What Do Recruitment Consultants & Hiring Managers Want in a Resume?

As a result of more than 20 years’ experience helping executives, managers and professionals advance their careers, I have developed a pretty good understanding of what recruitment/executive search consultants and hiring managers want to see in resumes. If you follow these suggestions – based on what recruiters and hiring managers have told me – you will probably increase your chances of being invited to interviews.

After reading the information below, I recommend assessing your resume against the requirements of recruiters and hiring managers and seeing whether your resume is on the money or whether it falls short.

If your resume falls short, please get in touch and we can discuss how I can help you elevate it to the level it needs to be.

Your Value Proposition

Every successful company invests considerable time, money, and thought into clearly defining and articulating their unique value proposition based on its target markets’ needs, expectations, preferences, and priorities. Their marketing materials convincingly differentiate their company’s products or services in a way that’s meaningful to their customers or clients.

Similarly, effective resumes include a clear and distinctive value proposition. This leads to more interviews because the candidate has differentiated and uniquely positioned themselves. Their unique value proposition answers the question: “What am I going to get if I were to hire this person?”

This doesn’t mean filling your resume with over-used, trite buzz words that could apply to everyone. Recruiters and hiring managers have seen all the buzzwords they need to last several lifetimes. They want to know about the problems you can solve, the challenges you can overcome, and the value you can bring to their organisation. They want to understand the difference you can make and what you think makes you different. The more you can do this, the closer to the top of the list your resume will rise.

This is not easy. Successful companies don’t achieve this during an executive team working lunch. It’s a serious and critically important process that takes time and thought. Successful organisations invest time and thought because the results pay dividends.

It’s no different with job seekers. The more effort and thought you put into articulating your unique value proposition, the more likely you will convince the recruiter or hiring manager that you should be one of the few selected from the multitude.

The trick is to work out what employers want and need and to demonstrate that you can give them what they want and need. You don’t need buzz words for that. You need straightforward, easy to access and direct language.

The Significance & Impact of what you have Done

Many job seekers fail to demonstrate the importance, impact or significance of what they have done. This leaves the readers of their resume wondering and asking: “So what?” If you don’t answer that question, your resume will likely slide down the list.

For example, it’s not enough to just say that you saved your employer money. You need to indicate what the savings enabled the organisation to do that it could not previously do. For example, did it allow the organisation to invest in new equipment or tools or facilities or people to expand its offering to the market? Was the money saved used to reduce the organisation’s debt? Did it increase the organisation’s market value? Did it enable the company to penetrate new markets or invest in R&D to develop new products ahead of its competitors? You must demonstrate that you understand the organisational benefits of what you did.

Or, if you designed and developed a leadership development program attended by 90% of the organisation’s leaders, what happened as a result of that program? Organisations expect a return on their investment in training and development. While the results or impact of the program might not be immediately apparent or easily quantifiable, every effective training and development program should have an evaluation component to measure its effectiveness and impact.

Or, if you led a project to introduce a new way of working, what was the impact on productivity, efficiency, employee engagement, employee retention, or the organisation’s attractiveness as an employer? If you managed a

program to introduce new technology, what happened as a result? If you devised and implemented a new document management system, what difference did that make? If you changed a process or a procedure, what improved as a result?

Whatever you achieved, indicate the significance, benefits, impact, or importance in straightforward, easily accessible language.

How did you do it?

People often ask: “If I disclose how I did something in my resume, will I have anything to say at interview”.

I was listening to a webinar featuring a senior partner in one of the world’s largest executive search firms in which the moderator asked this senior partner: “What would search consultants like to see in resumes that they don’t often see?” The senior partner said: “The methodology” and explained that indicating how a candidate went about achieving something was vital because it gave the recruiter insight into two things.

First, it told them something about a candidate’s intellectual horsepower and whether they went about things in a creative or novel way or whether they simply did what most people do in a similar situation. How someone does something, the strategy they choose and their approach to a situation revaeals something about what’s between a person’s ears. For example, if someone improved a company’s profitability by offshoring certain tasks or functions to low-cost countries, that’s not a novel approach. However, if they managed to improve profitability while keeping those functions in-house, that’s something more interesting.

Second, how someone goes about doing things provides some insight into a person’s potential cultural fit with the hiring organisation. For example, if a candidate offers evidence that they are an ‘out of the box’ thinker and the organisation is looking for that kind of approach, there’s potential for a good fit. However, the fit might not be as good if the organisation is looking for someone who prefers to steer a boat according to a previously set course without deviation.

How hard was it?

Organisations prefer to hire people who can achieve results under difficult or challenging circumstances. There are plenty of ‘fair weather sailors’ who head for shore as soon as the sea gets a bit rough. It’s a question of ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. Therefore, tell the readers of your resume if you achieved something that was difficult to do or where you had to overcome significant obstacles or where the barriers were substantial. They want to know. Doing so sets you apart from your competition in a meaningful way.

For example, if you improved profitability in the face of low-cost new competitors, that wasn’t easy. If you managed to rapidly get a workforce into high productivity mode during a pandemic, that was probably a bit tricky. Or, if you brought a project back on schedule and budget, you must have overcome some challenges to achieve that.

Won’t this add length?

Many people ask whether doing all of this will make your resume too long. It won’t if you cut out the unnecessary and redundant material you might have been including in your resume. Many of the resumes I see contain long lists of duties and responsibilities. Trim those lists to focus on the essential priorities of your roles, and you will have plenty of space. It also won’t add length if you express these things concisely, clearly, and elegantly.

What now?

Knowing what to do is not the same as being able to do it to the required standard. I know how to hit a golf ball. However, when I try to put into practice what I know about hitting a golf ball, the results are less than impressive. I also know how to do many things around the house. But, when it comes to critical stuff like re-wiring or fixing a serious plumbing issue, I know that I’m going to make a mess of it, not to mention the stress it will cause. I get an experienced pro to do it. It’s too important. I might save a few dollars but will end up paying dearly.

This is no different to trying to write your own resume. Your resume is the bridge between where you are now and where you want to be. It’s too important to try to do it yourself. It’s risky because you don’t know whether what you produce is going to lead to interviews. And, missing out on opportunities that won’t come around again is shattering.

Yes, I know that you can save some money doing it yourself, but what will it actually cost you in lost opportunities? How long will it take you before you finally get an interview? How many chances will you blow? And, will you only get interviews for roles you don’t really want in organisations where you don’t really want to work?

So, at least do this: send me your current resume for a free, no-obligation assessment, and I will clearly explain during a short phone call whether it will land you in front of a decision-maker.



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