• shane@countryexec.com
  • Seguin, Texas
The Truth Behind Resumes And What Hiring Managers Want

The Truth Behind Resumes And What Hiring Managers Want

Recently, I concluded the hiring process to bring on a new team member for my organization. It had been more than a year since our last hire and working through the process again acted as a reminder for what I look for in candidates. Before I started in leadership, I often found myself wondering what was happening on the other side of the fence when I would apply for positions. Why the process was so vague, such an unknown. Twelve years into being a hiring manager, I can now speak to those questions from the perspective of knowledge and experience, and I feel there is value in sharing it with others. If you’d like to know the truth behind resumes and what hiring managers want, I encourage you to read on.

The Country Executive resumes

Background Information

I participated in my first interview as the hiring manager around 2009. I wasn’t the main guy. It was a two-person panel style interview held at a restaurant in Palmdale, CA. We were interviewing a young man for an open position on our asset control team. I recall I liked the young man. He had a husky build and his personality reminded me of a young Chris Farley.

He wasn’t unhinged by any means, but in his attempt to conduct a professional interview his personality came through as lighthearted and genuine. We laughed during the interview. I signed off on hiring him and he turned out to be a productive employee. Better yet, his positive energy was a perfect fit for the team. I still look for similar characteristics in potential employees today.


Since then, I’d estimate I’ve either hired or participated in over 100 interviews. Mostly panel style, but several one on ones as well. My track record for finding the right candidate has been exceptional. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’m confident in what I’m looking for when it comes to bringing someone new onboard.

I’m going to address what those attributes are further into the post, but here’s a teaser. It’s very likely not what you think. I do not put as much emphasis on credentials and professional experience as many do. I’m looking for something else, something difficult to ascertain from resumes or cover letters. More on that later.


Let’s start with how you get your foot in the door. It’s your resume first and foremost. More specifically how you represent yourself on your resume. I have a few golden rules when it comes to submitting resumes.

The Country Executive resumes

Resumes Golden Rule #1

Spelling and grammar. You would be surprised how many people submit resumes with bad grammar. I have spent twenty-five years working in IT and have only ever hired for technology and technology related positions. People I interview should have a level of comfort leveraging technology tools. I am not forgiving when someone doesn’t use the baked in spelling and grammar check in Word.

It speaks to attention to detail, an attribute I consider essential for working in the IT industry. It speaks to caring how you present yourself on a professional level. If a candidate does not take the time to review and ensure the words on their resume are on point, there’s a good chance they will not be successful in the environment I am responsible for.

Resumes Golden Rule #2

Formatting. I don’t care what format a candidate uses as long as it is neat and the spelling and grammar is accurate. What I don’t want to see is bad formatting. Think of it as aesthetics. Keep in mind I hire for IT. I want people even in entry level positions to possess the wherewithal to format well.

Do the bullet points line up? Are the resume sections formatted in a relatable pattern? Did the candidate commit to producing a professional resume? They’ll be expected to deliver on professional tasks and/or projects in my work center. I subscribe to the theory of how you do anything is how you do everything.

If a candidate submits a sloppy resume, chances are they will perform sloppy work. I do not accept sloppy work. There is no place for that in my professional existence. If you want to join the “A-Team,” you better bring your “A-game.”

Resumes Golden Rule #3

Submit as a pdf. This is an easy one, and something everyone should be aware of from the perspective of a hiring manager. When you submit a Word document through a company’s hiring software, it is not unusual for the formatting to be altered by that software platform.

When that hiring manager opens the candidates resume for the first time, right or wrong that can lead to a negative first impression. Obviously, you don’t want that. Submitting your resume as a pdf is an easy way to alleviate that issue.

Resumes Bonus Tip #1

One page. A one-page resume and a one-page cover letter is all you need. By all means have a multi-page resume completed and ready to go, but only provide it upon a request. This isn’t a hard and fast rule for when I hire someone, it’s more from the perspective of a hiring manager and what I like to see when I review credentials.

