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What do employers look for in a résumé?

Essentially, employers look for what you can do for them. That’s what they want to know. Your résumé should to be reader friendly— easy for the reader to find the names of companies, titles held, and dates employed. If the reader has to spend time hunting for this information, he or she will pass over the résumé. You cannot expect the employer to do ANY work; it all has to be accessible and right there.

On average, the employer will only spend 15-20 seconds reviewing the document. This will not sound flattering to the job seeker, but candidly, you are a product that you’re selling and marketing to the reader. Just like in any other sales situation, you sell the sizzle, not the steak. Obviously, you will need the details to substantiate the claim, so have all the factual information available. What will create the sense of urgency is if you can demonstrate that YOU are the better product. This is especially important in soft markets.

The mindset is not to inform, but to sell, market, showcase your skills and results, highlight what you’ve done for former employers, and emphasize what you can do for a new company. This is where most people miss the mark tremendously. To get ‘on the mark’, understand the employer’s perspective: “I’m the company and I’m spending ‘X’ on you. What is my return on investment? How can you make my life better? How can you make the company more profitable?” That is what your résumé should scream to the reader. Why me, and not one of the other 185 people whose résumés are sitting on the employer’s desk.

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