display the ability to pay attention to detail and clearly communicate to be successful in almost any job opening. When spelling and grammatical errors are easily spotted on a resume, the candidate does not show they have those key skills and someone else will be selected for an interview instead.

Areas in which the Recruiters Did Not Provide Consistent Information

How Long Should Your Resume Be?

Recruiter reviewing resumes

The answers to this question varied. One recruiter indicated she strongly prefers a 1 page resume whereas another said 2-3 pages is the expectation. What should a job seeker do? At Revision Resume, we recommend you consider your level of work experience. If you are a new graduate or within the first few years of your career, a one page resume should be adequate. Someone with more work experience will have enough information to fill 2 pages. Generally, Revision Resume advises against 3+ pages, with the exception of a few special circumstances (such as an executive resume, or someone with multiple publications or patents).

Is a Cover Letter Necessary?

One recruiter indicated she doesn't take the time to read cover letters and another indicated that reading a cover letter is part of her search process. What should a job seeker do? We recommend job seekers include a cover letter. Worst case scenario is that the cover letter is not read. That won't harm your ability to obtain an interview. On the other hand, the recruiter that seeks a cover letter, will have your cover letter to review. Therefore, you may gain the opportunity to interview by taking the time to create and include a cover letter.

Should I Include a Skills List on My Resume?

Again, different recruiters had different opinions on this. One recruiter felt that instead of listing skills, job seekers should incorporate them within their work experience bullets. This allows the job seeker to show how they used the skills to positively impact the company. Another expected to see a skills list on the resume, either directly under the executive summary, or after the work experience section. What should a job seeker do? We often suggest including a concise list of skills on your resume AND making sure those skills are captured within your work experience bullets to demonstrate how you have successfully used them in past roles. This approach appeases the preferences of both types of recruiters.

It can be challenging to determine the right approach to take with your resume when you know that recruiters and hiring managers may have differing preferences. Revision Resume is happy to assist you by critiquing your resume to ensure you have followed current resume guidelines and are submitting an error-free document. To learn more about our resume critique options click here.

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What’s Next?  With the Right Resume, the Sky’s the Limit!

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Resume critiques are also offered to those who have already created their own resume but would like a second set of eyes to check for errors and to ensure the document is up to modern standards!

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