Good vs. Great Applicants: Resume Decoding 101

You have two seemingly similar candidates; with similar backgrounds, years of experience, and industry expertise, so how will you determine which one has more of the skills needed to be successful in the role?

As career recruiters with 20+ years of search experience, we have more than 10,000 hours of practice which, as Malcolm Gladwell cites, makes us somewhat of an expert. In our case, an expert in evaluating candidates' resumes based on what they say and what they don’t.

Both are important considerations because candidates are not professional resume writers. Most people use cookie cutter templates as the starting point for creating a resume. Unfortunately, most templates are ineffective because candidates choose one for its visual look, not how the content will be best presented to the reader.

For these reasons, it can be tough to recognize the difference between a good candidate from a GREAT one.

So let’s dive in - a GOOD Product Manager applicant will:

  • Point out the stakeholders 
  • Outline how they gather data and insights from users
  • List the tech stack they use daily to track their work and deliverables
  • Serve up the education section at the top of a resume, so no one misses the STEM degree + MBA combination

But a GREAT Product Manager applicant will:

  • Point out the problem they were hired to solve and the outcomes they were hired to achieve
  • Showcase actual achievements with metrics
  • Refer to the actual product they delivered into the market (for example consumer mobile app they shipped and include how many downloads, MAU, and where the product ranks in the app store)
  • List the most impactful integrations to the API ecosystem and the growth they generated

This even more so applies to Sales. A GOOD resume of an Account Executive will:

  • Mention the territory or vertical they sell to
  • Cite the buyer/stakeholders they are calling into 
  • Refer to a "Rolodex" and who's in it
  • Reference their strategic abilities

But a GREAT resume of an Account Executive will:

  • List their % of quota attainment for the last 3 years
  • Cite their largest deals at each employer
  • List every President Club trip they won and the destination
  • Find a way to point out who they won against

While on the surface, both resumes cover the same topics, the difference between good and great candidates are the ones who can showcase results versus just activity.

Just be careful not to get caught up in the search for a unicorn candidate, as this could lead to a hiring failure. Rather than focusing only on unicorns, here are tips to ensure you hire the best candidate for the role.