By Phil Baker,
Resumes are selected based on the criteria of qualifications, length of work experience, education and training, grammar, spelling, and so on. However, the number one reason why resumes are chosen is not known by most job hunters. Although I was an HR consultant this was also a great mystery to me for years.
I once surveyed 107 HR resume reviewers and decision makers, and one of the most prevalent reasons they stated for choosing a candidate to interview is because the resume or cover letter felt right. I remember thinking this was illogical. How can a resume or cover letter feel right?
Since then I have heard many employers say the same thing. I had to know what feels right meant. Because of my position I have had access to confidential personnel files at many employers. I began digging into personnel files. I read the hard copy and digital resumes and cover letters of all the employees at companies. I also read the ones of the candidates who had been selected for interviews. In other words, the successful ones. While there were exceptions, I discovered that no matter what the position or at which company, there were some striking commonalities.
First: This one is elementary but critical. When the original job posting was attached to the file or available, I compared that to the candidate’s writing. Most of the chosen candidates had listed all or a good part of the skills and attributes the employer had been seeking. This told me the odds were that the majority of these job hunters had at least tailored their work based on the employer’s job posting. Kudos to them. When a candidate has the qualifications the employer is seeking, this is one factor that makes that person feel right.
Second: This is a small detail that can evidently have big results: More than 91% of selected candidates had included their contact information on their resume, cover letter, and job application and the information was consistent. The exact same name, address, phone numbers, and email address were on all three documents.
By contrast, my tracking has shown the overall numbers for consistent and accurate contact information submitted by all job hunters on these documents to be less than 27 per cent. This means over 70 per cent of job hunters either do not include all their contact information on all documents, or submit discrepancies. I realize that this information could change between the time a candidate submits a resume and fills out a company application form, but the numbers don’t lie. Employers feel right about someone who appears consistent and steady.
Third: Quite a few of these successful candidates had somehow captured the corporate language of the company, the position, and the field. They performed ‘the extra mile’ research and that was obvious. They mirrored the company’s environment, vocabulary and industry specific terms. These winning resumes did feel right! They reflected the company or industry atmosphere in a style appropriate for the targeted position.
Note: This includes the language used in objective statements. However about one third of these chosen candidates had not included an objective.
Fourth: Not all the resumes were perfect. But if not flawless they were close. Not everyone had perfect spelling and grammar, though I found only a few with mistakes. Most were perfect and the ones with mistakes had only one or two that appeared to be typos. This told me that mistakes do not feel right to employers. Mistakes indicate carelessness and a lack of attention to detail.
Fifth: The writing was easy to read, the format was clean, there were usually never more than two fonts used and two font sizes. There were colored and graphic entries yet those were appealing and also easy to read.
Sixth: The writing had been skillfully crafted to include accomplishment statements with measurable results using power words to make the points. These candidates had matched the employer desired skills with their own.
Seventh: Almost every selected candidate had included an articulate and to the point cover letter. Many of the cover letters had been addressed to a specific person, most of them were succinct (four short paragraphs or less,) and more than half included some call to action. These candidates had used vocabulary in a convincing manner to get attention and interest, inspire desire, and invoke action.
Hyoâ€™s Note â€“ Not only is Phil the creator of the OneClick Cover Letter Creator SoftwareÂ ProgramÂ (a ridiculous easy to use, yet effective software that creates cover letters tailored to your needs) which you can visit here, or you can read my review of it here, but he also has a tremendous website, www.ResumeDictionary.com.Â Resume DictionaryÂ might just be the best, free resume resource site out there – jammed with great information and tips on getting your resume water tight and rocking.Â