How Smart Hiring Managers Think When Looking at Resumes

Hiring managers see hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes when they have job openings. If yours look the same as everyone else, don’t expect to move on to the next stage of the interview process.

This is where applicants try to be clever: video resumes, using charts and icons to demonstrate skill competency, interactive resumes, and so on.

It sounds cool. It sounds creative. It stands out.

But does it get you the interview?

Or does the hiring manager simply have fun looking at your resume, maybe crack a smile, thinks to herself “this is unique,” then throws your resume to the ‘no’ pile?

The internet is full of advice on how to stand out using these techniques. But if it is so effective, meaning it gets you the interview, why aren’t more companies and applicants using it? Why is the internet only full of anecdotes of how this approach only worked for their current circumstances?

3 Hard Truths About Resumes You Need to Know

This section is simple because it’s already covered in other articles:

  1. The purpose of your resume is to get you an interview (or at least, move to the next stage in the interview process). If it doesn’t get you interviews, your resume sucks.
  2. The secret to progressing to the next stages of the interview process is to answer these two simple questions on your resume.
  3. That’s why all those (terrible) advice you see on the internet and social media do not work—especially those that emphasize that you need to tell your story.

Smart Hiring Managers Are Cynical

There’s a popular that’s attributed to several people, but is very appropriate:

Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.

Smart hiring managers have been burned before. That’s how they developed this cynical approach that has never popped up in any popular interviewing article on the internet.

Here are some insights on how they think when hiring for a position:

They Scan Your Resume Because They Are Busy

Yes, smart hiring managers only spend a few seconds to scan each applicant’s resume. At least when first filtering applicants.

If you don’t make it easy for them to do their job, don’t expect to move to the next step of the interview process.

Remember, the vast majority of openings happen when a member of the team leaves. That means the manager is probably covering for that member, or stressing about how she can spread out the responsibilities to the rest of the team and asking them for overtime until she finds a new person.

With that in mind and add the fact that they need to fill a role, you can now understand why they only spend a few seconds scanning resumes.

This means that if you resume don’t demonstrate that you can do the job they are hiring for AND do it well, your resume will end up in the trash pile.

This means all your icons and hobbies and life story that take up the bulk of the typical resume you’d find online are all meaningless.

Which goes against another popular saying…

They Don’t Look for Things to Say Yes To

When smart hiring managers look at resumes, their primary approach is to find reasons to say no.

  • Didn’t include a cover letter or take the time to personalize one, trash.
  • Too many pages? Trash.

Remember, they review hundreds of resumes for ONE single opening. This is already on top of their regular, busy job. If you tick them off by being “creative,” then there’s a high chance that your application won’t proceed to the next stage.

They See Experiences Without Accomplishments in a Bad Light

Here’s where smart hiring managers apply their cynicism.

See, the person whose resume ONLY lists experience, i.e. proficient in Microsoft PowerPoint or managed projects for the past 5 years, is no different from the person who got fired in the job for doing the same things.

You can be proficient in PowerPoint or manage projects for many years. But you can also be fired for doing just that.

That’s why results and accomplishments are an essential component in resumes. It sets you apart from the person who did the same thing, but got fired for it because he hasn’t produced any results for the company.

Focus on What Hiring Managers Want, Not What You Want

By today’s pop culture standards, all the things listed above that smart and effective hiring managers do are unpopular. You don’t hear these things in the videos you watch on YouTube or TikTok.

But these things are real. It’s grounded in reality. It’s not “nice” to hear. It doesn’t take advantage of confirmation bias. It simply is true.

So before you send in your generic resume that you haphazardly put together, take the time to get into the hiring manager’s mindset. Look at it from their perspective and customize your resume to show them what they want.

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