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Getting Hired: The Application Screen

In part one of our three-part series on getting hired we focus on the changing way, HR departments are screening applicants. Being able to provide concrete examples that demonstrate your strengths and values are becoming very important in making the short list.

Like everything else, things are changing in the HR department when it comes to hiring talent. Of course, it always helps to know someone who knows someone in your target company. However, the traditional job search, resume and interview parts of the hiring process have been undergoing some subtle changes. Everybody has a solid resume, but success lies between the lines.

It starts with who you are, what you like and what you can do best. We’re talking about an honest self-appraisal before itemizing your strengths and weaknesses (areas for improvement). The simple underlying premise is that you will be good at what you like. I am not talking about “following your passions.” More realistically, I am talking about following where you excel and how to match those personal assets to the needs of potential employers.

Too often both employers and candidates are focused on the obvious job requirement such as education, certifications, and experience. However, as the “War for Talent” rages on, HR departments are becoming more focused on deeper issues beyond the surface job requirements. Some of the most important characteristics HR departments are scrutinizing more closely are actual proven capabilities such as critical thinking, problem analysis and solutions development, rapid learning, social IQ and the ability to quickly form accurate insights…and of course the mother of all desired characteristics: creativity.

As the “gig” economy is growing rapidly, many mid-level job candidates also need to possess the proven abilities to work independently and demonstrate a high level of self-motivation; the very same characteristics found in top-level leadership positions.

Everyone has an outstanding resume, saying the right words and phrases Team leader, Problem solver, Dedicated worker, etc., etc. However, to add real meaning to those catchwords, you need to give brief examples of real world experiences you have had demonstrating those tasks. But it is vital to think about events that substantiate you understand the key problems that confront those tasks. For example: “I was selected to lead the project team and quickly discovered that no one on the project had been completing their task reports and there was no idea of the actual status of the work-in-progress.” Another example: “ I was part of a team that solved the technical problem that had plagued our internal VPN. My supervisor, Mr. Bob Brown, can attest to the part I played in solving that problem.

Companies want to know (as best they can) what your “work philosophy” is. For example, I worked for company X for over seven years and chose to leave because I saw no path for advancement. To me, personal growth on and off the job is of major importance to me.” Would you want to hire a person who wasn’t interested in bettering themselves?

Of course, many companies don’t ask for these examples even though if you ask most hiring managers; these important qualities are considered key to a strong hire. With the apparent shortage of “qualified” staff, more companies are looking at making the investment in providing certain required skills but only if there is a long-term payoff for the company. They want to know if a candidate is the type of person they feel confident will optimize training expenses. So, it is not so much what you have done in the past as it is what you can do in the future.

So, dig deeper into your qualifications and identify those examples of experiences you have had that called upon much more than just doing the job. Try to provide examples of how you have displayed the “inner you” as it relates to the job and the empathy and assistance you give to your fellow workers. Try to stay away from words like “loyal,” self-directed, problem-solving, leadership, creative, and other commendable qualities without providing concrete examples that can be easily verified. Try to imagine you are the potential employer and they are not only looking at your resume and qualifications but also what kind of person you are. Proven values are becoming even more important these days than in the past.


Nation's Executive Search Group is sought out by leaders in Enterprise Risk Management, Marketing Services and Decision Analytics for mission critical sales and marketing leadership talent.

For more information, email or call Rob at (410) 827-0180,


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