What Matters Most When A Recruiter Looks at Your Resume, with Keirsten Greggs

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 357:

What Matters Most When A Recruiter Looks at Your Resume, with Keirsten Greggs

Airdate: July 20, 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

Get a free review of your resume today. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

One study found that recruiters spend just seven seconds looking at your resume. 

So it’s important to have a well-organized and targeted resume. 

But what’s the best way to do this? 

Keirsten Greggs is here to talk about what matters most when a recruiter looks at your resume. 

She’s the founder and CEO of TRAP Recruiter. It’s a recruiting and career coaching firm that bridges the gap between job seekers and employers.

She joins us from the Washington, DC, area.

Well, let’s jump right into it, Keirsten. Do recruiters really scan resumes in seven seconds or less? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Absolutely. I actually have a whole series about the six-second scan because that was what we, folks who came up in my era, twenty years ago, that was our benchmark that it was a six-second scan. So seven is, actually, we’re giving it one more second of notice which is a great thing to hear. 

Mac Prichard:

It might distress some listeners to hear that they’re getting such a short amount of attention, given the amount of work that goes into creating a resume. Tell us why recruiters are spending this amount of time in that initial scan and what they hope to get when they look at it. 

Keirsten Greggs:

Well, it’s just what you said, Mac. It is that initial scan. We’re looking for certain criteria that are going to make us want to put you into the “come back later and take a deeper dive” pile, and for those people who we want to mete out quickly, not spend a great deal of time, that’s more so where that six or seven-seconds comes in. 

So, for example, say that we are looking for a specific certification or a specific level of education, or even a specific job title, previous or current, we go to place – our eyes will go to places on their resume that will let us know, you know, yes or no, and then move on. 

Mac Prichard:

How can a job-seeker know what might matter to a recruiter doing that scan? What kinds of credentials or educational requirements are gonna be most important? 

Keirsten Greggs:

It really does depend on the position. But a lot of times, we’re trying to tie those, perhaps, top three must-haves or those top three past experiences to our role, and that’s what we’re pinpointing. That’s what we’re looking for. 

I do want to stress that some of these things have been made easier with the introduction of folks using more AI tools to at the top of the funnel if that means anything to the job seeker. Probably not. But at the beginning stages, the beginning screening stages, it does help us that we have IT tools that assist us in pinpointing those right things. Things that our eyes may not have seen. 

Mac Prichard:

Tell us more about those IT tools, Keirsten. How do you use them? And how do you set them? And how does a job seeker figure out what those top three things might be that matter? 

Keirsten Greggs:

That’s a great question. Thank you. So, first and foremost, I do want to help everyone understand that the Applicant Tracking System, you know, where you’re uploading your resume or what’s being pulled from your LinkedIn profile into our systems internally, those systems are not kicking you out. Like there’s not a robot sitting there that’s telling you, you’re not qualified. It’s giving us criteria. It’s a place where your resume is stored. It’s a place where your profile is stored that allows us to come and review things.

Now, we do get triggers. We do get, you know, “quote-unquote” notices that say, you know, yes this person had experience in X, Y, and Z, or yes this person meets the requisite education, or yes, this person has the requisite certifications and training. But I do want folks to know that there’s no robot that’s throwing you away. So that’s first and foremost. 

Second, like I said, our Applicant Tracking Systems are one of those tools, and then there are AI tools that are used specifically for us. Either us going out and sourcing or that are data-mining your information prior to us opening your profile. 

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad you brought that up, Keirsten, because I think many listeners do worry that a robot is making a decision about whether they move forward in the hiring process, and what I’m hearing you say is that the Applicant Tracking System is a way of receiving, organizing, and sharing applications. It’s not a tool for rejecting people when they first apply. Is that correct? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Yes, absolutely. It helps us be more efficient because, as you know, especially right now, there are a great deal of jobs and there are a great deal of job seekers who are looking to fill those jobs. So, it gives us more time to do the high-touch aspects of our job that build relationships, and that actually blend into a more favorable candidate experience, if I’m gonna be frank. 

