Ask A Recruiter: Why Your Resume Didn’t Get Past the First Round

Q: I haven’t been called for an interview for the past few jobs I’ve applied to. What am I doing wrong?


A: A decade ago, job seekers used resumes to get their foot in the door for an interview. However, in today’s job market, resumes are used to screen candidates out. Even if you’re qualified for an interview, your resume could prevent you from getting to that step, so it’s important that you have a bulletproof resume to avoid getting screened out. Here’s how it works: a ‘screener,’ who could be a human or could be automated software, quickly scans your resume and gauges whether it’s worthy to go to the next round where it will be given more careful consideration and where you’ll perhaps be invited in for an interview.


Screeners spend less than one minute looking over your resume so it’s important to show them your best attributes right away and not waste their time. Don’t bury your most essential or biggest accomplishment – put it right at the top of your resume. For example, if you’re a recent college graduate, your degree will likely be your biggest qualification. If you’ve worked in a certain industry or in a certain role for a few years, summarize that as your biggest qualification. Don’t waste important ‘real estate’ on your resume by putting a summary or your objectives at the top of the page. While those statements may be important to you, they’re not what the screener is looking for.


Here are other things that screeners look for:


A resume that’s easy to read – Think about it: the screener has a huge stack of resumes and not much time – are they going to want to dig in to a multi-page resume with cramped type? No. They want to see a sleek, easy-to-scan, one page document that highlights the candidate’s most important attributes.


Location – From the screener’s perspective, seeing that a candidate lives out of state or far from the job site is a red flag. They might assume that the candidate will need to relocate or want to negotiate commuting. While a resume may otherwise be very strong, if the screener has an abundance of candidates and needs to knock some out of contention, resumes that point out a long-distance address could go to the bottom of the pile. If you’re in this situation, try listing generic contact information (such as a gmail account) or putting your contact information at the bottom of the page.


Education–It’s not always the case that just because you have information to share, it should be included on your resume and the Education category is a good example. First, consider which is stronger – your education or your work experience – and put the stronger attribute at the top of your resume. If you’ve been working for a few years, it doesn’t make sense to highlight non-essential education information like the high school you went to or a GPA that isn’t very strong (3.8 or higher). If you are a new graduate and want to put the spotlight on your degree, it’s fine to highlight leadership experience from school or classes that are relative to your industry or area of work, but don’t highlight unimportant parts of your education.



Requirements – Some companies, especially large organizations, use tracking systems that pre-screen resumes. In this situation, it’s important that your resume contain the keywords that the software will be looking for. These keywords are taken from the job description, often they will be listed as “requirements” in the job description. It’s important to incorporate these keywords as often as possible in your resume – as long as they’re applicable, of course.


Hobbies & interests – While talking about a unique hobby could help a candidate appear to be well-rounded or break the ice in an interview, listing that hobby on a resume comes across as a waste of space. Screeners would rather see resumes that list skills, certifications and/or awards instead.


Spacing & formatting – One of the first pieces of advice resume writers receive is to triple check that there are no grammar mistakes and typos. Here is a second piece of advice: make sure your resume is formatted correctly throughout, that the font and size are uniform, and that everything is bolded and italicized that should be.



Jim Pickering has worked at Professional Staffing Group for 8 years. He started in PSG’s entry-level training program and is now a senior recruiting manager. Jim oversees a team that sources and pre-screens candidates for PSG’s clients.


PSG Holds Workshop on Resume Best Practices

Earlier this month, PSG held a workshop for job candidates to discuss resume best practices. PSG managers Kristen Coppins, Katie Chisolm and Elizabeth Siracusa offered information about resume content, formatting and presentation and discussed questions and challenges that candidates have when it comes to their resumes. The session also included one-on-one resume reviews and critiques.


