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How to Get Your Sales Resume Noticed

Learning how to get your sales resume noticed by recruiters and/or HR professionals is critical to landing an interview. A recent study by the job site TheLadders, gives us insight into how recruiters view resumes and ultimately how to get noticed. In this study, they studied how much time recruiters spend looking at a resume before making a “fit/no fit” decision. They also revealed what recruiters look at while making this decision. You can find the five page report here – http://cdn.theladders.net/static/images/basicSite/pdfs/TheLadders-EyeTracking-StudyC2.pdf. The answers are rather surprising and are based on TheLadders’ use of  “gaze tracking” technology to follow the actual resume viewing habits of recruiters. Believe it or not, the average recruiter spends “only 6 seconds reviewing an individual resume.” This is dramatically less than the “4 to 5 minutes per resume” that previous research based on recruiters’ self-reports had found.

TheLadders found that 80% of a recruiter’s time is spent looking at:

  • Name
  • Current title/company
  • Previous title/company
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Current position start and end dates
  • Education

The six data points above would probably prove sufficient when you are recruiting nurses, C++ programmers or other positions that require a very specific skill set and background. With sales positions, there’s a bit more at play so I sat down with my team to discuss what critical factors we use when viewing a resume.

How Sales Talent Views Sales Resumes.

We take three progressively deeper looks at a resume. The first pass focuses on the 6 points above looking for obvious reasons why this doesn’t fit. For example, a VP of Sales candidate with 15 years of management experience is simply not a fit for a sales position requiring 2-5 years of sales experience. If we don’t find a quick knockout, we take a deeper look. Here we focus on: employment stability and background match. If your resume is still open on our screen, we slow down a bit to look for sales accomplishments, consistency of sales accomplishments and, if it isn’t clear, we try to figure out exactly what the person was selling and who they’re selling to.

Tips to Get Your Sales Resume Noticed.

The biggest enemy a recruiter (or anyone tasked with processing resumes) faces is noise. We live in a world of too many prospects and too many resources. With that in mind, consider the following.

  1.  Clutter kills. Our average recruiter receives a few hundred resumes a week from job postings and views close to a thousand more online via our own database, job boards, Linkedin and other mediums. Don’t make it hard to find the fit. Summaries, expanded descriptions, etc just add noise when clarity should be your goal.
  2.  Avoid crazy fonts, unusual layouts and anything else that makes your resume visually busy. Remember, the average recruiter is looking at hundreds of resumes each day. Don’t make it hard for them to find how your background fits.  For more tips, we’ve put together our list of Top 10 Sales Resume Mistakes and Top 10 Sales Resume Tips.
  3.  One of the findings of TheLadders report is that recruiters spend 19% of their time viewing a potential candidate’s picture (example given was for linkedin). Make sure your profile picture on Linkedin gives the right impression. We have a blog on this topic here – 13 Common Linkedin Profile Picture Mistakes.
  4.  Include dates on your resume. When they aren’t present we’re guessing that you’re trying to hide something. Remember, the first couple of visual passes over your resume we’re more interested in narrowing down the field. Don’t give us a quick way to disqualify you.
  5.  Although it’s not mentioned you need to be careful with using objectives. For example “Seeking a medical sales opportunity” is fine unless you’re not set on medical sales. In our experience, 80% of people who want to get into medical sales, really want to get into medical sales. In other words, we’re probably not going to reach out to you for anything else.
  6.  A final consideration is the use of Candidate Tracking Software systems by many internal and external recruiting teams. The power of these systems is their ability to search for candidates using keywords or company names. We have a paper on the topic of the proper use of keywords here – Sales Resume Keywords. Two additional points on this topic. 1. Please pay attention to point #1 above – Clutter kills when adding keywords. 2. Don’t list keywords unless they are a strength or truly applicable. A recruiter is just going to get annoyed, for example, when you make multiple references to cold-calling and you have zero desire to cold-call anymore.

Hopefully these tips help get your sales resume noticed and more importantly, lands you interviews.

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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. Our posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

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