What Hiring Managers Look for in a Resume

I spoke recently with a senior project manager who is looking for a new job. I offered to review her resume, and she told me she didn’t think she needed it. She had the “secret sauce” to a great resume: every single line on the resume answered the “so what” question.

If she has some experience such as, “Led a project about whatsit and whosit,” she then writes the so what answer, “which saved the organization x in operational costs” or “which gained us a market position in y” or whatever the value of the project was to the organization.

An aside: If you are working on a project and you can’t articulate the value, you have to wonder if it’s worth your while to work on that project. (See Don’t Start a Project With Scarcity.)

All of your work is valuable in some way to the organization. Hiring managers, sometimes unconsciously, look at that value and compare it to what they need.

Candidates, please review your resume and articulate your value. Hiring managers, if you do a job analysis, you will see what kinds of value you need for your organization.

The value of your resume should shine through your resume. That’s what hiring managers look for. Give it to them.

5 Replies to “What Hiring Managers Look for in a Resume”

  1. Cool post…I found this bit interesting:

    “An aside: If you are working on a project and you can’t articulate the value, you have to wonder if it’s worth your while to work on that project”

    I guess this is a little bit subjective…on several of the projects I’ve worked on I really struggle to articulate what is the value to the product owner of building what they’re building.

    I don’t think it has much value…but of course they do think it does otherwise they wouldn’t be building it!

    So I have to go with their judgement and hope that it does!

  2. As a manager of project managers, who hires contract PM’s pretty frequently, I do look for people who can articulate the value of the projects that they worked on, but I especially look for the value that the individual added to the project.

    If your resume can tell me how you personally have added value in different situations, I will be able to ask questions that help me assess your strengths against my needs.

    Many project managers can articulate the accomplishments of the projects that they lead, few can explain how they made a difference. This is especially true in enterprise PMO driven organizations, where the project management practice is very well baked, on on most projects the PM only has to follow the bouncing ball.

    Going beyond just PM’s tell me how you innovate in your discipline (PM, BA, Tester, Architect, Designer, etc). Tell me how you can solve problems you (and I) have never seen before. Explain how you can take your experience, and extrapolate new concepts to apply to other dissimilar situations; how you generalize and abstract away from your concrete experience (successes and failures), and apply your learning to new environments.

    Tell me how, other than through brute force and perseverance, you are going to get the job done. I’ll hire you very quickly.

  3. I agree completely with the concept, and for all job levels and types. I do look for the succinctly stated “so what” conclusion on the resume.

    When I understand the point of the project I am asked to handle, I have the opportunity to truly engage with it, and my work product will reflect my engagement. If I can elucidate the value, it reflects my buy-in and ownership of the project.

    If not, not.

  4. Read the job description thrlguohoy. Make a list of the qualities they ask for such as team player (yuk!) or confidentiality or whatever their “buz” words are.Prepare your answers to common questions like:What is your best quality or your worst??What would your co-workers say about you?What problem did you have with a coworker and how did you resolve it?How do you prefer your supervisor to communicate with you?You can find these common questions on the internet somewhere. Type out examples of things you have done or happened.Then incorporate these “buz” words from the job description into these answers, i.e., “I am a great team player” and helped a coworker with this problem .Use their words and match their job description.

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