Your Cover Letter and Volunteer Experience Don’t Matter to Hiring Managers, Study Shows

September 14, 2015

Addison Group study reveals what today’s hiring managers really want from candidates and analyzes how hiring managers across generations are examining candidate value

CHICAGO – September 14, 2015 – Addison Group (“Addison”), a leading provider of professional staffing services, today released the results of a survey that examines how today’s hiring managers evaluate candidates and further, how preferences differ among managers across three generations. Through this effort, Addison Group aims to help jobseekers improve their resume development skills and prepare for the interview process.

“Jobseekers are inundated with information surrounding the process of finding and securing a job – from conflicting resume writing advice to interview guidance that simply isn’t rooted in research,” said Addison Group CEO Thomas Moran. “Trends in hiring manager preferences change over time, especially as the workforce is becoming more and more dominated by the Millennial generation. Today’s jobseekers need better resources, more accurate information and greater assistance when anticipating what hiring managers will value throughout the interviewing process if they want to land a job.”

Addison Group commissioned the survey to provide jobseekers with insights into how hiring managers view and assess potential candidates and guidance around how best to approach the shifting hiring landscape.

The Resume: Where It All Begins
Addison Group went straight to the source, asking what hiring managers really care about when reviewing resumes. The survey examined several aspects of the resume, taking a look at which areas are most valued, the importance of a tailored resume, most disliked buzzwords and more.

Not surprisingly, relevant work experience and skills are the most important aspects of a resume for hiring managers, with over half of respondents ranking them highest when considering moving a candidate to the interview phase. On the other side of the spectrum, hiring managers view volunteer experience (38%), GPA (40%) and schools attended (41%) as the least important factors for consideration. In fact, more hiring managers favor work experience not related to a role more than volunteer experience. Beyond the relevance of a candidate’s work history, more than three-fourths (77%) of hiring managers note that the reputation of your previous employers are an important determinant of a candidate’s qualification for a particular role. And 90 percent of hiring managers admit they always or sometimes notice when a resume isn’t tailored to the role in question.  Check out a visual of the statistics here.

As for what not to include in a resume, hiring mangers’ feelings are nearly ubiquitous:
• Typos: 55 percent of respondents ranked typos as the biggest resume turnoff.
• 10+ Years of Experience: 55 percent of hiring managers agree – resumes should cover 10 years or less of a person’s experience as anything more is viewed as irrelevant.
• Bad Formatting: 46 percent of managers hate seeing an unprofessional resume format.
• Buzzwords: 47 percent of hiring managers have a strong distaste for “expert,” 40 percent hate “synergistic” and 31 percent can’t stand “innovative.”
• Gaps in Work Experience: 42 percent of all hiring mangers cringe at unexplained gaps in work experience.

The Whole Picture Matters
While the resume is crucial to a candidate’s ability to get their foot in the door of an organization, the interview process and post-interview follow-up play a critical role in determining whether or not a candidate is hired. The interview itself is the most critical step in the process, with 74 percent of respondents listing it as the deciding factor when hiring a candidate. Other key considerations include:
• Professional References: Your professional references are nearly as important as the resume, with 49 percent of respondents finding references important, compared to 56 percent who highly value the resume.
• Soft Skills: Interpersonal skills and your overall demeanor come in at a close fourth of most important factors to evaluate, with 41 percent of hiring managers ranking them as important.
• Cover Letter & Thank You Notes: While some value a cover letter and a thank you note, those factors are far outweighed by the interview, resume, references and soft skills, with just 18 percent of hiring managers ranking each as important.

Not All Generations View Candidates Equally
Because today’s workforce is broken up between three generations – Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials, Addison Group examined the preferences of hiring managers from each age group. The survey found that the age of your hiring manager can make a big impact on how you develop your resume and prepare for the interview process.
• Proven results and references are more important to Boomers (61% and 30%, respectively) than Millennials (44% and 21%, respectively).
• Boomers weigh the interview more heavily, with 30 percent more Boomer hiring mangers ranking the interview above the resume or references.
• Millennials are most concerned with a candidate’s level of education, schools attended and GPA (27%, 13%, and 16%, respectively).
• Generation X values a candidate’s resume (64%) significantly more than Millennials (50%).

Candidate sources are the most polarizing of the survey results, with twice as many Millennials trusting Facebook and Twitter to identify candidates (45% and 28%, respectively) compared to other generations (Generation Xers: 27% and 14%, Boomers: 15% and 9%).

The study, commissioned by Addison Group and executed by Survey Monkey, surveyed 505 employees responsible for hiring in some capacity at their company. For more information, visit

About Addison Group
Addison Group is a leading provider of professional staffing and search services.  Bringing the best to the best, Addison combines a national network and localized service for broad reach with a personal touch.  Specialized practices deliver the right candidate at the right time in Administration & HR, Engineering, Finance & Accounting, Healthcare, and Information Technology. Addison has received Inavero’s Best of Staffing award for the past five years.  Learn more at

Media Contact:
Martha Kelley Sams
Addison Group