3 Psychological Tricks to Make a Power Resume

Read Time • 8 min.
By Zipline Careers Team • December 16, 2019 • Updated

As tough as it may be to accept when applying to jobs, sometimes hiring managers are plainly unimpressed by our resume and our prior accomplishments. It may be because you work for a company they dislike, you went to a school they’ve never heard of, or just don’t like your experience.

Plus, with the number of people involved in hiring constantly scouring the internet for your social media postings, it’s amazing anyone can have a clean slate. Remember that one time your worst tequila fueled dance moves made an elderly man have a stroke? It can now live on next to your PhD.  

 Why do they do this? We may be tempted to answer that it is because they’re an evil being sent from another galaxy to ruin our life. Yet as it turns out, most of them are average people with a variety of contradictory biases, bad assumptions and personal mistakes.

 Often this is not a personal dislike for us as individuals (they usually don’t know you), but instead a narrow viewpoint about what is useful in their specific environment and subsequently, who they’d like to hire.

However, let’s be realistic, some of them are definitely worth avoiding. Sexism, ethnic or racial bias and other discriminatory biases abound throughout the workplace.

Recruiters spend an average of just six seconds scanning a resumé before deciding if the candidate is worth calling in for an interview, according to research from TheLadders.

So, what should we do about this?

The bad news – you’re unlikely to change their myopic viewpoint. Nor should you try to spend your valuable time convincing them of anything. Usually people’s ideas are fairly cemented, and you have enough work cut out for you as it is.

The good news – you can use their viewpoint to your advantage when crafting your resume and other job application materials. Usually this can be solved with some basic principled research about your target job.

So, what are some of these general viewpoints held by hiring managers? And how can you use it to your advantage?

Manager Viewpoint #1: Earning revenue is usually more “interesting” than saving a company money.

While not all organizations are for-profit entities, for-profit institutions and revenue-oriented principles generally hold an intense and broad sway over individuals and groups’ mindsets at-large.  As a result, framing your accomplishments in terms of revenue you helped generate is useful for impressing hiring managers.

For example, even if you work in a non-profit, you could frame successful grant funding or other fundraising like this:

“Analyzed reports that contributed to successful new grant funding proceeds for upcoming fiscal year.”

Here, you have framed your contribution in terms of funds you brought in that help define your importance in your organization.

Manager Viewpoint #2: Did you reach or exceed set goals in your position?

It’s extremely psychologically satisfying for a future employer to see that you succeeded in a set goals, or even better, surpassed those goals you or your employer set.  Describing successful small goals is much more resounding and positive than failing to accomplish anything completely, like leaving before projects were complete at you prior jobs.

This is by no means to say that you shouldn’t set a high bar for yourself. However, it’s important to characterize your successes properly and, leave your failures to the side if at all possible. Manage the impression you give by selling your successes and not your failures. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Manager Viewpoint #3: What was something new that you directed or were a part of?

Most hiring managers will likely be uninterested in typical day-to-day responsibilities that are, or appear, routine for your current or last job.  Instead, describe new routines, cost-saving measures, time management practices or other innovative efforts that you developed or were a part of.

Again, stick to the principle listed in Viewpoint #2. That is, a small new initiative that is successful is often much more mentally pleasing to hiring managers than a large failed activity.

All of this is not to say that your failed initiatives, outside skills and non-monetary activities are useless or unimportant.  Rather, it’s important that you frame your story in a way that resonates with the group and individuals you are trying to influence.

Manager Viewpoint #4: How did you work for others, versus just receiving all of the benefit for yourself.

It’s important to help others in your career, and it’s a critical part of being successful yourself. But fundamentally, you shouldn’t forget that at the end of the day your career is still yours. With that being said, it’s important to highlight your usefulness and willingness to help others.

What’s your roadmap to roll this out? Start by picking your accomplishments – then describe the results in relation to the team or division you helped. Here’s an example:

“Created promotional content and materials used to drive a $50 million dollars sales campaign for FY2019. Content creation saved marketing team over 3 weeks of full-time work.”

Manager Viewpoint #5: What has been your willingness to take risks and what were the results?

Many companies have voracious appetites for risk-takers that can propel their firm to a rarified spot. Others look for steady steppingstones to tread water until they find their next challenge.

Whether your goal is to be at a Fortune 500 company or just working towards maintaining a buzzing local non-profit, you’ll need to find what works for you. This generally depends on your personality and what place you are at in your career.

Regardless of the backdrop of your last positions, make sure you know what works for you now and what the expectations are for the role before starting. A key trend in whether or not you’ll be successful in your role can be dependent on risk taking.   

Building a level of trust with your soon-to-be interviewer can be a daunting task for everyone. This can be even more true through just a resume. Yet by appealing to what often ends up being human nature, you can help send your resume into the right hands.

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