Every HR pro has a different idea of what constitutes the perfect candidate. 

But according to a Netquote survey of 800 professionals in charge of hiring, there are quite a few common things catching pros’ eyes that are guaranteed to get applicants noticed — in both good ways and bad ways.

Do your preferences match up with everyone else’s?

Keep it simple

It all starts with the resume.

Those surveyed said their opinion of an applicant starts forming the second they look at the resume. The quickest way a candidate can turn off a hiring manager? Including a headshot with their resume.

According to the survey, 42% of HR pros view a resume in a negative light if the applicant has a photo attached to it.

When it comes to the physical appearance of the resume, hiring managers are split on whether they’d prefer a more creative design, or a strictly professional one: 36% don’t want a nontraditional resume, 35% appreciate them and 29% have no preference.

As far as length goes, the more concise, the better. Fifty-one percent consider three pages to be too many (and nearly one-quarter said two pages was too much).

Problem solvers wanted

In the actual interview, the survey revealed hiring managers are focused on candidates who have strong problem-solving skills.

Here’s the top five questions interviewers put the most stock in:

  • Tell me about a time you managed a conflict. (69%)
  • Tell me about a time you learned from a mistake. (68%)
  • Why did you leave your last job? (65%)
  • What are your biggest strengths? (64%)
  • What type of learner are you? (56%)

And the strengths hiring managers are most interested in?

  • problem-solving (42%)
  • communication (32%)
  • time management (30%)
  • honesty (21%), and
  • determination (20%).

But if a candidate says the wrong thing, it can be game over. Here are the most hated buzzwords:

  • “stuff” or “things” (57%)
  • “like” (51%)
  • “low-hanging fruit” (39%)
  • “game-changer” (18%), and
  • “synergy” (18%).



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