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What Employers Actually Look For

April 4, 2017

 I knew you would! ^


Recently, Jacqui from Career Counseling and Support Services came to speak to my professional writing class about marketing yourself throughout the job search and it put a lot into perspective for me. We've learned so much over the years about the perfect resume, the ideal cover letter and the sealing-the-deal interview that the idea of writing yet another blog post about it annoyed even me. But I wanted something for the past, present and future job/internship apply-er to refer to, and decided to create this comprehensive guide. Everything I've learned so far condensed into a single blog post. Happy applying! 


Employers are looking for three things: 

1. Can you do the job?

2. Will you do the job?

3. Do you fit the job?


Can you do the job?

Determining the "can" comes down to your skills. Where do employers find your skills and experience? You guessed it. Your resume. You have one page to market your capabilities for that specific job. You need to tailor it. 


Step 1: Determine the job target (a.k.a. find a job to apply for)

Step 2: Identify their needs. What are they looking for?

  • Create a two column chart. One column for the job posting, one column for you 

  • Under "job posting," include the job requirements, preferred skills and duties

  • Under "you," include ways in which you meet the job requirements, experiences you can point to. Concrete examples of HOW you meet their needs


Step 3: Construct the perfect resume

  • Use your chart! What experiences of yours are most relevant to that job

    • Pro tip: Create one large experience bank in a document that you can pull from for each job

  • Avoid templates (stand out), use a readable font and ~proofread until the sun don't shine~

  • Use format of "action verb" + "subject/object" + "outcome/significance" to form bullets 

    • Example) Assist in the development of blog posts to establish marketability (see what I did there ;)) 

    • Present tense for current jobs (assist), past tense for previous (assisted)

    • Theres an understood "I." In other words, NO "-ing" (assisting)

    • Avoid personal pronouns, vary your verbs

    • Be consistent with periods - all or none at all

    • This hurts to type. Don't assume organizations are known (OSU, PRSSA). Spell out to clarify

Will you do the job?

Determining the "will" comes down to your passion for the work. But where will an employer look to determine if you're passionate without getting to meet you in person? Your cover letter. This is where you tell them what you can do for them and why you want to do it. 



  • Address it to a specific person. It's 2017, "to whom it may concern" won't cut it. Use your resources (Google) to get you that HR Director/Hiring Manager's name!

  • 1 pager: An intro, 2-3 bodies (paragraphs.....) and a conclusion

  • Try developing a thesis to guide the structure of your letter

    • Example: My A, B and C make me a good fit for XX.

    • Then support your claims in the middle paragraphs with examples from your two-column chart! (see it's all coming together)

Do you fit the job?

Use your cover letter to show them your goals and how they relate to the company's mission. Look for places in their mission statement that resonate with you and touch on them (Hint: If you can't find any, you're probably not applying for the right job). This will show you've done your research, you're passionate about the company and you'd be a good addition to the company and it's culture. 


Key points:

  • Employers want to know if you can do the job, if you will do the job and if you're a right fit for the job. To prove it to them, keep your resume and cover letter tailored to that specific job

  • Apply for jobs/companies you care about and it will shine through

  • Stay organized with an experience bank and charts for each application to keep your documents structured

  • Finally, be confident in your abilities and go get 'em










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