We have all heard that resumes don’t get read as much as scanned and 30 seconds seems to be the headline number that a gets thrown about for recruiter-resume review time. I think that this figure is pretty accurate for the initial relevancy review. After relevancy is confirmed, a recruiter will typically spend more time drilling into the detail but if they don’t see relevancy in the first 30 seconds, then your resume is basically getting binned. So, how do you avoid this trashy outcome?

The obvious answer is that you need to reverse engineer what the reviewer is looking for and make sure that message screams from the page of your resume. What isn’t as obvious i how to best present that information. Here are the key criteria that SaaS sales recruiters (for IC and managers) are applying against your resume as a SaaS sales recruiter :

  1. Functional match
  2. Scope of your current and prior roles
  3. Success in Positions
  4. Industry areas you have worked in
  5. Verticals and Titles that you have sold to.
  6. Tenure in roles and overall years of experience.
  7. SaaSiness – degree to which you know how to sell SaaS. Read this article for more on how to rate yourself o the SaaSiness scale.
  8. Location

We will go through pointers on presentation of each criteria in turn but firstly we need to give you a loose formula that runs through a recruiter’s mind:

a. A functional match (1) AND location match (7) are essential PLUS You also need a match with either 3 (industry match) OR 4 (Vertical match) but preferably both.

b. The tenure / experience range and SaaSiness filter then gets applied. The wince factor applies here – If the recruiter winces at the tenure it may be curtains – 2 short stints (less than a year) in a row is the rule of thumb. SaaSiness is crucial. There are light versions of SaaS solutions (password-accessible sites) and more complex versions (API based etc) and, of course, candidates with no SaaS experience (which is often the case with ad tech). If there isn’t a close match this can be a major gating factor.

c. Finally, if the resume got this far, they then start looking for qualitative info: clear success metrics. 

So how do you make sure you come through that process squeaky clean and desirable? Let’s go through the main criteria 

  1. Function & 2. scope of role

ICs –Titles need to be descriptive clearly showing you were in sales or account mgt. Recruiters need to see consistency of titles that match the sales function across multiple roles If you were given clever euphemisms for sales in an official title in a previous role like “Brand Strategist”, ditch those tricky titles and use descriptive ones instead that have the word “Sales” in the title (you can clarify actual title elsewhere). Regarding scope, be clear on what you were selling what territory you had (industry or geo) and, potentially, your quota, average deal size and deal size range. 

Managers – Don’t assume your title implies the scope of your role. Make sure you get across how many folks you were managing across what functions and regions. If you were a manager-of-managers or player-coach make sure you state that. 

3. Success.

ICs – The lion’s share of the bullets for each role should be success oriented. Show the Absolute numbers of sales achieved, percentage achievement of sale versus quota and actual earnings versus OTE in percentage terms, your ranking amongst peers, and awards won.You should also highlight the largest deals done, break out key client wins with associated dollar amounts. Use these power verbs to help you.

Sales Leaders & Managers – Growth in metrics is key for managers. Be sure to show growth in people, revenues, growth in scope of role, process improvements, major achievements/milestones and the impact of your style on the team culture.

4. Industry orientation

Firstly, be clear what the company does by explaining what you sell/sold at each firm. If you are in a large multi-product firm like Oracle or Adobe identify which specific areas you sell ( e.g. marketing, sales, or data clouds etc). If you are in a small firm that is not well known, do what I call guilt-by-association: i.e subtly identify larger competitors elsewhere in the achievements section (“Key win-backs from NAME BRAND COMPETITOR A include deal X, deal Y)

5. Verticals you sell to:

Show your vertical expertise clearly for each role – Name-drop clients (company names) and group them by vertical – clearly naming each vertical in bold so it jumps from the page. Remember some sales roles are more function- than industry-oriented so you should also break out your functional chain of command focus so be sure to mention who you targeted within the customer – sales, finance etc. 

Here’s an example how it should look

“Sold to these verticals

Retail – key wins include Bn.com, Amazon, Alice and Olivia

Financial Services – Major deals with Citibank, Goldman, Wells Fargo.

Chains of command targeted – CTO, CIO, Head of Ecommerce”

 6. Tenure. 

Everyone appreciates tenure but there is a limit to its usefulness. If you have been one place for too long (probably over 5 years), consider breaking up that experience into different chunks relating to responsibility.

If you have short tenures in your recent history don’t try and subtly hide that fact by eliminating months in the from and to date areas but instead, where relevant, help the recruiter by explaining why the tenure was short (e.g. RIF, Company acquired etc)

7. SaaSiness.

Clearly state your exposure to SaaS ales. Use “SaaS” as a keyword regularly and associated keywords like MRR, APIs, Hosted pages etc. ESPECIALLY if it isn’t immediately clear that your firm sells on SaaS basis. Read this article for more on your SaaSiness rating.

*8. Location

The match here should be given but to avoid confusion, put your city on your resume. Your physical address isn’t really required. If you are open to relocation, state that clearly at the top of your resume.

So in summary it is important that your resume delivers this information effectively to the reviewing recruiter. One thing that should be added is that the format is the key to effectively getting this message across

There are no hard and fast rule for format but I generally like this approach…


Name, contact details, address, linked Profile link, 

Objective – clarity on what role you are ideally looking for and where (if open to relocation)



Company Name – URL, Location

One line Summary of what the company actually does

Title (descriptive title if actual title not clear), Dates of tenure

Bullet points

– 1-2 x bullets with a task orientation – what your role involved (what you sold, who you managed etc)

– 3-4 bullets with an achievement orientation (for managers this is where you put the growth stats under your tenure)

– Vertical orientation with clients / prospects named and grouped by industry.

– Title orientation. “

Follow these guidelines and, assuming, you are applying to relevant roles for your experience, you should rock the 30 second review!

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