Create a Killer Resume and Cover Letter

7 Things Employers Look for in a Resume

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Your resume is the first thing (and potentially, the last thing) that hiring managers see when trying to fill an open position.  If your resume doesn’t get the hiring manager’s attention, you will not get an interview. It’s not unusual for hiring managers to receive hundreds of resumes in response to a job posting. In order to reduce the list of resumes to a manageable number,  hiring managers will toss out those resumes that fit their criteria.

Some guidelines for your resume:

1. Concise style

As a first step, many resumes are scanned rather than read word for word, at least on the first go-through. That means that keeping things concise and precise will help boost your chances of getting your resume into the interview pile. Unless you have loads of relevant work experience, aim to keep your resume to one page. You can always add extra relevant details in a cover letter or at an interview.

2. Outcomes and results

Potential employers don’t want to just know where you work: they want to know what you’ve done for the places you’ve worked for. Show specific outcomes and results, whether it’s new traffic to a business website, a big project completed, or a certain number of sales. Try to use at least one concrete outcome or result for each job you mention that shows a successful result.

3. Action verbs

Don’t say what you “were” in a certain position, but say what you did. You promoted, or trained, or recruited, or sold or created. Action verbs help keep your resume tight and focused, and they also help you hone in on what employers really want to know – what you’ve done before and what you can do for them.

Your resume is the first thing (and potentially, the last thing) that hiring managers see when trying to fill an open position.  If your resume doesn't get the hiring manager's attention, you will not get an interview.Click To Tweet

4. Numbers

If possible, putting actual statistics and numbers in your resume can be a great way to make it more effective. Numbers tell potential employers a lot about how successful you’ve been before. Maybe you boosted sales by 50% or created a social media marketing strategy that got your company 1,000 Facebook likes. Or possibly you saved the firm money by finding a low-cost provider of services. Distill your biggest business accomplishments into concrete numbers and percentages.

5. Increasing responsibility

If you changed roles even slightly with previous employers to take on more responsibility, list your new role as a separate job. Highlighting promotions and increased responsibility like this shows potential employers that your current or former employers found you worth promoting, which says a lot.

6. Solutions

Here’s where you can really tailor your resume and cover letter to your potential employer’s needs. Check out the job description carefully, and do some research on the company. If you can find problems that the company is having at the moment, try to make it clear how you can bring solutions to the table. Provide examples of situations where you provided a solution to a problem. If you can’t work these solutions directly into your resume, at least make it obvious that you have the skills and experience necessary to deal with problems within the company.

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7. Honors

You should definitely list any honors you’ve received as an employee (or as a student if you’re fresh out of college). Also, you may include results from your most recent employee review, as long as you were commended on a great job. Even being an employee of the month for a fast food restaurant you worked in during school can show that you’re a hard worker and care about your job.

A few other things employers might look at

While you’re polishing up your resume, you might also want to take a look at some other aspects of your life a potential employer might pry into before hiring you. Here are some things to look at:

  • Your Credit Report: Your credit report isn’t just used by lenders to gauge your financial responsibility. Depending on your state law and local regulations, it can also be used by potential employers to gauge how responsible you are with your life in general. A clean credit report can make the difference between getting hired and not getting hired. Pull a copy of your report before sending out resumes to make sure it’s error-free. If you have a load of debt, consider transferring it to low-cost credit cards and paying it down quickly to clean up your report a bit.
  • Your Social Media Profile: Your internet reputation has a lot to do with your hire-ability these days. Clean up your photos and posts, and run a Google search on yourself (see Are Your Social Media Habits About to Cost You Your Job?) to make sure nothing too unsavory comes up. Photos of or posts about having a couple of drinks on a night out shouldn’t hurt you unless you’re applying to a religious or non-profit organization that’s very picky about reputation, but you should remove everything that might suggest you like to party hard or that you have recently made poor life choices. More and more employers are checking up on social media, so make sure it’s under control before you apply!
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