What Do HR Directors Want in a Resume?

Reprinted with permission from Financial Management Network.


Though only 17 percent of jobseekers send their resumes electronically, twice that many human resources professionals named email their preferred method for receiving resumes, in a newly-released survey.

In the Cover Letters and Resumes Survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), emailing resumes was favored by 34 percent of respondents, compared to 31 percent favoring postal mail and 25 percent preferring fax (with the rest preferring some Web-based delivery system, hand-delivery, or stating no preference).

The popularity of emailed resumes may stem from the growing number of companies using electronic means to scan and store resume information. About one in four (24 percent) respondents to the SHRM survey say that their companies electronically scan resumes and use databases for storage, while 9 percent say their companies screen resumes electronically using a database that searches for specific criteria. Most respondents (84 percent) believe that the number of resumes submitted electronically will increase over the next year.

While new technology may be changing how resumes are sent and scanned, it hasn't changed what HR directors consider a resume's essential virtues or flaws, the survey suggests. Among findings:

  • The majority of respondents (54 percent) review a resume in less than three minutes.

  • More than half (55 percent) of respondents prefer resumes to be one page; and 62 percent say they take a dim view of resumes that are more than two pages long.

  • Three-fourths of HR professionals (76 percent) say that typos or grammatical errors found in cover letters cause them to remove the applicant from the pool of possible candidates.

  • When asked to rate the overall quality of the cover letters and resumes they receive, 96 percent of HR professionals rated the quality "good" or "fair." Only 2 percent of respondents said they receive resumes and cover letters they consider "excellent."

The SHRM Cover Letters and Resumes Survey, funded in part by the SHRM Foundation, is available by calling 1-800-444-5006. The survey costs $39.95 for non-SHRM members. SHRM members may access the survey free at www.shrm.org/surveys/.

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