The One Thing You Need to Understand Before You Write a Resume

Recruiters are busy. With thousands of engineers being laid off from Twitter, Amazon, and Meta, recruiters have boatloads of candidates to choose from. It’s normal for over 200 people to apply for each software development position. A recruiter has the tough task of getting through all the resumes and deciding the small set of people to call in for an interview.

The process looks like this: Before manually reviewing resumes, the recruiter feeds the big “stack” of resumes into a program that checks for keywords. For an iOS developer job, they might select keywords like Swift, Objective-C, software, programming, test, design, iOS, UIKit, performance, reliability, and SQL. Resumes with more keywords get pushed to the top, and resumes with few keywords are automatically rejected.

Then the recruiter does a quick pass through the huge stack. Here, the recruiter spends just 10 seconds looking at each resume to categorize them,

“One down, 199 to go.”

Let me repeat that: the recruiter only has 10 seconds to scan your resume.

It’s nothing personal. Recruiters are human, and each decision requires time and mental energy.

Based on this scan, the recruiter puts your resume in the “yes”, “no”, or “maybe” pile. The people in the “yes” pile proceed to the next phase, either a deeper read, a phone screen, or maybe even an on-site whiteboard interview.

To stand out from the crowd, you need to make your resume easy to understand. Every word ought to have a purpose. The initial scan ought to give the reader a concise summary of your experience and skills and how they match the job description.

So if you’re looking for a job, do a quick scan through your resume or ask a friend to review it. What is the gist that they get? Is it accurate? And how would you improve it?

PS You may be thinking, “It’s really hard to make a memorable impression with a resume.” And I’d say, “You’re right.” If possible, meet some recruiters and managers at a career fair, or ask people in your personal network. You might be surprised at what opportunities are just around the corner.

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