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Employers Are Telling You What They Want. Are You Listening?


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listening small.jpgEvery week job hunters send me resumes to review because they are having job-hunting problems.

All of these resumes are substantial records of their military experience and job skills. There would be little doubt in any resume screener’s mind that these individuals merit employment–somewhere.

However, when I read the resumes of the typical military job hunter, they read as if the authors have little familiarity with the industries they want to be employed in. This circumstance can cut into their competitive edge and extend a job hunt unnecessarily.

Moreover, I find more often than not that job hunters have not matched their job experience with what the employer is seeking.

I was contacted last month by a job hunter who wanted to improve his resume. He sent me both his resume and a copy of the vacancy announcement for the Federal job he was interested in. On his resume he described his main focus of experience as operations and ntelligence management. Yet, he was applying for a Nuclear Weapons Surety Specialist.

I reviewed his 5-page resume “treatise.” It was a highly detailed statement of a remarkable career. He was articulate and well-trained. But I could not find any reference to the target position in this long document so I did a search of his resume using “nuclear” as my keyword. I found only one occurrence. But that experience occurred over 25 years ago!

I read the vacancy announcement in detail. It stated that “the creditable specialized experience is: Experience in developing nuclear weapons technical inspection policy. Experience in security classification verification for nuclear weapons or weapon systems.”

I told him I thought he did not have what the employer wanted. Despite other issues he wanted to address, he agreed with my conclusion.

Employers tell you what they want but you must read and listen to what they are saying.

And sometimes employers tell you point blank how they are searching for job candidates. They list their search keywords right in the job ad!

Search keywords tell a lot about what employers deem competitive in a job candidate. Knowing what an employer finds competitive or not can help a job hunter understand how hiring decisions are made. Moreover, keywords can assist a job hunter in modifying their competitive positioning so they wage a product job hunt.

I was helping a client of mine last week and read a job ad for a Human Resources Manager. Within the ad, the employer listed its search keywords: manufacturing, engineering, technical, stamping, press, Human Resources, program management, communication, integrity, professional, problem solving, leadership, scheduling, customer service, leadership, assembly, people skills, People skills, benefits, FMLA, employment, staffing.

Why did the employer choose these keywords? What can these keywords tell as about what an employer is searching for, that is, what is the ideal job candidate?

Quite a bit.

Let’s organize these keywords so they make better sense in relation to job hunt competitiveness:

manufacturing, engineering, technical: INDUSTRY SECTOR.



program management, communication, integrity, professional, problem solving, leadership, scheduling, customer service, leadership, assembly, people skills: MAJOR JOB SKILLS DESIRED

People skills, benefits, FMLA, employment, staffing: SPECIALIZED JOB SKILLS DESIRED.

These keywords describe very well the employer’s ideal job candidate.

The optimum candidate will have familiarity in the manufacturing, engineering or technical industries. The candidate is knowledgeable with the employer’s line of business. The perfect candidate has experience in a Human Resources department. The candidate has major job skills including management, supervisory and leadership. Finally, the candidate has specialized skills revolving around the essential duties of a Human Resources professional.

That’s a pretty detailed statement. And the employer has been kind enough to tell you. Does your resume reflect the employer’s areas of need or is your resume only a detailed record of your military experience? Are you expecting the employer to figure out how to fit you into its organization? If you are, then your expectations are misguided and you should seek out an executive recruiter who gets paid to perform this type of service.

Here’s another example. The following keywords were listed in an online job ad for an IT sales executive:

cold call, IT sales, sales, business development, hunter, closer, technology sales, Microsoft certified, IT consulting, IBM, Oracle, CRM, software sales, hardware sales, NEOSA, internet, telecommunications, biotechnology, staff augmentation, life cycle recruiting, IT recruiting, CIO, CEO, COO, fortune 500, Great Plains, Business Forms, Database Programming, Direct Mail, Financial Services, Banks, Advertising, Enterntainment, Media, Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing, Consumer Products, Electronics, Publishing, Retail, Wholesale, Packaging, Account Sales Representative, National Account Representative, Sr. Sales Executive, Account Executive, Sales Representative, Sr. Sales Representative, Inside Sales, telemarketing, outbound, corporate account manager, Miller Heiman, Tom Hopkins, Sandler Sales, Solution Selling, Spin Selling, Selling to VITO, Selling to V.I.T.O., Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Account Manager, Territory Sales Representative, Territory Manager, Manufacturer Representative, Technical Sales, Medical Sales Representative, IT Sales, Consultative Sales, Relationship Building, Relationship Selling, Relationship Sales, Customer Service, Customer Relations, Client Relations, Territory Expansion, Product Marketing, Negotiating and Closing, Channel Sales, B2B, B2C, lead generation, OEMs, VARs, communication skills, new business development, sales presentations, meeting and exceeding sales quotas

What do they tell as about how the IT industry hires compared to other industries? Or, how this particular company describes its ideal job candidate.