Mac Prichard:

And the applications do get that initial scan by a recruiter. When that scan is happening, what could disqualify a candidate right from the start? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Things that disqualify are, like I said, those baseline requirements. Those deal-breakers. Like if you’re an attorney or if I’m looking for an attorney, and you’re not licensed at all, or even in my state, you know, if that’s a factor, that’s kind of a deal-breaker. I can’t do anything about that. If you’re a truck driver, or if I’m looking for a truck driver and you don’t have your CDL, like, that’s going to be a deal-breaker for me in terms of how much attention or how much detailed attention I’m going to give to your application when there are perhaps five, ten, fifteen, or twenty people who meet that requirement right off of the bat.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. Well, let’s talk about other things that matter when a recruiter looks at your resume and how you can organize your resume to put your best foot forward. Number one on your list of recommendations, Keirsten, is to show that you have the right experience. Tell us more about this and why it matters. 

Keirsten Greggs:

What I mean by the right experience is I like to see that the job seeker has read the job description, understand again that I’m taking for granted that the job description was well written, and you had an understanding of what it is, and you were tying your experience to that. I want to know that that person is seeing themselves in that job. They’re saying, like, this is my next role. They have organized and presented their resume in a way that says the positions that I’m hiring for are their next job. 

Mac Prichard:

How do you see candidates do that effectively? Once they’ve read the job description, they sat down to revise their resume. What does someone who does it well do at that stage? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Making things easier for us in that six, seven-second scan are things like having your name prominently posted, I mean prominently available. Having your contact information. Having your job title, your skill summary, and a lot of folks still are not putting, like, that they’re a talent acquisition consultant like I am, and I’m going through your resume reading, you know, what it is that you do, or what it is that you want to do in your next job. You know, you’re a project manager that’s focused on X, Y, and Z; that should be at the top. That should be prominent; that should be one of the first things I see. And then also highlighting the best of your achievements first. 

So, for someone like me, a TA consultant, yes, I have a master’s degree, but that’s not as important a skill as some other things, like my ability to talk about how I foster a productive and inclusive candidate experience. Like that’s what I’m looking for. I don’t think that someone would be as excited about, you know, do I have a master’s degree? That doesn’t mean that I can do the job when speaking of my role specifically. 

Mac Prichard:

You talked a moment ago about the importance of looking at a job description and assuming that it’s well written, using that to inform how you reorganize and present your resume. Are there other steps you recommend as a recruiter, Keirsten, to understand what it is that is gonna be most important to the recruiter looking at your resume, besides looking at the job description? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Yes. So, recruiters are and are not subject matter experts, and any time that we can learn more about the specific industry, the specific role, by reading your experience or learning more about your experience from what you presented, or even if you wrote things that have me wanting to know more about something that you said, like, that’s what’s going to stand out. Those are the things that are going to move you from, move you to, I should say, the interview stage at a minimum, the phone screen stage, which is where you talk to us first. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. We’re gonna take a break, Keirsten. Stay with us. When we come back, Keirsten Greggs will continue to share her advice on what matters most when a recruiter looks at your resume. 

Keirsten’s resume advice is spot on. 

The experts at TopResume can help you, too.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

A TopResume writer will review your resume for free. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

Find out how you can improve your resume right away. 

And if you don’t want to fix your resume yourself, you can hire TopResume to do it for you. 

Go to maclist.org/topresume. 

Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Keirsten Greggs. 

She’s the founder and CEO of TRAP Recruiter. It’s a recruiting and career coaching firm that bridges the gap between job seekers and employers.

She joins us from the Washington, DC, area.  

Now, Keirsten, before the break, we were talking about what matters most when a recruiter looks at your resume, and we talked about showing that you’ve got the right experience, and you shared some ideas about how to do that and research what matters most to recruiters when they’re scanning your resume, so you can make sure your resume reflects those priorities. 

