When writing a resume, the initial goal is to draw the Recruiter into reading the document you have submitted. The next step is to then have this person identify you as a viable candidate for the open position you are seeking.

So much effort is placed on the concept of having the resume sell your candidacy in order to place you in a competitive spot for the role. While I wholeheartedly agree with this idea, we are jumping ahead of ourselves a bit with that mindset. The resume writer first needs to make sure that they have written a document that is as readable as possible.

A Recruiter will typically only spend seconds on a resume that does not immediately grab their attention. Even then, a Recruiter will only briefly scan your document to see if it is worth fully reading. Only a very select few actually get fully read and considered for the position for which it was submitted. So, it is imperative that whatever is sent, is easy to read and understand in order to overcome these selection hurdles.

So, how can you differentiate your resume and make it more readable than others being considered? Luckily, it is pretty easy and using common sense will do well in this area. Let’s look at some of the ways you can write a very readable resume.

• Watch Your Grammar: It is very difficult to read sentences that feature poor grammar. If you have found yourself in this situation, you will immediately recall how you have to read the same line over and over again to try to understand it. Even if the Recruiter does not automatically disqualify you because of the grammar, the person will probably give up because it is just too difficult to read.

• Spelling Counts: This is a similar concept to grammar. Spelling errors highlight a lack of attention of detail and care for the quality of the output. It is also very difficult to quickly read anything with poor spelling. Misspelling can result in incorrect word choice which can completely change the meaning of what you are trying to write. Almost always, a Recruiter will not even bother to try to read it.

• Stick to Basic Formatting; This can be a bit of a touchy subject because most of your resume gurus will advocate for a fairly elaborate eye-catching format to your resume. My view is a simple traditional format works best, because recruiters know how to read that version the best and are comfortable with it. Anything outside the ordinary (even though it may draw the eye) will probably be dismissed as too much effort to read. 

• Font and Structure are Important: Just like with the core formatting, the font and structuring of the document is key. A small font, while it may allow you to write more content on the page, will make it difficult for people to read (especially your more chronologically senior readers). Spacing is also a key to making your resume more readable. Long and run-on paragraphs are naturally intimidating to look at, and will generally draw a sigh by the reader, who will then move on to someone else that is easier.

• Insider Company Lingo: This one can be especially difficult for someone who has been with a company for an extended time period. Over the years, you pick up company-specific terminology, to the point where it almost becomes another known language. This becomes a challenge because you probably don’t even know you have done it. A solution is to have an outsider (someone with zero links to the company in question) read this section to make sure it is understandable.

• Acronyms are Tough: A Recruiter will often be the first reader of your resume, and if you pass this hurdle, you will move on to the Hiring Manager. Therefore, the Recruiter is generally not an expert in your particular field of employment. An example would be a Recruiter for a healthcare company who is not a Nurse, but rather has a Human Resources background. It is unlikely that a Recruiter is going to spend the time to research what each acronym means. If there are too many that they don’t recognize, your document won’t get a further look.

Even in today’s strong labor market for job seekers, it is still important for a person to make the process for a prospective employer as painless as possible. This can start very easily by trying to make your resume (and Cover Letter, same concepts apply) very readable. If you feel you are too close to the document, then have a friend or family member objectively review your resume. Anything that is difficult to understand or is in error needs to be redone prior to submission.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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