Application Advice from a Hiring Manager

By James Hu

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Hi there! I do the hiring for my company, and we use an Applicant Tracking Systems to track our many candidates. When candidates submit an application, it goes directly into this system. I can then take apart, or parse, the components of a resume and sort candidates by those components. I can also easily browse all applications for a certain position. I wanted to share some advice on what I look for when going through resumes via ATS.

1. Always add your resume.

Our applicant process does not require employees to submit resumes. When I am browsing candidates, it is remarkably easier to give their resume a quick look. If they did not upload, I have to click into their application and search to learn about their work history. This automatically, even subliminally, puts the candidates with an easy to find resume in better favor. So- even though it might seem optional, take the extra steps. 


2. Write a cover letter.

I like to see a cover letter, even if it is quick and to the point. A personalized letter that details why you are interested in the company and a little about your background goes a long way. Especially when using ATS, it can be hard for me to get a true feel for candidates. Because they are all uploaded into the same system, it can be monotonous to click through candidates determining who to call in for an interview. Anything that helps to flesh you out is an advantage you should take.


3. Tailor your resume.

I cannot express how important it is to be explicit about how your past experience relates to the job for which you are applying. Don’t make hiring managers search for it or have to infer it. If you are applying for a position in retail, don’t make me have to guess whether you have experience in customer service or infer experience from your other positions.

The hiring manager will know the specific roles needed for a position. I care more about your skills that I need than that you can play the banjo and are fluent in 9 languages. The easiest way to discern the skills a hiring manager is looking for is from the job description. You should do your best to mirror the skills you see there to the skills on your resume.’s tool makes it easy to see the keywords you need to make stand out on your resume. Simply copy and paste your resume and any job description to see how you match up the position. The results will also show you what words you are missing, or where you can strengthen your resume by building on certain keywords.


4. Put time into your resume.

    Maybe I fall into the popular anecdote that hiring managers don’t actually read a resume. But think more about what that means. If I am only looking at your resume for a brief time, then don’t you think you should consider its appearance? An unevenly spaced, uncentered resume just looks bad. It make me less engaged in the content. Make it simple, clean, and make the important pieces stand out. It seems counterintuitive, but the less time I spend, the more time you should spend!

    I find distracting is when I can’t find the pieces I am looking for. For example, if you are listing your experiences and they carry a different format from one to another. I expect to be able to see the same category of information in the same location as I search a resume.

    There are tons of ways to create an effective, neat resume, and while there is some room for creativity, make sure all the key components are included. The following are absolutely required:

  • Months and years for each position
  • Your role in each position
  • Your contact information


5. Show commitment.

    Hiring new employees can be tedious and time consuming. By showing your commitment to a position, you are setting yourself up to be in better favor. Hiring managers want people they can trust to be in a position. Show that you looked into the company, have some experience with it, and plan on sticking around to learn something new. I recommend placing this within the cover letter, but I always look to see whether applicants have been with their company for a long time or advanced within their previous companies. To me, this shows you are someone who works hard, not just kills time for a paycheck.  


6. Be proper.

    Way too often candidates enter their first and last names without capitalizing the letters, eg. john smith. If you do this, I automatically assume you don’t really care about getting this job and that you are too lazy to push the shift key. Trust me, you do not want you a potential employer to think ‘lazy’ when they see your name!


This piece was written by the hiring manager of a Fortune 500 Retail Chain.


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