Number two on your list of what matters most when a recruiter looks at your resume is to pay attention to how you talk about yourself. What do you have in mind here, Keirsten? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Yes, showing your value proposition, how you have, in the past, added value to your organization. When I’m coaching people, I frame it as, what would not have happened if you weren’t here? I know that’s probably a poorly organized grammatical sentence. But I mean, that sentence is poorly organized grammatically, but I think folks understand what I’m saying. So, if not for you, what are those things that you added yourself that no one else did? 

Mac Prichard:

So, you recommend that a candidate think about what might’ve happened? What a difference they had made because they were there. 

Keirsten Greggs:

Yes, and just be cautious not to rewrite the job description, and I’m not speaking just on the one that, you know, you’re pursuing. I mean the one that you’ve had and the ones that you’ve had in the past. I’ve seen, you know, a lot of folks copy and paste what their organizations say about the role, what the compensation department, you know, or whoever is responsible for leveling the positions. They’ll just copy and paste those attributes, and that’s not the best approach. Because at the end of the day, if two, three, or four people who have that same role decide to do that, how is it that you stand out? How are you differentiating yourself? 

Mac Prichard:

Why do achievements matter more to you and your fellow recruiters when scanning a resume than talking about responsibilities? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Because we’re gonna get excited, and you know, and I don’t want to use this word for its negative connotation, because people do think when recruiters talk about selling a candidate, you know, that comes across sometimes in a negative way. But we really want to put the best part of you forward, like we want to be just as excited about you and relay that to our hiring managers and say, “Hey, here’s why, you know, this person is a great person for this role.”

Mac Prichard:

What do you think, Keirsten stops candidates from talking about their achievements rather than their responsibilities? 

Keirsten Greggs:

It’s very difficult for people to celebrate themselves. I have a hard time doing that. You know, it’s easy for me to pull out the best in people, but it’s hard to pull out the best in yourself. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, next on your list of what matters most to a recruiter who’s looking at your resume is, and you mentioned this earlier, is to show that it’s the next job. Tell us more about this. Because people often – do you find that most applicants are clear about what they want in their next job?  

Keirsten Greggs:

No, I don’t think a lot of people are. I ask this question for as many phone screens as I have per day. I ask this question every time, and all but perhaps one of those times, if not every time I ask the question, when I ask the question, what are your top three for your next role? You know, if you were given the opportunity to design your next job, what are the top three things, the top three characteristics that it must have? People are always taken aback because they either have never been asked that question, or they say, “Wow, that’s a great question,” and then they’re able to, like I said, put themselves into it, and they’re not just talking about the role, they’re talking about themselves, what matters to them. So they’re, with my lead, connecting themselves to the position. 

Mac Prichard:

And what are you listening for when someone gives you an answer to that question about, what are the top three characteristics that are most important to you in your next job? 

Keirsten Greggs:

I’m listening for authenticity. Because what matters to them is what matters to them. So, if someone says to me, “I want a job that is ten minutes from home, where I don’t have to travel,” as opposed to a good work-life balance, because that’s kind of vague, and what that means to me is not what that means to someone else if that makes sense. So, when someone is more descriptive, when someone is authentic and honest about, you know, the underlying reasons why this is one of their top three. Sometimes those factors are not specifically what they’re going to be doing on the job but how they are going to be incorporating the job into their lives, and I love those answers.   

Mac Prichard:

How have you seen candidates talk about those top three characteristics effectively in their resume? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Oh, now that’s a great question. I have not seen folks explicitly say, “Here are what I need from a job,” because that’s something that, in their resumes specifically, but seeing that progression from one position to another is really what gives me a sense of where they’re going. 

You know, I like when – one thing that people have a tendency to do, especially women and especially folks from marginalized or underrepresented communities – is that they try to check every box that’s on the job description, and they won’t apply unless they believe that they meet every single criteria, for the most case. Overwhelmingly, the majority of those people will not even apply for roles. 

