Today’s technology is making harder and harder to receive appropriate consideration when applying for jobs.  Competition for job openings has increased dramatically, especially now that the digital age has guaranteed that the candidate pool may very well stretch the entire globe.  Hiring managers have tools that help them eliminate candidates that seem to not match the job requirements, at least on paper, yet despite it all the biggest challenge that they face is trying to navigate through a maze of information on a resume in a mere minute or so.

The challenge then is squarely on the shoulders of the applicant to demonstrate, on “paper” no less and based on a quick glance, that he/she is worthy of consideration.  Even in instances where the potential candidate has an “in” as far as a connection in the organization, the resume often speaks volumes about the person.  It can be a door opener or a huge barrier in moving forward in the process.

Looking back at the many times I’ve had to go through countless of resumes, I can share that what I looked for was information beyond simple dates and titles that state that the person “directed and managed” or “planned and controlled.”  I looked for several items that helped distinguish the person on paper and show me that they are worth bringing for an interview.

Below I’ve identified 10 tips based on my experience as a hiring manager and a candidate that I’d like to share with others.  These are broken into 3 categories.  The first category (bullets 1-4) is focused on the attractiveness of the resume as far as being worth considering, the second (bullets 5-7) addresses relevance of background, the third (bullets 8-10) is based on determining the person’s strengths and potential match to the job.  Each of the below items are characteristics that I look for in resumes to help determine what step to take next:

  1. Structure: Is the resume clear, consistent, error free (or close to it), and does it speak to the intended audience? Is the resume up to date or aged (2 years old)?
  2. Core Competencies: Is the person clear on what his/her areas of strength? Did the candidate do a good job explaining what his/her transferable skills are?
  3. Experience Snapshot: Does the resume depict what industries, types of projects, years of experience, roles, types of technologies, etc… that the person has? Is the information presented in simplified fashion such as a table or do I have to fish for it? It is helpful to figure out if the candidate is a generalist or a deep technical expert?
  4. Smooth Transitions: Can the resume offer a narrative that demonstrates that the individual is not someone who job hops because they got a 5% increase in pay but rather is someone who has had smooth transitions from role to role, job to job, & company to company.  Does it show that the candidate is someone who has clarity of purpose when it comes to his/her career?
  5. Project/Program Descriptions: Is there a strong description outlining what the project is all about, who the clients are, which obstacles was the team presented and how they were handled?
  6. Project/Program Values: Does the candidate list pertinent details about the project portfolio that he/she has managed such as project size, budget, size of team, length, etc?
  7. Project/Program Outcomes: Is the candidate clear on what the major accomplishments of these projects were? Did the project/program succeed or fail? How close to the baseline was the final result?
  8. Leadership: Does the resume demonstrate that the person might have a track record of leadership? Can we infer that team members would be willing to follow the candidate or if he/she can inspire others?
  9. Connecting the Dots: Does the resume speak as to why the person is qualified to be hired for the job opening that the hiring manager is attempting to fill?  Does the candidate meet the requirements?
  10. Uniqueness: Can we determine how this individual is different from all the other applicants?  What distinguishes him/her? Does the candidate have experiences outside of the day-to-day job that can contribute to the position he/she is applying for? Examples could be volunteer activities in the local community.

The important thing to remember is that while the resume format and content is the key to opening that first door, it will be the baseline used to evaluate the candidate at each stage of the hiring process.  As such, it is critical for the resume to be completely aligned with reality.  Nothing annoys hiring managers more than discovering that the person on paper is completely different from the person in person (or on the phone for that matter).  Honesty is more important than meeting every criteria posted on the job listing.