Career Advice

Resumes and Cover Letters

What Do Employers Look For?

employer looking

This is part 2 of a series covering basic things employers look for in applicants. While every job, hiring manager, employer and situation is unique, there are usually common traits that employers look for, in almost every position.

A second thing that nearly every employer looks for is … Can you help me build shareholder value?

In today’s economy, no companies look for someone just to fill a seat. Hiring managers have to justify ROI for every new headcount that they add. Basically, the hiring manager has to demonstrate that you’ll make the company more than they will pay you. Each job is an investment, evaluated in the same way a company evaluates whether to purchase new equipment.

A hiring manager takes a significant risk when they hire a new person – that you’re an investment that will pay off. The best way for your hiring manager to see you as a good investment is by demonstrating how you’ve already built shareholder value at past employers, by solving similar problems or meeting similar goals to your target company’s specific situation.

Most candidates don’t put themselves in the hiring manager’s shoes, writing a resume that focuses on what they themselves want or a resume that describes how they spend their workday.

Here’s 6 ways to demonstrate that you can provide value to your hiring manager:

  1. Understand priorities: Before you can demonstrate what you’ve accomplished, it’s critical to first understand a hiring manager’s priorities. It won’t matter what you’ve accomplished if it isn’t relevant to what your hiring manager is trying to accomplish. For example, if you came up with an idea that made your company a billion dollars, it won’t matter to a hiring manager who’s tasked with cutting costs. You may have some outstanding accomplishments, but they may be the wrong accomplishments for this specific hiring manager. Do your research to find out the type of value likely to be important to this specific company, department and manager.
  2. Demonstrate value in numerical results or percentages: Use numbers or percentages where ever possible. Let’s say you cut costs by improving manufacturing processes. It’s much more powerful if you can state that you cut product manufacturing costs by 10% because of your improvements. Or if you can state that you saved your past company $1M in manufacturing costs due to your process improvement implementation.
  3. Translate accomplishments to value: Listing improvements in metrics like customer satisfaction means different things to different companies – some companies place a huge value on customer satisfaction, while others (ex: some large phone companies) place a much lower value on customer satisfaction. But almost every company understands the value of profit, revenue, and cost reductions.
  4. Claim responsibility: Even if you were part of a team accomplishment, describe your role, stating that your role contributed to a 20% increase in revenues. Even if you’re an admin assistant, you can state that keeping the project calendar and producing reports kept the team informed and focused to achieve $10M in increased revenues.
  5. Don’t focus on responsibilities: Your next employer won’t care much about responsibilities of your past jobs. Your responsibilities are merely a job description – if you focus your hiring manager’s attention on responsibilities, you give the impression that you feel the best thing about you is that you met the minimum job criteria … branding yourself as a commodity. Instead if you focus your hiring manager on your accomplishments, you’re describing what you did that went above and beyond the call of duty – you describe yourself at your best. If you research first to understand hiring manager priorities, you can give the impression of a superior candidate by focusing on your accomplishments that are meaningful to your hiring manager.
  6. Don’t talk about your past company’s accomplishments: Your next employer isn’t hiring a company, they are hiring a person. Focus on your accomplishments, not the accomplishments of your past company.

Look at your current resume – how much of your resume describes your responsibilities?

Do you place responsibilities in places of greater attention than accomplishments? Which do you list first?


About the Author

This article was contributed by Phil Rosenberg. Phil is President of ReCareered, helping great people break through the challenges of modern job searches. Phil managed the Chicago suburban Financial and Technology consulting practices for recruiting industry leader, Robert Half International.

  • Tanya

    I’ve had a few of the experiences shared. Fundamentally, it is a lack of respect and empathy for others. This comes from HR, the hiring managers, recruiters, etc. It’s hard for those people on that side of the fence to think how they would feel if they were on the other side of that fence, looking for a job to pay bills and live. Truthfully, it begins way before the interview in the application process – lack of response, acknowledgement, left messages, emails, web application and the like. This is a clear indication of the companies/recruiters value they placed on people. It doesn’t take long to acknowledge or inform someone they haven’t been successful. Preserve their dignity by letting them put their efforts in elsewhere. Agree though that it’s still out of the candidate’s control, but it is still hurtful – especially if looking for a long time and things are getting desperate.

  • Magnus

    It is what it is folks. Treat it as karma, if it helps to feel better

  • letitbe

    I’m in the same boat, unfortunately. About a year ago, I was in contact with a company for 8 months. During the initial phone interview with the hiring manager, he said “my resume is outstanding and you are one of our top candidates.” I continued to keep in contact with him emailing periodically. In one email, 4 months after the phone interview, he said he soon will be planning a trip for me to meet in person. I felt I had the job and it was an exact fit for me. In addition, it was located in the south with great weather most of the year. I was so excited and ready to move. Well, he kept postponing the trip telling me other issues came up and he was traveling a lot. Here’s the worst part of it…I found out from a friend in the industry that the job was filled. The hiring manager never did tell me. I had to find out on my own. Here he is keeping in contact with me for 8 months and then slapped in the face.

    Simply put, when your struggling looking for work, your nothing but a piece of meat and treated with no respect at all. This has to be the most horrible nightmare ever in my life. I now know why people just throw in the towel and say the hell with it.

  • Shawn S.

    800 applications in 2 years!?? I can’t help but think you’re looking for any job in any company. I suggest more narrowly defining your “ideal” job and fully understanding the factors, skills, and experiences that you can bring to that job. Then network with anyone and everyone that might get you closer to your ideal. I’m certain that will have better results than applying to more than 33 postings every month. Good luck!!

  • pszymeczek

    More like female and over 50.

  • Phil

    White male veteran. Birth and up.