• Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

When it’s time to write a resume, some job seekers have a hard time figuring out which elements to emphasize in order to land an interview. But what’s the most important aspect of a resume that hiring managers look for? A recent survey posed that question to 85 hiring managers in Orange County, CA. Here are the top seven responses:

  • Previous related work experience: 28%
  • Qualifications and skills: 22%
  • Easy to read: 16%
  • Accomplishments: 10%
  • Spelling and grammar: 9%
  • Education: 6%
  • Intangibles (individuality, desire to succeed): 6%

Taken altogether, previous related work experience (28%), qualifications and skills (22%), and accomplishments (10%), show that three of every five hiring managers are most interested in what you’ve done in your previous jobs when they try to determine if you’re qualified.

The message here is that hiring managers want not just work experience, but experience that is directly related to the demands of the jobs they want to fill. Here’s what this means for you:

(1) Take the time to link your experience and skills with what the position demands.

If you’ve already prepared a resume before you see a job posting (if you haven’t, you should), line them up side by side. Note how many phrases in the posting match those on your resume. For example: The job posting calls for 3 to 5 years of staff management experience. You managed a staff for two years in your last job and one year in a previous job. Your resume should state (preferably in the Summary of Qualifications) that you have “three years of staff management experience.”

The more matches you have, the better your chances of getting an interview. This blog post offers an easy method of writing a targeted resume that emphasizes your related experience.

(2) Show them how your skills and experience have made a difference.

That’s where the accomplishments come in, and they can be the trigger that prompts a hiring manager to call you in for an interview. For example: You have four years of experience as a quality control specialist in the software industry. If the employer wants that level of experience, great, you have it. But if you strengthened that experience with an accomplishment, such as: “Prevented potential public relations disaster by finding and correcting 25 critical bugs in new software suite prior to release,” you’ve shown that you made a difference and saved the company from unnecessary losses to its finances and reputation.

The more accomplishments you can claim, the more valuable your experience, skills, and qualifications will seem, compared to others who apply for the same job. Using the results from the survey question, listing your related skills, qualifications, and experience can provide enough for 50% of hiring managers to notice; and adding accomplishments can widen your resume’s appeal to another 10%.

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