How to structure your résumé so it gets recruiters' attention


Sometimes, an F can be a good thing.

Take the so-called F-method. It's a way of organizing your résumé so that a recruiter can read the most important parts across the top — like the upper portion of the letter F.

The next most essential info goes farther down with keywords or points sticking out like the arm on an F.

The idea behind the framework is to help someone looking over your résumé get to the good stuff right away. That's because recruiters might spend only seconds scanning your work history and other accomplishments, and you need to make sure you really stand out, really quickly.

"The skills section on my résumé is in that 'F.' It's in that direct line of sight," Lee Woodrow, owner and principal consultant at Bigger Fish Executive Branding, told Business Insider.

Highlighting the top information right away is all the more important in an environment where it's getting harder to get desk jobs — and where the ease of applying means recruiters are often overrun with applications.

'Buzzword bingo'

Woodrow, who's been writing résumés for others for many years, said the top of a CV built around the F-method should include essential information about the value you bring: details like who you are professionally, what area your expertise is in, and which industries you've worked in.

"It's an elevator pitch," he said. That information belongs at the top near your name, he said, so that it gets seen. "That entices the reader to read on."

It's also important, Woodrow said, to have the right words and phrases up high where a busy recruiter can see them.

"It's like buzzword bingo," he said.

This is often important when recruiters are trying to fill technical roles. They might not have a lot of background in the particulars of a job, so they might be on the hunt for phrases or words that a hiring manager has flagged.

Setting your résumé up with the F-method can mean a break from traditional formats, such as listing your work experience in reverse chronological order, which may surprise some.

But Woodrow said floating the most important ideas to the top makes sense if, for example, your most relevant experience for a job isn't tied to your latest role. Or, in other cases, he said, a job posting might call for someone with a master's degree or a Ph.D.

"Why would you put it lower down on page two or three? You'd want it on page one somewhere — highlighting it in that area which is in the 'F,'" Woodrow said.

In any case, he said, it's important to keep the most relevant information on the first page of a résumé.

Have a few goals in mind

Woodrow said one goal for your résumé should be ensuring it can be easily read by the applicant-tracking software companies often use to sift through job applications. Another aim should be having clear section titles so the document is a breeze for a recruiter to navigate. Highlight things like relevant job experience for a role you're going for, he said.

Last, Woodrow said, a résumé needs to influence a decision-maker by giving proof of your accomplishments. He recommends including three brief examples on the first page about how you solved a problem. To do this, describe a situation, give context, and use metrics from the business, if possible, to demonstrate how you improved a situation.

It's an abbreviated version of the STAR technique, sometimes used in interviewing, and involves describing a situation or task, actions, and results.

Kyle Samuels, founder, and CEO of the executive search firm Creative Talent Endeavors, told BI that using the F-method to lay out a résumé can make sense for technical roles where a recruiter needs to know you have a certain amount of experience with, say, a particular programming language or modeling.

But in other cases, where a job might be more senior, artificial intelligence tools that do a first pass on a stack of résumés might make the F idea somewhat moot because AI bots can scoop up huge volumes of information.

"It kind of feels like a poor man's AI," Samuels said, referring to the F-method.

He said that with a role like a VP of marketing, you might have several candidates who would be a great fit.

"We're not expecting to see the exact same formatting or skills or experience, and so we really pore through the résumé," Samuels said.

That's why, especially when recruiting for more senior roles, there's little substitute for reading a résumé thoroughly, he said.

"I study it like the Torah," Samuels said.

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