The most common stat on “amount of time recruiters look at a resume” is six seconds, although it’s probably somewhere between those six seconds and 15 seconds on the high end. Regardless: it’s not a lot of time. Your ability to advance in your dream job search starts with a process that takes less than the time it takes to scramble eggs (and significantly less, too).
Because of the 6-15 second screenings, your resume needs a different approach. For years, the conventional narrative was facts: job titles, tenures, education, etc. Now a resume needs to be more. It needs to be a narrative, because a narrative will convey who you are. Facts can’t do that. Employers want to know who you are — and whether that person is someone they’d want.
In those 15 seconds, then, you need to make that employer remember you and want to advance you in the process. But how exactly are you going to do that?
Start with How You Want to Be Remembered
Sit down and write this sentence down: I want to be remembered in 15 seconds as ________.
Then get to work on filling in the blank, which is going to be your narrative. After someone who’s never met you considers your resume for 15 seconds, what do they need to be thinking about you?
As you begin to think about this question, here are a few tips:
- Think about what you consider to be your most impressive experiences to date (name of college, brand-name company, etc.)
- Think of a few lines about your biggest projects, research work, or anything else. Companies increasingly want to see what you’ve done instead of where you’ve done it, so put these together: ever led a study? Managed a marketing campaign globally? Donated/volunteered/raised money/etc.?
Make Every Word Count
Some estimate that up to 50% of words used in a resume are irrelevant to the position being applied for, and there are certain “trigger” words that HR and hiring man agers always cringe about.
Brief and Powerful
Think about your accomplishments and succinctly define them. Remove irrelevant information or anything that seems too buzzword-y (“data ninja”). Remember: this should only be about 1 page.
While you can’t lie about accomplishments, word choice matters immensely here.
For example, “summer intern” means nothing to most hiring managers. But “summer marketing strategist – intern role” might mean a lot. Similarly, “created presentations” doesn’t mean much — but “designed a curriculum and presented to an audience of X-amount” might.
Visualize Your Words
The other key concept is to add qualifiers to help the resume reader visualize the situation. When you gave a presentation, how many were there? If you managed e-mail marketing for a company, how many countries are the emails sent to? How many on the mailing list?
Have you ever coordinated a team’s “first” of anything? (i.e. first team-building retreat, first audit.) Include that. If you’ve managed others, note how many: “Managed a team of 12 to results including 163,000 new subscribers to the service.”
Specific, quantifiable, and brief. That’s the sweet spot.
Show Some Personality
Include some extracurricular activities, passions, and interests. Also tailor your resume to each application and drop something in that might show why you want to be at that specific company.
Here’s an example that takes some work but is worth it. Let’s say you really want to work at Company A. You do some research about a position and go on LinkedIn to find the hiring manager. On his profile, it’s clear he’s into horses. You also like horses and ride a lot! You could work this into the cover letter, but there’s no guarantee he’ll read that. The resume he’ll likely scan. In your “About Me” or “Extracurriculars” section, lead with “Horses” or “Horse-riding” or however you want to define it. You just showed your real self, defined your personality, and forged a connection with the hiring manager. Triple win!
What Not to Miss in Your Resume
- A resume should be about 1 page — with an absolute max of 2 pages.
- Basic fonts (Arial, Times New Roman) and sizes (10-14). Basic margins (1 inch) too.
- Do not include a photo. This can work for acting/modeling jobs, but for almost every other type of job, don’t do it. It can turn recruiters off (there are diversity issues within the idea of including a photo) and a bad photo could get you rejected even if everything else is a perfect fit.
- Use a PDF format because Word can change across different platforms.
- Spell-check repeatedly or have 2-3 friends read it for errors or any misspellings.
Remember: a Fact Sheet Will Never Be Impressive
Stay between the lines on all the formatting rules and expected professionalism. That’s your baseline.
Make sure your resume tells a story — specifically, of course, that would be your story. It cannot just be facts, dates, and universities. Everything needs to be woven together into a story.
Show your personality and qualify (and quantify!) your accomplishments.
You have somewhere between 6 and 15 seconds, but if you follow this script, you should be able to drive a lot of attention and interest in your resume.
Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com
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