The three biggest takeaways from this workshop were:

–          It is ok to have multiple versions of your resume

–          When reviewing resumes, employers spend 60 seconds or less deciding whether they are interested in the candidate

–         Your resume MUST be visually appealing with a layout that is easy on the eye and stands out


PSG regularly holds workshops for job candidates, as part of its commitment to being a resource for job seekers and helping them find employment.

Ask A Recruiter: Resume Tips for New College Graduates

Q: I’m graduating college this year and still working on my resume. Do you have any tips?

A: Congratulations on your graduation and welcome to the workforce!

We often help recent college graduates with their resumes. One of the most common mistakes new job seekers make is not providing detail on the jobs they held during school. For instance, a candidate who worked as a receptionist in the Dean’s office might list their duties as “answering phones,” overlooking and failing to mention other valuable office experience like: planning meetings, greeting important people and organizing events.

I recommend thinking about all the work experience you have from college – including part-time or unpaid jobs, internships, work study and extracurricular activities – and the responsibilities you were given in those roles. Then think about the special achievements you accomplished during each experience. Use bullet points to call out each item.

However, don’t succumb to the other common mistake new job seekers make of writing about every detail you can think of. Keep it relevant to the job you’re seeking or the kind of work you want to do. For example, if you worked as a lifeguard during school, it would be appropriate to include the details of that experience if you’re looking for new lifeguarding jobs. If you’re pursuing office work, you should think about the aspects of your lifeguarding experience that are relevant to office employers, such as record-keeping, managing schedules, etc.

Rather than providing detailed information about special events, trips or assignments, just list them and save the big story for the interview. If the employer is interested in your trip to China during your internship, they’ll ask you about it. Conversely, if they’re not interested, it doesn’t benefit you to include all the details on your resume.

Finally, I can’t stress enough how important it is to proof-read your resume. Print it out so that you can see what it looks like from the eyes of the recipient. Is it formatted correctly and is there enough ‘white space’? Employers aren’t likely to read every bullet, so you want to make sure your important information stands out. Ask a friend, family member or professor to proof-read it, too. They may catch a mistake that you’ve overlooked.

About the Recruiter
Katy-LeVeque-photoKaty Leveque is a Senior Group Manager at PSG.  Katy learned the recruiting business from the ground up. She joined PSG shortly after graduating college over five years ago and today Katy oversees the service teams that support some of PSG’s most valued clients.

Ask A Recruiter: Explaining a Gap in your Resume

Q: What’s your advice for explaining a gap in a resume?

A: A gap in your resume, i.e. a period of time that isn’t filled by employment, is usually perceived negatively by employers and typically will generate questions from the interviewer. Therefore, it’s important to have a logical and credible explanation for the gap.

The explanation will depend on why you have the gap. Is it because you were unemployed and spent that time looking for a new job? Did you take time off on purpose to care for family or to travel before settling down? Or were you relocating and didn’t have a new job lined up before the move? These are all plausible reasons for gaps and I hear them every day.

The most important thing to consider when you are explaining why you have a gap in your resume is the message you are sending. For instance, if you decided to travel after a job ended and before looking for another position, you’re sending the message that you prioritized personal pleasure over work. This might cause the employer to wonder if you’re serious about working now. It’s important to be truthful in your explanation, but think about your response from the listener’s point of view. If you have a gap on your resume because you were unemployed, explain your job search and details on how you spent that time. Did you have goals and a structured approach to your job search? Did you volunteer, intern or work temporary or contract positions in the meantime? Even if they weren’t in your field, they could show that you were motivated to get back to work.

If you’re living through a gap period right now, I recommend trying temporary or contract work. Not only are you keeping your skills up-to-date, but each day you are working will expose you to new contacts and experiences that may lead you to the job you’re looking for. Many times temporary and contract positions turn into offers for full-time work.

About the Recruiter
frank-gentile-2Frank Gentile is a 20+ year veteran of the staffing industry and an experienced recruiter. As a Director at Professional Staffing Group (PSG) Frank oversees the permanent placement division.