And I just try to help folks understand that recruiters, hiring managers, the ones that are more forward-thinking and innovative, they’re not necessarily looking for someone who has everything. They don’t want someone who’s at the top, you know, that checks all the boxes, so to speak. They want someone that can grow in the position, as well as grow outside of the position into their next one, as well. 

Mac Prichard:

Another tip that you share about what matters most to recruiters when scanning your resume is to pay attention to optics. What kind of optics are we talking about, Keirsten? 

Keirsten Greggs:

So, it’s not so much what happens when you copy and paste your resume up into the ATS. That’s not what I mean by optics. You don’t have any control over how the system or how the AI tools rearranges or organizes your things. Now, recruiters are going to open the attachment, and I mean your physical resume in that regards. 

So, it’s not so much a matter of don’t have pictures. Don’t have, you know, beautiful graphics. That’s not what I’m saying. It’s the way it’s organized; it just has to be orderly and not chaotic, like I have to be able to see certain things and not go searching, and some things I’ve seen are like, you know, weird fonts or words that are bolded for no apparent reason, long lists of things like again, upfront, instead of me learning more about you, long paragraphs and sentences as opposed to bulleted lists, as well, are another thing that kind of throws a recruiter into a loop and they have to spend more time searching for information. 

Mac Prichard:

Your final piece of advice about what matters most when a recruiter looks at a resume is to write in your own voice but in a way that others can understand. What does a resume that does that look like? 

Keirsten Greggs:

Again, it’s using the language of the employer or using the language of your role, using the language of your industry matters. But you can do that in a way where you’re not just having a laundry list of unconnected buzz words if that makes sense. 

Mac Prichard:

It does. Well, it’s been a great conversation, Keirsten. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Keirsten Greggs:

What’s next for me? So, as you mentioned at the top of the show, I do have a live show on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook every Wednesday, called Trap Chat Live. I bring in guests from various walks of life, job seekers as well as HR leaders, mental health professionals. This past month was focused on AI tools and how we use them in the recruiting process. I’ve done shows completely dedicated to job seekers, where I had job seekers come on and provide advice, so tune into that. It’s on Wednesday at 2:00 PM eastern, and then, I don’t know. I guess whatever else folks ask me to do. 

Mac Prichard:

I know that listeners can learn more about you and what you’re up to in the coming future by visiting your website, www.traprecruiter.com, and that you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and if they do so, I hope they’ll mention that they heard you on the show. 

Now, Keirsten, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about what matters most when a recruiter looks at your resume. 

Keirsten Greggs:

You matter most. Highlight the best of your achievements. 

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Porschia Parker-Griffin.

She’s the founder and CEO of Fly High Coaching. Her company helps you find your ideal career, generate an awesome income, and create a life you love. 

You can always expect to get behavioral questions in a job interview. 

That’s because the interviewer wants to see examples of your experience. 

But which behavioral questions will a hiring manager use, and how can you prepare? 

Join us next Wednesday when Porschia Parker-Griffin and I talk about how to get ready for any behavioral interview question.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

Seven seconds. That’s how much time a recruiter spends on an initial resume scan. What can you do to make those seven seconds count? Find Your Dream Job guest Keirsten Greggs says you start by having all the important facts in the right place. Share your experience and the specific, positive ways you impacted your previous employer. Keirsten also recommends focusing on how your past experience would make this the perfect job for you, and “speaking in your own voice.” Don’t use vocabulary that you think a hiring manager wants to hear; use the language of the industry. 

About Our Guest:

Keirsten Greggs is the founder and CEO of TRAP Recruiter. It’s a recruiting and career coaching firm that bridges the gap between job seekers and employers.

Resources in This Episode:

  • If you need someone to help you bridge the gap between yourself as a job seeker and employers, Keirsten would love to help. Find out how she can help you by visiting traprecruiter.com/.
  • From our Sponsor: Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. Get a free review of your resume today from one of TopResume’s expert writers.