The first thing you notice is the sheer quantity of keywords compared to the other example. The IT industry has a much tighter window of acceptability than other industries. Why? Its products are much more complex and its business as well. Hence, it is looking for a much more refined skill set (both positional and industry experience) than other industries. But once again we see the general categories of the ideal job candidate in the keywords.

What can this information tell you about the employer and its hiring processes?

Well, no one can divine how or why a particular employer selects one resume over another. That isn’t my goal here. Rather, I am trying to make job hunters think strategically about their job hunts. I want them to learn how to adapt and change given new information. That is, I want them to develop competitive-positioning skills.

I have found through working with clients and reading tons of job ads that what employers want depends on the industry they are serving. Hence, hiring processes are industry-sensitive or targeted.

Yet, within a given industry, I have observed, based upon keywords listed in job ads, that employers have two types of hiring processes that guide candidate selection.

  • Industry-Targeted AND Narrowly-Focused
  • Industry-Targeted AND Broadly-Focused

In other words, some resumes are searched and selected by employers based upon one or two skills while other employers are searching and selecting resumes based upon a long list of competitive variables or skills.

Why the difference?

I can venture an explanation based upon working with many job hunters. My sense is the narrowly-focused employers are experiencing an available talent pool of mostly partially- or not-qualified candidates. Hence, they only need a couple of variables to filter out the ideal job candidates.

Conversely, the broadly-based employers are experiencing an available talent pool of mostly very qualified candidates and few not-qualified ones. Hence, they need more variables to drive the filtering process of finding the ideal job candidates.

The information presented in this article suggests that the most important way for a transitioning military veteran to improve his or her chances in the resume selection process is to get to know the industry you are seeking to be employed by.

Almost categorically, I find that job hunters who have chronic, long-term job hunts have not investigated their target industries. They do not know the current trends, the innovation, the products or the major companies of the industry.

Once you know something about the industry, you will get a sense whether they are narrowly-focused or broadly-focused. With this knowledge you can improve your resume by synchronizing your resume to the industry or company’s needs.

If you know you are applying to a company in a narrowly-focused industry, your resume must include the competitive traits the company says it needs in the job ad. There is little if any wiggle room.

If you know you are applying to a company in a broadly-focused industry, your resume must cover the competitive traits cited. However, in my experience, few people have every competitive trait a company desires. So, depending upon business needs and available talent, you may have some leeway.

You will be successful in your career transition if your resume reflects the needs of the employer you are applying to. Employers tell you what they are looking for. They want to hire you. Take the time to discover what they want and you will have a speedy career transition.

In this article, I have encouraged job hunters to read job ads and listen to what employers are saying about their business needs. After some reflection, I feel it is only fair to turn the table around and ask employers to read their own job ads.

I have read over the past six months over 1,000 job ads. While a small percentage of job ads are brief and incomplete, most job ads read like technical manuals: they list a lot of information but the information is hard to digest.

One of the greatest failures of job ads in general, especially for the military job hunter, is that job ads are written with no sense of a target audience. Hence, they have little or no mention of business context.

I personally believe it is not enough to say our company is a leading information technology vendor or a defense industry contractor. What do those terms mean to qualified military veterans who have little or no knowledge of your exact business line, your competitors or your organization?

Remember, these people have been out of the loop of your business dynamics, serving our country’s defense needs, holding jobs that are essentially 24/7 situations. They do not get The Wall Street Journal on their doorsteps every morning. Yet, they are, in my opinion, as a group, the best, most committed and most reasonable employees any employer can have!

I also believe that A Day In The Life section should be added to every job ad. Rather than a long laundry list of job requirements and desired qualifications that most people find difficult to really comprehend, A Day In The Life section–mapping out a typical day from 8am to 6pm of what this job holder does–would be more effective to illuminate job candidates on what you are really seeking. In the end, you would get a better database of qualified candidates which would likely reduce your employee acquisition costs. Something to think about…

Good Luck In Your Job Search!

All opinions, advice, statements or other information expressed in this article are solely the author’s and do not necessarily express the opinions of MilitaryHire.com or the publisher.


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