Want to understand how to impress hiring managers? It takes one to know one, as the saying goes. So the best way to understand hiring managers is to become one. You may be able to do so by volunteering to serve on a hiring committee.
If you serve on a hiring committee, you will be shocked, outraged, entertained, horrified, humored, impressed and enlightened by how job seekers present themselves. But more importantly, you will be rewarded for your service with insider insights about how hiring managers think and how job seekers fail and succeed in their job quests — information that may help you land your next job.
One of the important lessons I learned by serving on hiring committees is how fast hiring managers operate. Indeed, hiring managers don’t read applications as they read suspense novels — savoring every word while cuddled up with their cat, sipping wine, beside a cozy fire.
Instead, they race through applications solely to whittle down the pile (which they invariably should have finished reviewing yesterday) so they can get back to their “real work.”
My observations about the speed of hiring decisions have been corroborated by more than 100 interviews I have conducted with hiring managers about their hiring decisions. Typical was a response from a hiring manager after I asked him how long he spends reading the typical résumé. “Ten seconds at most,” he said. I chuckled in response. So he emphasized, “No really; I’m impatient and busy — always. So that’s all the time I can give. Plus, I can tell almost instantly whether an applicant has what I’m looking for.”
The lightning speed of hiring decisions means that to be successful, your résumé — your personal marketing document — must serve as a verbal one-two punch that instantly knocks out hiring managers. To design your résumé to score an instant knockout:
- Tailor your résumé to each of your target jobs. Interpret the job description of each target job as a question that asks, “Could you do this job well?” Answer with a big “YES!” by showing that you have already done so — by describing in your résumé your credentials and achievements that parallel the demands of your target job and by describing the positive feedback and objective validation your accomplishments drew.
- Don’t expect hiring managers to look for a needle in the haystack — just give them the needle without the haystack. Ask yourself whether each of the credentials and achievements in your résumé mirrors the demands of your target job and whether it would realistically help you land the job. If necessary, purge irrelevant information from your résumé — no matter how personally significant it is to you.
- Craft each job summary on your résumé to review your achievements — not inventory your assigned duties and responsibilities. After all, reading a series of job descriptions is just about as interesting and memorable as reading someone else’s “to-do” list. (Snooze!) What’s more, your job descriptions only reflect what you were supposed to do (Who cares?), rather than what you achieved (Wow!).
- Structure each job summary as a set of snappy, fast-read bullets that will send your hiring manager’s eyes flying down the page — not as dense paragraphs. Begin each bullet with an action, achievement-oriented verb, such as led, developed, initiated, managed, presented, created from scratch, designed, completed, trained, streamlined, saved $XX,000 or wrote. Eliminate mealy, vague verbs, such as helped, participated in and contributed, by explicitly stating what you actually did to help, participate or contribute. Find lists of action and achievement verbs by Googling action verbs for résumés.
- Sequence bullets for each job summary according to their relevance to your target job — not according to how much time you spent on the achievements they describe. By so sequencing your bullets, you will hit hiring managers with your best shots up top and thereby maximize their “wow” power.