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What do employers want to see on the resumes of students applying to jobs?

Posted March 03, 2020 by

If you’re like most job seekers and at or near the beginning of your job search, then you’re most likely struggling with your resume. And you’re probably struggling to reconcile inconsistent advice you’re receiving from some (make sure it is only one page!) with others (length doesn’t matter since we’ve entered the digital age!).

But mechanics like whether to stay away from columns because some employer career sites are powered by applicant tracking systems (ATS) that can’t properly read column-based documents are well-covered by many other articles on College Recruiter and, quite frankly, many other high-quality career sites. What gets far less attention are what employers want to see on resumes when employers are looking for proof that their candidates have certain soft or hard skills.

First, it is worth emphasizing that virtually every medium- and large-sized employer uses an ATS and that means that the recruiter likely won’t see your resume at all unless it includes the same keywords that they happen to use when searching for candidates who they think would be best suited to the role they’re trying to fill. Every employer is different and every recruiter is different, so generalizing is futile. They’re going to search differently and so you’re going to want to think from their standpoint as much as you can. If you were a recruiter working for the company you’re applying to and trying to fill that open seat, what keywords would you most likely use when searching through a virtual stack of similar resumes?

Want an example? Let’s say that College Recruiter was looking to hire a full-stack developer and we’d love to find someone who has a demonstrated ability to work from home, is a good communicator, and works hard. We wouldn’t just search “full-stack developer” when searching through the applicants to that job posting. All of the applicants should have the skillset because they’re all applying to that job, but where the differences might be between the candidates would be those whose resumes indicate they worked from home, are good communicators, and work hard. You’ll want to come up with keywords to describe each of those and make sure you work them into your resume. When describing your past work experience, make good use of acronyms and synonyms in order to help with this task. For example, it is great that your previous job was “home-based” but in the description also indicate that you “worked from home” as the latter will be a better keyword match for a recruiter searching for resumes with “work from home” as a keyword phrase.

So, when it comes to searching resumes of students who are applying to part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs, what attributes or keywords are recruiters most likely to want to see? According to a recent survey of mostly large employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers:

  1. Problem-solving skills – 91.2%
  2. Ability to work in a team – 86.3%
  3. Strong work ethic – 80.4%
  4. Analytical/quantitative skills – 79.4%
  5. Communication skills (written) – 77.5%
  6. Leadership – 72.5%
  7. Communication skills (verbal) – 69.6%
  8. Initiative – 69.6%
  9. Detail-oriented – 67.6%
  10. Technical skills – 65.7%
  11. Flexibility/adaptability – 62.7%
  12. Interpersonal skills (relates well to others) – 62.7%
  13. Computer skills – 54.9%
  14. Organizational ability – 47.1%
  15. Strategic planning skills – 45.1%
  16. Friendly/outgoing personality – 29.4%
  17. Entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker – 24.5%
  18. Tactfulness – 24.5%
  19. Creativity – 23.5%
  20. Fluency in a foreign language – 2.9%

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Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters, Career Advice for Job Seekers, Industry News and Information | Tagged