Hiring Manager’s Brain Exposed

Hiring Manager Jillian Zavitz unveils her brain and what she looks for when she reviews a resume.

It was succinct, and on target. In short, the teacher’s resume was perfect for a job teaching English as a second language (ESL) online.

The resume worked. It caught the attention of Jillian Zavitz, programs manager for TalktoCanada.com, which offers online English learning instruction.

Such a revelation is rare for resume writers and readers. There’s no transparency when you’re job-hunting. A hiring manager doesn’t take time out of her day to tell us our resumes are too long or our experience irrelevant, or that we’ve presented ourselves suspiciously as the perfect candidate. That lack of transparency stops here. We’ve persuaded hiring managers to dissect what it is they liked enough about a resume to hire a candidate. Here’s Zavitz, letting us peer into her hiring process.

Short & Sweet & Focused

First off, the cover letter “really focused” on exactly what Zavitz was looking for. The opening:

The enclosed resume will highlight my achievements in the teaching field as well as showcase my dedication to education. I have a strong academic background in education and applied linguistics. I have recently completed a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics, specializing in literacy.

The cover letter also covered the candidate’s “teaching experience, her future, what her goals are, why she thinks she’d be a good person for this position,” Zavitz said. “It’s short and sweet and grabs my attention. She has experience abroad, she’s taught a bunch of levels, she obviously has education behind it and it’s exactly what I’m looking for.”

Everything in the resume was also related to education. “Personally I don’t care if you sweep floors somewhere,” Zavitz said. “I don’t want to read that. That’s not important.”


At the top of the candidate’s one-page resume, Zavitz said she loved the objective in the candidate’s executive summary :

To obtain a highly responsible part-time or full-time position in the teaching field where proven skills and education can be used to benefit the school in its success.

“I love that it’s not demanding,” Zavitz said. “[She’s] not just looking for full time; [she’s] available part time as well. … She’s flexible, she’s dedicated to teaching, wants not only to help students but the school as well. I imagined that she’d help the school, give us ideas and help us grow with her dedication to the position.”


Zavitz liked the resume, but just as importantly, she believed it. She said that hiring managers can tell “when people are filling it with blah, blah, blah, and just trying to get [our] attention.” Too-good-to-be-true resumes give themselves away by parroting the job listing’s exact requirements. In this case, an unbelievable resume would have included experience in the Middle East (rare), familiarity with the company’s platform (impossible unless the candidate had worked with the company before) and a preference for working the graveyard shift (unlikely).

Specific Dates

Zavitz also liked the specificity of the candidate’s experience dates, which listed day, month and year. For Zavits, specific dates are a sign of validity that the dates aren’t fictitious. And while acceptable, vague dates like “2005¬-2006” are hard to pinpoint, which personally bothers Zavits who said it can mean anything from two days to two years.

Knowing how her industry works, the specific dates allowed Zavitz to interpret something about the candidate’s level of commitment. The candidate taught at a Chinese school for exactly one year, which told Zavitz that she had a one-year contract and then moved on.


This candidate listed two references at the bottom of her resume. Professional resume writers don’t typically advise job seekers to put references on their resumes and Zavitz rarely calls the references candidates volunteer — the “real” references are the ones they don’t have, not the “good ones” they list.

But in this case, the references were actual people related to past positions. “They’re not like [your] mom’s best friend,” Zavitz said. “It’s related to the position they’re applying for.”

The educator was hired and successfully worked with TalktoCanada for two years. In other words, she was as good as her very good resume.