How-Much-Java-Do-You-Need-To-Know-To-Get-A-Job What Are You Looking For in a Resume?

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What Are You Looking For in a Resume?

Recruiters and hiring managers are busy people, especially when trying to screen candidates for many jobs or many candidates for a job opening. There is often a rush and a sense of immediacy in finding and selecting the right candidate for a critical position.

Even if there’s no rush, it can be a daunting endeavor to sift through a pile of resumes to select those that offer a correlation between the skills the candidate possesses and the skills the company requires. Most leaders want an easy way to quickly identify the most promising resumes and easily identify which ones to ignore. But how is it done? How to recognize when a resume indicates promise and justifies interviewing the candidate and investigating the candidate’s personality, knowledge and skills. Similarly, how do you decide that a resume doesn’t warrant further investigation and consideration?

Here are some guidelines that are used to decide “yes” or “no” on a resume. Additionally, many of the elements may not immediately disqualify a resume, but should raise questions for candidates to ask if they are invited to an interview.

Look for the guardians first

Gatekeepers are those criteria that a candidate must meet in order to be considered for a position. For example, if one of the requirements for the job in question states that the candidate must have a degree in a certain field, examine the education portion of the resume to see whether or not such a qualification exists. Another example is eligibility to work in the United States. By the way, I hope you listed these requirements in the job posting you created and posted!

Evaluate career progression

Whether candidates are from the same company or have experience at many different companies, look for progression in job responsibilities and skills. Also, evaluate the level of responsibility and how the candidate has contributed to the achievement of the organization’s objectives. The candidates you want to interview are those who have demonstrated growth and increasing levels of responsibility. Note: In today’s turbulent economy, some candidates who have demonstrated growth may have stepped back to stay employed. Don’t overlook these candidates because they demonstrate the resilience and courage to move forward, as well as the ethical perspective not to rely on the government for handouts.

Warning: Many job seekers send resumes that are functional in nature and not chronological. Because functional resumes don’t list current and previous jobs in chronological order, look for the same clues in the job application.

Review Resume Construction

The resume tells a lot about a person beyond the information listed. Resumes provide information about levels of professionalism, quality orientation, and thoroughness.

How well is the resume constructed? Are there any spelling mistakes? Is the resume neat and clean? Is it easy to read and understand? How well does the candidate express ideas or portray information? Is the resume formatted to look professional? Do the sentences make sense? How well does the candidate use grammar and vocabulary? Is the use of time consistent? Does the candidate jump between first and third person? Often these mistakes are a reason for quick rejection.

Since many candidates use professional resume services, you may not see such errors, but many candidates still create their own resumes and these errors can appear. Whether or not they are professionally trained, poor spelling and grammar are no excuse especially with the capabilities of text processors and publishing software available today.

These same principles apply to cover letters. Evaluate cover letters by the same standards as resume content.

The resume should be easy to read and easy to find company names, positions held (or better yet, responsibilities), and dates of employment. Hiring managers only take up to 20 seconds to determine if they want to interview the candidate or put their resume in the “Not Considered” pile.

Evaluate relevant skills and experience

Does the candidate have the necessary skills and experience? Basically, can the candidate solve the problems he will encounter in the job? Identify the most qualified candidates based on competencies and quantified successes. Look for recent experience that reflects the skills sought. Does the candidate have experience in the same field of work? Are measurable results listed? Can training quickly provide the missing skills?

The skills most hiring managers look for include:


  • Effective communications
  • Intermediate level user skills with common computers and software
  • Experience in analysis, problem solving, decision making and implementation
  • Strong work ethic and tenacity
  • Relational, interpersonal, teamwork and collaboration skills

Most recent role

What is the candidate’s current status?

  • Is the candidate employed or unemployed and why?
  • Fired or fired? How come?
  • How long has the candidate been in the current role? Enough time to acquire the skills needed for the open position?
  • Is your most recent experience relevant to the open position?


To what extent does the candidate’s resume and cover letter “sell you themselves?” Did the candidate indicate a higher level of job search understanding by providing information that was interesting enough to get your attention, or did the candidate just list job titles? work and dates? Look for resumes that answer these questions:

  • What is our return on investment if we hire you?
  • How can you improve our company and our results?
  • How can you make the business more profitable?
  • How will you fit into the company culture?
  • Do you know the specific language of the sector?
  • What famous companies have you worked for?
  • What educational qualifications do you have?
  • What training do you bring with you to work?

Evaluate keywords

Search for specific words, technologies or company associations relevant to the position or contrary to what the company is looking for. For example “was an executive at Enron” or only knows technology that your company doesn’t use or makes no mention of the software knowledge required to do the job. Keywords can be technical, educational, or really anything you can think of. Examples include MBA, networking, foreign languages, software names like Visual Basic or Java or.NET to name a few.

Stability and tenure

Review employment history to quantify candidate’s length of service with listed companies. Are there gaps? Does your work history indicate frequent job/company changes? I asked one candidate to explain in his cover letter that I should “…not label my 9 jobs over three years as job skips. I’ve never quit a job!” So you’ve been fired from every job?

There may be valid reasons for frequent job changes in small numbers like 2 or 3 in a row, but a large number should set off a red flag.


Here are a few things that may or may not cause a resume to be rejected, but I personally find them irritating:

  • The use of “cutie” resume templates: I hope people focus more on presenting and selling skills rather than using a cute method to get attention.
  • Resumes written in “First Person”.
  • Including “Career Goals” at the top of the resume. It’s cute, but it doesn’t really tell me anything other than, “I want the job!”
  • Exaggeration of titles, experience and skills. As my kids already know, I get to the bottom of things, usually through interview questions properly designed to bring out the facts. If I discover exaggerations, misinformation or outright lies, the candidate is deleted. By the way, if I find out the truth after hiring someone, I immediately have reason to fire that person for dishonesty in the application or resume, or for lying during the interview.
  • Using colored paper or odd-sized paper to make a resume stand out from the others, or anything other than “regular” fonts like Arial, Helvetica, and Times New Roman doesn’t impress me. They strike me as being more manipulative than adding to the candidate’s abilities.
  • List personal/private interests and activities if they have nothing to do with work. I don’t care if you accept stray cats.

Extra credit

I’ve taken the liberty of including a few elements that often make a positive impression, at least for me. You may have other preferences or find fault with some of mine – use what works best for you and gives you good results.

  • Email resumes rather than faxing, mailing, or personally delivering other paper. Also, I prefer resumes in pdf file format, because I don’t have to deal with differences in software versions and they are easier to pass on to others. However, many businesses today want resumes in MS Word or text so that their software can scan, archive, grade and prioritize resumes.
  • Well organized and professional appearance – I’m not including correct spelling and correct use of grammar here, because if the candidate hasn’t used them, I’ve probably already ignored their resume.
  • Short and concise cover letter: less is more. Again, many companies are now requesting cover letters to evaluate communication and writing skills.
  • Specific skills that match the job posting – Demonstrates that the candidate has read the post carefully and matched their skills to what is being sought.
  • Skills listed in the same order as they were listed in the job posting, prioritized – You listed the desired skills in order of priority in the job posting, right?
  • Complete and correct web addresses when used and applicable – make searching easier.

Bottom line

You and I spend enough time completing hiring processes. There are criteria that help us screen resumes quickly and isolate the best candidates more effectively. A candidate’s inability to adequately represent himself helps determine that the candidate is not worthy of an interview. Resumes are actually “sales literature” for candidates. If they have not taken due care in constructing their resumes, they will not reflect the expected work ethics, habits and processes.

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