3 Things Most People Don’t Know About Resumes

Recently, I’ve been helping my company review a lot more resumes from candidates.  I’ve noticed that most people forget a few key things when they’re writing their resume:  you only get a few seconds, you need to focus on the reader, and your interests really matter.

You only get 15 seconds.

As a candidate, you spend hours thinking about the most relevant stories from your past, and trying to summarize all your experience in a few bullet points.  When you’re doing that, you imagine that the recruiter and hiring manager will read every word.

In reality, you only get a few seconds.  

Because of this, your positioning statement–why you are not only qualified, but an exceptional fit–needs to be incredibly clear.  Your positioning statement should appear in the first few lines, and be repeated throughout the document. It needs to be so visible that the reader can’t miss it, even if they quickly skim the page.  Hiring managers and recruiters are reading dozens or hundreds of resumes–they should be able to hear your key message in the midst of this noise.

Your resume is not about you.

Most people write their resume by thinking about the experience.  This is the wrong approach.  Your resume is not the story of your experience:  it is the story about the pain points of your future manager, and how you are the answer to all their problems.  

You need to start by understanding the business need that prompted the hiring manager to post the open role.  

Remember, hiring is not an easy thing to do for a manager.  The new position will impact their budget. Interviewing takes time, that they usually don’t have (or they wouldn’t be hiring in the first place).  Bringing on a new team member is difficult, and carries the risk that the new hire won’t work out.  

Your resume must demonstrate an understanding of their situation.  It should use language that they use. It should talk about your experience through the lens of the role you want.  It should present a clear narrative of growth and a vision for the future that aligns with the hiring manager’s needs.

Your interests matter.

This is the most surprising thing I learned from reviewing thousands of resumes:  as an applicant, your interests matter.

When a manager is interviewing, there are two questions they are trying to answer:

  1. Are you capable of doing the job? Can you do it?
  2. Are you willing to do job?  Knowing that you can, will you?

The best indication that you will do the job is what you have done in the past.

So, when possible, use your resume to highlight ways that your interests align with the role you want.  

  • Do you have a history of following through on the commitments you make?
  • Do you have a deep attachment to the role, in terms of function or location?
  • Are you involved in organizations that mirror the company’s mission or culture?  
  • Do you have hobbies that resonate with the new role?
  • Do your extracurricular activities in school highlight your interests in a compelling and relevant way?

If you answered yes to these questions, include this information on your resume–it will show the hiring manager that you’ve taken initiative in the past in a way that aligns with their business needs.  

Remember these considerations as you write your resume–emphasizing clarity, thinking about your future manager, and highlighting your interests–and you’ll be closer to landing the role that you’re hoping for.   In the mean time, stay encouraged and keep working!