Share relevant information. I don’t care if you worked part time at Dairy Queen in high school, I want to know your history with technology. Leave the superfluous information off and figure out a way to best present yourself on a single page resume.

As for cover letters, I personally do not put a lot of emphasis on them. Many hiring managers do. If you do submit a cover letter, make sure it’s not generic. When I read a cover letter I don’t want to feel as though you’ve submitted the same one a thousand times. Be genuine in how you present yourself to the organization.

Resumes Bonus Tip #2

In most interviews you’ll be given an opportunity to ask questions at the end. Take advantage. Google common questions to ask of potential employers if need be.

As a hiring manager I raise an eyebrow if a potential candidate doesn’t have any questions. I’ve found that naturally inquisitive individuals tend to perform well in technology. They’ll deep dive when troubleshooting trying to find a resolution before engaging with peers. It also speaks to interest level, how engaged you are. Hiring managers want employees that want to be on their team and are engaged.

Resumes Bonus Tip #3

Here’s a little trick I used myself as a candidate many times with good success. At some point several years back I began creating folders with my name, the org, and the position I was interviewing for on the cover. Inside I’d have a copy of my resumes (one page and long form), references, certifications, and so on. I’d know how many people were going to be in the room because I’d ask beforehand, so I’d have the correct number of folders and usually one extra just in case.

In doing this I was showing how prepared I was for the interview. The time I invested. The fact I wanted to be on their team to the point I was willing to go the extra mile. How organized I was, and what they would be getting in return if they brought me on board.

I only saw one other person do this as a hiring manager, and I was super impressed. It’s next level above and beyond type actions. You best believe I want that kind of proactive mindset on my team.

Moving On From Resumes

Notice I haven’t stated a single word regarding work history or relevant credentials. If you have zero experience, or if you are right out of school you can still present yourself well virtually by following these tips.

Attention to detail is paramount in my world, therefore I believe it carries significance for all hiring managers. There are certainly more cues with virtually introducing yourself via resume to hiring managers, but covering the basics will put you a step ahead of a lot of candidates.

The Country Executive resumes


Say you get your foot in the door and are asked to interview. What now? Be professional. Whether by telephone or email, be polite. You don’t know these people. Say sir, mam, Mr., Mrs., or Ms. until told otherwise. Thank you, please, and you’re welcome carry weight.

When you go to the interview dress for success. I’m not interested in hiring someone that presents themselves like a duffle bag. Remember, how you do anything is how you do everything.

Show up fifteen minutes early, but don’t show up too early. I used to think that was common sense until someone actually arrived an hour before our scheduled interview. I couldn’t get past where their head was at in making that decision. If they thought it was a good idea to show up an hour early, could I trust their judgement? Needless to say, they didn’t get the job.

Educate Yourself

When you’re working with the representative to schedule the interview it’s ok to ask how many people will be interviewing you and their names. If the names are given to you do your homework. Look them up on LinkedIn, know what you’re walking into.

Research the company, or in my case the city. I’m going to ask you what you know about the organization you applied to. I expect you to have genuine interest in wanting to join my team, that is achieved by taking the time to educate yourself on what we do. You don’t need a prepared response, but I want to know you at least took the time to familiarize yourself with our environment.


Lastly, prepare for the interview. I was so impressed with an intern I hired a few years back because he told me he had his girlfriend interview him for the position leading up to our interview. He did fine in our interview, but the fact he cared enough to practice in preparation for our sit down is exactly one of the intangible things I look for in people.

I like to ask people what they think the tag line of my city means. There is no right or wrong answer. I only want to know if you did your homework. If you cared enough to Google my org beforehand. It has nothing to do with technology obviously, the underlying reason you’d be in the room with me. I consider it a privilege to work for my organization, if the candidate was given the same opportunity would they feel the same?

That’s who I want to hire because I believe at the end of the day that person is going to be invested. They’re going to care about what they do, and who they do it for. It won’t be just a job to them. It’ll mean something more. I can commit to a candidate wired like that.

