In this business, I end up reading many, many theories about job interview tricks and resume strategies for getting hired. The thing is, most of these over-complicate the situation by diving into the minutia of what is actually a fairly straightforward process. When it comes down to it, resumes are boring to read, and hiring managers are busy. There are really only three things that they want to see in your resume, and these shouldn’t come as a mystery to you.
(Also, our own analysis of recruiter behaviour on resumes stored in the Workopolis resume database found that the vast majority of employers spend (far) less than 11 seconds on a resume before shortlisting it or moving on. So they want to find what they’re looking for quickly.)
Here’s what employers want to see in your resume:
1. That you care about the job you’re actually applying for
The first thing an employer is going to notice is if your resume is relevant to the job that they are hiring for. Do you live close enough to the job to reasonably commute to it? Does your title closely match the job you’re applying to? Make sure that you have tailored the way you describe your experience and accomplishments to demonstrate how they can benefit the job you’re applying for. Employers don’t want to guess how your credentials apply to their role. Make it clear.
Once while hiring an editor in Montreal, I received a resume from a poet in Halifax. The candidate didn’t explain anything about planning to move to Montreal or how they planned to do the job remotely. They just emailed in a resume for a position in a city they didn’t live in.
Similarly, while I can see how the precise use of language involved in crafting poetry could lend itself to the role of professional editor, I shouldn’t have to do that math myself. When applying for a job as an editor, be an editor (in this case one who also happens to write and publish poetry.)
2. That you have the qualifications to do the job
Employers often complain that the majority of resumes they receive for their jobs are from candidates who simply aren’t qualified to do the job. Too many people think that they can increase their chances of being hired by applying to more jobs. It doesn’t work like that. Getting hired doesn’t happen by dumb luck like guessing the right lottery numbers. (Here’s how to actually become luckier.)
You increase your chances of being hired by sending out relevant, tailored resumes specifically to jobs that you are qualified for and would actually like to do. You don’t need to meet 100% of the requirements that job postings ask for, employers have been known to inflate the credentials required for positions to a ‘wish-list’.
Just make sure that you have at least 75% of the qualifications asked for. Lay them out in easy-to-read sentences and bullet points, and highlight your past accomplishments to show how you’re a stand-out candidate who can excel at the job.
3. That you have common sense
If you are sending in a resume to highlight your qualifications for a job, and that resume is riddled with typos or grammatical errors, what does that say about your work ethic or attention to detail? (See: How to proofread.)
Don’t make employers have to work hard to find what they’re looking for. Format your resume all in the same font in a pleasing and easy-to-read layout. Only include information that is relevant to the job you’re applying for.
It doesn’t matter if your resume is one page or two – so long as what is there is compelling and helps build the case for your candidacy.
Other common sense resume tips include:
- Don’t make demands about what you want from an employer in an objective statement off the top, summarize your key qualifications instead.
- Don’t list your strange hobbies or interests.
- Don’t have a ‘cutesy’ email address.
- Do include an email address and phone number that you check regularly. (I’ve actually received a fairly strong resume that had only an email address for the contact information, and that email returned an ‘undeliverable’ bounce back.) [See: Three reasons why your job applications aren’t getting any responses from employers.]
These three categories of what employers really look for in the resume could be summarized as: is this a relevant and qualified candidate for the job who seems professional and career-savvy. Because that’s who they want to meet in an interview.
So show them that you want the job, you can do the job, and that you’re sharp and motivated enough to pay attention to detail. (And then get ready for the only job interview question that matters.)
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