October 28, 2019

What do hiring managers look for in a resume? Insights from real-world recruiters

When we brought career services professionals and hiring managers together at our Career Services Day in June 2019, we were pleasantly surprised to realise how much they appreciated this time together and just how insightful they found it. 

The original task we gave them was the following: we know soft skills are important, but how do hiring managers assess these skills on a resume? 

As the conversation between them unfolded, we realised that career services professionals extended the conversation to a broader topic; namely, what do recruiters look for when they see a resume and how to work around some perceived setbacks in a student’s resume, like the lack of work experience. 

Since the conversation and insights shared proved valuable for both parties involved, we wanted to give our online community access to some of these insights as well. We invited hiring managers from two companies we work with to answer the most pressing resume-related questions.

We hope that you and your students will find these insights useful and our biggest wish is that the advice on these pages might help your students in finding their next professional experience. 

Without further ado, here is the advice of: 

  • 🎤 Charlotte Gouiard, Campus Relations and Intern Recruitment Manager at Mazars
  • 🎤 Aude Mathys, Talent Acquisition Manager, and Rizwan Goulamhoussen, HR Development Manager at Urgo Group

1. What is the most important information you look at when you look at a CV? How long do you spend looking at each resume? 🔍

🎤 Aude and Rizwan 
On average, we spend 15 to 20 seconds on a resume. The first element we look at is the academic background and the candidate's school. The second element we pay attention to is the general structure of the resume. 

🎤 Charlotte
I look at a CV for less than a minute and the most important information I look at is the following: 

  • The academic background 📚
    How it relates to the job description, how the candidate structured his/her academic journey, the classes they took, the topic of their dissertation, whether they have a dual degree, etc.
  • The professional experience 💼
    I try to identify the types of companies the student interacted with and the tasks he/she accomplished. This allows me to see what kind of competencies the student might have developed through these experiences. 
  • The student’s interests 🎭
    Hobbies or interests allow us to assess students’ curiosity, their ability to work in a group and their level of comfort and confidence. 

2. What kind of CV structure do you prefer? 📃

🎤 Aude and Rizwan 
A resume has to be summarised into one single page, classified in clear categories and be results-oriented so that we can quickly understand what is the added value from each experience they listed. In addition, we value seeing experiences outside of the academic curriculum, especially for recent graduates.

🎤 Charlotte
I prefer resumes that are one page, simple and easy to read. Students shouldn't forget to put a title that explains what they're looking for and their availabilities. 

The CV should start with the student’s academic background, followed by their professional experiences. When it comes to the latter, I prefer to see them arranged in bullet points that start with an action verb and clearly describe the tasks performed. 
When it comes to using a photo, I recommend putting one (only if it’s high-quality and professional-looking) if the student applies through their university’s career fair - this allows recruiters to remember the exchange they had with the candidate at the fair. Otherwise, a photo is not necessary.

Finally, students shouldn’t forget to include their hobbies and interests - they usually say a lot about their personalities and they’re something recruiters look forward to reading. 

3. How do you assess soft skills during an interview or in a CV? ⚖️

🎤 Aude and Rizwan 
At Urgo Group, soft skills assessment is integrated into each step of our recruitment process. We often use business cases to assess them. 

🎤 Charlotte
At Mazars, soft skills are a crucial element to evaluate during our recruitment process. The soft skills we look for are: 

  • Teamwork 🤜💥🤛
    We look for teamwork skills in students’ hobbies or non-academic interests, as well as group work that was part of the academic curriculum. The idea is to see their role on the team and their position in the group. 
  • Organisational skills 🧭
    We assess this through the structure of the resume and cover letter, but also through tasks that require reporting, managing unforeseen circumstances and tight deadlines. 
  • Curiosity 🤔
    Dual degrees, internships abroad and students’ hobbies are all good signs of curiosity.
  • Critical thinking 💭
    We test this through case studies (they allow us to see how the candidate approaches a problem and how he/she thinks through it) and also the candidate’s reflection on his/her career path. 

4. What should a student who doesn’t have much work experience focus on in their CV? 🔬

🎤 Aude and Rizwan 
A student should focus on every single experience during which he/she has learned something relevant. This can include being part of a nonprofit organisation, a sports team, an interesting trip, etc. 

🎤 Charlotte
A student can focus on their teamwork in university projects, their summer job or even a part-time job they held while studying. Students shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the latter even if it is not clearly related to the job position they are applying to. Summer or part-time jobs are often very informative and can allow the student to highlight certain strengths. Of course, it is up to the student to take a step back to realise what these experiences have taught him/her and be able to maximise their value.

5. When you think of the most and least successful candidates you've seen, what made their CV stand out or made you lose interest? 💯

🎤 Aude and Rizwan 
If there is too much information on the resume, recruiters can easily become lost. Students should remember that we spend about 15 to 20 seconds on a resume, so if the information is not clear, we can’t afford to spend more time on trying to understand it. 

The best resumes are always structured in the same way: they have a professional picture, clear categories, and results that are mentioned on the top of each experience. 

🎤 Charlotte
I look at the structure of the resume, its clarity, its synthesis and also whether the applicant was able to highlight the parts of the CV that are directly related to the position he/she is applying to.

Charlotte, Aude and Rizwan were among the many experts that offered great insights at the 2019 Career Services Day. If you couldn’t make it and find yourself having #FOMO for not being there, as always, we’ve got your back.

Posted by
Camille Moreau
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