Resume is your only chance to show your credibility and professionalism before going to a job interview. Often it is also the only means of making the first impression on your potential employers. Hundreds of articles have been written on how it is important to make great first impression and in this perspective job search area is no different. When hiring authorities review a resume, in most cases they know exactly whether they will invite a candidate for an interview within 5 seconds. Usually, next 5 or 10 seconds are spent to make sure that initial decision was the right one. Therefore, depending on how candidates can make that first impression a positive one make all the difference. The question is what makes that first impression? Employers only scan resumes, they don't read them. In other words, what are the things they check first on a resume?
How Employers Review Resumes?
Generally, hiring authorities try to check the candidate's current status first. It is important for them to know whether a person is still working for a different company or fired/laid off. Your most recent role on the work experience section is the very first target of potential employers. That's where they like to come from - to see you in your most recent role. Some of the things they pay special attention to is how long have you been working in that role and whether that experience is in any way relevant to the job you are applying. From there, HRs tent to quickly scan your entire work experience section to see a career progression (or any increase of responsibility levels). In this context, it is extremely important that all of the job titles make sense.
Secondly, are there any accomplishments that can be verified and that prove one's ability to achieve results. Routine responsibilities is what hiring authorities usually see on resumes. However, what can turn things around for job seekers is when they can clearly identify achievements (specific results you have achieved for the company). After all employers look for people who can do just that - achieve specific results with given resources.
Employment gaps - another thing employers check right away. The truth of the matter is that the gaps aren't as bad as they seem to be as long as there is a viable explanation (in the cover letter). The worst thing job seekers can do is actually leave the gap on a resume without offering any explanation making HRs wonder. You might think that taking a couple of years to raise a child is a bad explanation but in the eyes of some employers it can even be a great thing. Whatever it is, just explain it so that hiring authorities wouldn't wonder about what you were doing during those years.
Overall organization of the document is also important for employers. They might not evaluate one's grammar or flow of the document intentionally but they can certainly ignore the candidate if his/her resume is poorly organized. It is better to check then your document to make sure it doesn't contain any errors, typos and that it presents your qualifications clearly in a way that is easy to follow.
Obviously, not all employers review resumes this way. There are some who usually check other things first. However, we have found that the pattern listed above is used by the majority of hiring managers to evaluate a candidate. Therefore, if you wish to make that first impression a good one, you better concentrate on such things, as work experience section (especially your most recent job), accomplishments, explanation of gaps and general organization of the document.