What HR Managers REALLY look for in resumes


Did you know that HR Managers only spend 6 seconds reviewing each resume (TheLadders)? That’s right.

How you impress them in these 6 seconds really makes it or breaks it! There are tons of tips online that can act as guidelines, but perhaps the best way to know how to impress recruiters is to actually talk to them!

We reached out to HR Managers, and here’s what some of them they have to say:


You’ll be surprised to realise that this isn’t top on their priority list. Of course, this depends on the type of company and the nature of the work – bigger companies that receive thousands of applications often see grades as the first level of filtering.

However, this isn’t always the case.

“In Leaderonomics, it is not compulsory for candidates to submit their academic transcript as we understand academic strengths might not apply to all. Some of our hires were not even from the industrial background – eg: we have Leaderonomers whom graduated in the Chemistry, Genetics, Laws, Finance field etc doing absolutely different job roles than what they are trained for. We always look for can-do attitude and good proactiveness in candidates, especially when interviewing fresh graduates.” Nadia Radhuan – Human Resource, Leaderonomics

Hires from Leaderonomics come from a good and fun mix of diverse industrial backgrounds, culture, age, beliefs and creed. - Pic courtesy of LEADERONOMICS
Hires from Leaderonomics come from a good and fun mix of diverse industrial backgrounds, culture, age, beliefs and creed. – Pic courtesy of LEADERONOMICS

What you’ve studied and how well you’ve done isn’t always a direct indicator of what you will do and how well you will perform, it is how you apply what you have learnt into your working environment and role that determines your results. Being able to apply the theories you have learnt in the classroom to the specific job role you’re aiming for is a bonus.

Fun fact: Did you guys know that the COO & Co-founder of SkootJobs, Daniel, actually graduated as a pilot?

How often do you visit a doctor or lawyer and ask, “how many A’s did you get for your exams?” – to be honest, it’s probably close to never, you just trust that they are the experts in their fields. Grades are still important, not to predict performance, but to indicate how responsible you were as a student, which reflects on your task ownership.

“… good grades reflects a person’s attitude towards actions taken towards their interest and work. It shows their dedication and responsibility of ensuring things are done well.” Cheryl –  Marketing Manager, The Body Shop


Relevant Experience

This is the deal breaker! Relevant experience is one of the first things HR Managers look at when going through resumes. As for fresh grads? They look into how active you are when it comes to co-curricular activities.

This is why your participation is important – HR Managers are on the lookout for good communication and leadership skills and these skills are often indicated by your involvement in co-curricular activities (of course, this is determined during interviews too). They observe your analytical thinking and how you would work with others to solve critical problems, to know if you’re a team player, or a Lone Ranger as a person.

More importantly, they want to understand your motivations and attitudes towards things – even as a barista or a promoter, what did you learn? Were you driven to do your best no matter how small the task? Or if you have done internships or have prior experience – what are the competencies that made you shine; or what have you learnt that will now make you stand out?

Some might suggest that the company you start your career at is important, the bigger the name or the brand, the better – but it is honestly the process of how you learn in every situation. No matter the company, if you put your 100% in all you do, you will definitely progress.

“Also, when you describe your past working experience, do not just describe what you have done in your role, but stating a clear KPI and how you completed projects would be more impactful.” – Violet, Co-Founder & CEO of Lunch Actually Group

Violet also mentioned that how well an applicant gels in with their organisational culture is key. Skills can be developed and groomed, but someone with the right culture would fit in and be aligned to the company’s goals and visions.

Pic courtesy of Lunch Actually Group

Look & Feel

Unless you’re applying for a graphic design position, HR Managers wouldn’t expect anything fancy. Junce, Senior Executive (HR cum Admin) of Sahajidah Hai-O Marketing suggests that as long as it’s neat and tidy, it’s good! More importantly, there should not be any grammar or spelling mistakes. Even if you have tons of experiences, submitting a 4 pager resume would not be necessary. Some HR Managers are comfortable with 3-pagers but having all the important and relevant experiences summarised into 2-pages would be great.

Of course, some HR Managers also have preferences for pictures or for simple designs, cause having tons of words might come across as boring – but at the end of the day, it’s how well you present your experiences that really matters.

Violet from Lunch Actually Group also added that they have once received not only a resume, but an entire power point from an applicant to show case who she is and why she is a good fit for the company and job role. Of course, she got the job.


Short & Sweet

The key is to keep it short and sweet – personalise your experience to the specific job role you’re applying for and make sure it’s presented well.

Now that you’ve got your resume settled, time to nail your interview!

Leave a Reply