More Interviewing Tips

When you greet the hiring manager and/or interview panel, shake their hands. Look them in the eye. It speaks to having confidence in your words, believing in yourself, attentiveness when they speak to you.

My team is made up of capable people that believe they can do whatever they set their mind too. I don’t hire meek people. I want to see positive energy from candidates. My staff is empowered and I expect them to run with assignments once I set them loose. There’s always a learning curve, but it boils down to trust.

If I have to drag answers out of a candidate during an interview, my belief is I’ll have to do the same when it comes to getting after it. No thanks, that person will likely never be successful in my environment. It may not be fair, but as the hiring manager I have to make the decision I believe will line my organization up for success today and into the future.

The Country Executive hired


I’m looking for something when I interview people. Know this is a subjective thing when it comes to hiring, and I can state unequivocally that this doesn’t always fly in all organizations.

Here’s a little hiring manager secret I have. I don’t care what your credentials are. Take that with a grain of salt. Your credentials have to warrant an interview, but know once you have the opportunity to interview all the interviewees are on equal ground.


Logically your resume has to be good enough, but you don’t have to be the best candidate on paper. It’s the individual. The feel, the vibe they give. How are you going to fit into my work center? I care about every single one of my employees, whoever I add to the mix has to be able to gel with them because we’ve been through some stuff as a team and my loyalty is to them. Be amenable as a person.

I want someone good natured. Someone genuine, with grit. I like being around happy people, people that like to laugh and enjoy what they do. I want them to take pride in their work, to care. People that will get after it, Country IT style.

The Truth

I don’t do a lot of hand holding. I’ll invest in you, train you. Spend as much time as you want coaching you up. Share experiences, I’ll gladly mentor you. You have to take ownership though. Invest the time. I will commit as much as the person looking back at you in the mirror.

This is what I am trying to ascertain from spending an hour interviewing you. It’s almost unfair. Reviewing credentials and a little bit of face time to figure out if you will be a productive member of my organization. I spend forty hours plus with my employees every week. Weeks turn into months that turn into years. And I have to determine in an hour or two if a candidate is worthy of that investment.

Don’t even get me started on the financial investment required of new employees. Whatever the salary is, double it. In my world it can take months to become self-sufficient in a professional context. The higher up you go, the longer it can take. That time requires the time of other staff and myself. Hours upon hours. It takes someone special. Nobody said hiring was easy.

More Truth

Here’s the bottom line. Say your resume provides that opportunity for an interview, and that interview leads to an offer. The hiring manager is committing to you. Investing in you. My experience says opportunities lead to more opportunities. Success breed success if you will.

If you are that person that can navigate the professional gauntlet I have established to work on my team, you got something special. Mentoring staff today I will tell them that if they give me a few years, I’ll make them rich. Rich is a relative term but I’ll give them the tools and experience to achieve at a high level.

The onus is always on the individual and if they want to commit to the degree necessary. If the desire is there, the experience attained can lead to opportunities well beyond the six-figure mark in my industry. Leadership, cybersecurity, engineering, architects, and project management are all 100k plus positions in IT.

The Country Executive resumes


I enjoy the hiring process and enjoy bringing new personalities into the work center. Glass half full every opportunity is an opportunity to succeed. I view change as a positive holistically. I know it’s a different story for candidates. You’re being judged through every step in the process until you receive an offer. I’ve been you many times over, and while I have no plans to leave my organization, I could very well be in those same shoes again one day. It is what it is, that’s life.

My experience says it is not difficult to represent yourself in the best light. Ensure your resume is organized and professional with no grammatical errors. Take your time, double check your work. Have a friend or loved one look it over before submitting. Conduct a pre-interview interview with that person if possible. Educate yourself on the organization you applied for in addition to the position. Know who’s in the room and do your homework on them.

By representing yourself to the best of your ability, you may be closer to that dream job than you think. And your dream job today may not be your dream job tomorrow, but this opportunity may lead to that. I hope so! Until next time thank you for reading, and please take care of yourself and the ones you love.

The Country Executive