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What Recruiters and Hiring Managers Want in a Resume

By Martin Yate

Recruiters want to fill a job opening as quickly as possible and get on to the next assignment.

Hiring managers similarly want to hire someone as quickly as possible and get back to their work. Your resume is the tool that gets you in the door.

What recruiters and hiring managers despise is an overabundance of self-praising descriptors: superior, excellent, team player, detail-oriented, thought leader, self-motivated, hard worker, and the like.

When recruiters see a resume filled with adjectives unsupported by skills and achievements, they read a phrase like, "Excellent Accounts Receivable skills; detail-oriented" and mutter, "I'll be the judge of that!"

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Understand Why Jobs Exist

What recruiters and hiring managers want to see are resumes that show relevant skills and how you applied them on the job. How do you do that?

No job gets added to the payroll unless it helps the employer make money, save money, or increase productivity. This holds true for all jobs, at all levels and in all professions.

Consequently, jobs exist to identify, anticipate, prevent, and solve the problems that prevent the company from making money, saving money, or increasing productivity.

Put another way, every job exists to prevent and solve problems within its area of expertise and thereby contribute to company profitability.

Consider the deliverables of an Accounts Receivable (A/R) job - perhaps boring, until you realize that unless the people in Accounts Receivable do their job, the company won't be able to pay its bills and your paycheck will bounce. Thought about this way, A/R jobs are not about tabulating the income derived from trouble-free paying customers, they are focused on actively bringing in revenue.

This means that an A/R candidate is hired because she knows the professional landscape of the job well enough to identify, anticipate, prevent, and solve problems by bringing in the receivables, and in the process effectively dealing with late-paying customers, and so contributing to profitability.

Why Skills and Achievements Rule

Regardless of profession or title, employers want to see a resume with skills applied to the identification, anticipation, prevention, and solution of the typical problems that crop up every day of the week in that job - and they want to see the results of these efforts. So, in a resume, our A/R specialist will talk about skills and the results of their application:

4 years' A/R experience: Excel, Quickbooks, ZenCash
* Reduced 30 day+ payables by 20%
* Reduced 45 day+ payables by 18%

In 19 words, we know the candidate has experience, understands the job's deliverables, has the tools to do the job, and can point to the results (achievements) of their application. Much more powerful than, "Excellent Accounts Receivable skills; detail-oriented"!

Sell to the Customer's Needs

The first lesson learned in our professional lives is: The customer is always right. The second lesson is: Find out what the customer wants and sell it to them. Combined, these lessons tell you that you need a template for the story your resume must tell.

Here's what you do: Collect a half dozen job postings and pull them apart to find the common experience requirements and skills employers seek when hiring someone like you. This is called Target Job Deconstruction™ (TJD™). Once you know what potential employers want, you can determine skills and accomplishments you need to show yourself in the best light.

How to Identify Your Achievements

Employers look to what you have achieved in your work as an indication of what you are likely to achieve. It might help you recall relevant skills and contributions using CAR:

  • C = Challenge (Think of a challenge you faced or problem you had to resolve.)
  • A = Action (What actions did you take?)
  • R = Results (What was the result of these actions? What was the value to your employer?)

You can apply CAR to the following questions. When you think about results, try to think in terms of percentages and amounts:

  • What gives you pride in your work? How does this relate to the success of your job?
  • Did you increase sales, save money, or otherwise increase productivity?
  • Did you meet an impossible deadline through extra effort? What was the benefit to your company?
  • Did you conceive, design or (help) launch a new product or program?
  • Did you assume new responsibilities that weren't part of your job?
  • Have you completed any special projects?
  • Did you introduce any new or more effective systems, processes, or techniques for increasing productivity?

Tying It All Together

Recruiters and hiring managers' needs are simple - they want to fill a job opening as quickly as possible with someone who will do the job well. A resume that replaces empty adjectives with skills and achievements will get you interviews and immediately set your candidacy apart.


About the author...

Successful careers don't happen by accident. Professional resume writing expert Martin Yate CPC is a New York Times best-seller and the author of 17 Knock Em Dead career management books. As Dun & Bradstreet says, "He's about the best in the business." For FREE resume-building advice and to view Martin's resume samples, visit the Knock Em Dead website. Join Martin on Twitter at @KnockEmDead and also on Google+.



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