I recently posted a job to multiple job sites and got close to 400 applicants. I had to screen these candidates, their resumes, and understand what skills they had. In this process I learned now only about them but I saw firsthand a number of trends of what separated applicants and their resumes. I saw bad resumes, excellent resumes, resumes that stood out, some that made me laugh, and a lot that were entirely forgettable.
The patterns I witnessed can help you, the job seeker, better prepare your job applications. Writing a resume, and following a methodology for applying to a job, is a science and an art. As an employer I know what resonates with me, and I want to share these learnings with you.
The Problem: Quality and Quantity
Traditionally both the job seeker and employer have faced a problem when going through the hiring motion. For job seekers, the problem is what many call “the black hole”. In this problem set, the job seeker applies to multiple jobs and never hears back from the employer.
In this situation they don’t if the role has been filled, if another candidate has been selected, or if their CV was even seen. This can lead to frustration and confusion.
On the employer side, a similarly painful problem often arises. This problem is one of job seeker quality. This means that for every job posting, far too many unqualified people apply. This in turn causes statistical noise which hurts the employer’s odds of identifying and engaging with the right talent.
Because both job seekers and employers face challenges, each is prone to “hedge”. Hedging exists in politics, economics, finance, building technical products, and athletics. You should expect it because hedging is people playing the game. In this case, job seekers apply to many more jobs than necessary. This hedge exists because job seekers apply to jobs in locations, roles, titles, or positions not well suited to their skills. By casting a wide net one job will likely land. Or so the reasoning goes.
For companies, they hedge by posting multiple roles even when fewer exist or keeping jobs open longer. This enables the company to obtain more applicants, build a deeper pipeline of talent, or drive more awareness to their home website.
The Solution: An Informed Job Seeker
Shifting from being a job seeker to being an informed job seeker is critical to your likelihood of finding a job. It’s all critical for differentiation.
Firstly, don’t feel intimidated. Getting a job lined up is easier than cold calling.
Starting a CV (or the job application process) can be a huge pain at first. From questions like what to write, when to write and how to write, you will be forced to think about yourself and your work and place these insights on a piece of paper.
Find a proven strategy.
Fast forward to the year 2025 and ask yourself what kind of work you want to be doing? Perhaps you want to be a technician designing innovative water technology or installing ceiling fans? Maybe you want to be a software engineer building futuristic music concepts, much like they do at Glencampbellmusic.com? Or a real estate agent at Williampitt.com?
Or a sports coach who teaches runners how to improve their technique?
Or maybe you love to write, as I do. If you want to get hired as a content author think about the types of blogs you would want to start and how you would do so. Be specific. It’s only when you are passionate about something that you can truly reach your full potential in that field.
If you apply to jobs that you’re not interested in, you’re going to have a hard time telling your story. Soon, you’ll be feeling that your effort is more of a burden than a benefit. Let’s say you want to get a job as a travel agent? How can you share your skills in ways that employers understand you: start by explaining why you care about travel, what relevant skills you have, and how you will leverage those skills to help the company.
As a hiring manager, I am looking at resumes that start strong. I want to see resumes that tell dynamic and powerful stories: they are well organized, action oriented, and clean.
If you want to differentiate yourself, start with a summary of your skills and key accomplishments. In very clear language explain what drives you. Are you a builder? A web developer? A pool cleaner? A Golf informer or teacher? A talented lawyer? What skills do you have in your field that can benefit me, the employer? State these attributes.
Moreover, I love to see results. If you are in sales, tell me about the quotas you have hit. If you are a software developer, tell me about the code you have written and why that’s enabled various products to be built. I am far less interested in your day to day responsibilities. Rather, I want to hear what you did and why you believe those actions mattered.
Lastly, build a resume or CV that is customized for the job you want. Take time to review the job description and use words, examples, and data that align with the hiring manager’s needs. If they ask for portfolios, make sure your portfolio is up to date and one click away.
If they want to know your typing speed, make sure you practice and improve your score. Then add that you are proficient at things related to word processing. This is aligned with the need for the job seeker to highlight changes and growth. Every manager wants staff with a growth mindset. Show this over and over again on your CV so that you stand-out.
Bringing It All Together: Work Hard to Stand-Out
An informed job seeker knows the role that he or she is applying for and why their skills are aligned with that role. You need to do some homework and understand what your field, profession, or role requires – whether you will be using your home office to work remotely or you plan on returning to a traditional office. Then, with that knowledge in mind, empathize with the hiring manager. Tell a story. Put your best foot forward.
Show what you have done and use data to demonstrate value and work performance. And always go above and beyond. Your effort will make you better and highlight your bias towards action. That will increase the likelihood of catching a hiring manager’s eye and taking you to the next stage of the hiring process.
The business and growth of labour markets is worthy of study. There is an old expression: why go camping, life is hard enough? Finding the right talent and finding the right job need not be this hard.
Job seekers are best suited to have an owners mentality. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. My friend, who is the CEO of Raleigh Digital likes to quote Amazon’s leadership principles. He never says “that’s not my job.” Because when you are looking for your next role, it most certainly is.