Top Ten Tips: How to Read a Résumé

Are job seekers better prepared than hiring managers when it comes to understanding the ways to utilize a résumé to market themselves?


Google all of the resources that can help you write the perfect résumé and you’ll find millions of them! Now search for all of the websites that will help you READ a résumé and you’ll get a list with maybe a dozen and a half articles before the list turns to résumé services and how to write résumés. Sad but true, job seekers seem better prepared to write one than hiring managers are to read them.

Remember that a résumé is a marketing tool created by a job seeker to use to advertise his or her credentials. Unlike advertising – where the Federal Trade Commission’s truth in advertising laws require ads be free from misleading, untrue, and deceptive claims – the only protection an employer has from fake credentials on a résumé is to perform résumé fact checking as part of its pre-hire background check. But that only happens after a candidate has made it into the finalist round, after all the investment in time and money has been spent. According to CareerBuilder and StatisticBrain, more than half of all résumés contain false information and more than three-quarters of résumés are misleading.

The question is: how will prepare yourself to separate the truthful contenders from the deceptive pretenders when you read their résumés?

Following are ten best practices associated with the critical skill of reading a résumé:

1. Look for measurable achievements. Look at what the candidate says about his/her accomplishments. Instead of “greatly increased sales” look for statements that both quantify and can be validated, such as “increased sales by 52% in 2017.”

2. Does the résumé presentation mirror your ideal candidate? If you’re looking for a graphics-oriented advertising person, does the résumé reflect a creative and imaginative approach? Need a detail-oriented accounting person? Look for a résumé that presents all the facts clearly and logically.

3. Be cautious of the functional résumé. These usually have no dates, only descriptions and experiences. They sometimes mask excessive job-hopping, gaps in employment, and progression (or lack of) in positions.

4. Mediocre candidates often have superstar résumés. A mediocre candidate may have a tremendous résumé, thanks to résumé services and resources to create the ‘killer résumé.’

5. Look for profit-mindedness and a customer service orientation. How well does the candidate understand that businesses survive when both its customers and its bottom line are looked after? Have the candidate’s contributions led to operating efficiencies and customer retention?

6. Beware of résumé puffery! Many résumés contain qualifiers like “knowledge of…”, “assisted with…”, “had exposure to…” which should not be confused with hands-on experience. Watch out for résumés filled with trivia to make them look more substantial.

7. Do not be misled by lengthy educational credentials. The candidate may have listed meaningless seminars and cited every course they ever attended to fill out their résumé. Question: what parts of their education are relevant to you and the opening you need to fill?

8. Do not excuse sloppiness. Poor grammar and misspellings are a tip-off that the candidate may be sloppy in their work habits. Conversely, a perfect résumé does not necessarily indicate that the candidate is detail oriented (the service he or she used to prepare the résumé was)!

9. Look for evidence that shows a desire to work. How much of the candidate’s education did he or she pay for? How busy was he or she? Achievement orientation? A solo performer or good teammate? A resume should offer clues to a candidate’s work ethic, but you’ll need to drill down in the interview to learn just how desirous of work a candidate is.

10. Do not assume! The words on a résumé may create an image in your mind based on your own experiences but do not necessarily reflect what has actually happened in the life of a candidate. “Promoted to Office Manager” may be very significant, or may mean that the title was given to the person who started the coffee in the morning. You’ll need to dig into the details during the interview!


What’s the most egregious résumé falsification that you’ve seen?


Bottom Line. More than half of the résumés you receive will contain false or misleading information. By carefully examining each of the résumés you receive, you can remove many candidates from consideration before wasting your time in interviews and pre-employment background checking.

For more current and emerging hiring and onboarding best practices, check out Staffing, Recruitment, and Onboarding, Module 5 in my Leading Through People™ curriculum, practiced by more than 10,000 supervisors and managers on four continents. View the entire Leading Through People™ leadership development curriculum to learn how you can become a more effective manager and supervisor.

I help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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