Did you know that your resume is probably going to be scanned for a mere 10 to 15 seconds?
According to a topic on LinkedIn, many recruiters in different industries and countries agree that a first cut is done very quickly, and 10 to 15 seconds was the most common response.
I'm with them. In 15 seconds, I can see what I need to decide if you are out of the running. I'm looking at where you've worked, what you did there and how it correlates to the needs of the job I'm trying to fill.
For just 15 seconds, I'm scanning and comparing. If I don't see what I want, it's a no.
This is just my first cut, of course, and later reviews will take much longer, but if you're out of the running in those first seconds, that won't matter.
Fifteen seconds seems unfair, doesn't it?
After all, isn't a recruiter's job to find the potential in people and to figure out where they will fit best?
Well, actually, no.
A recruiter's job is to find the best possible candidate in the least possible time. We like it to be a no-brainer, as perfect a fit as possible, and that generally means someone who's done that job before, ideally in a similar company.
We don't like to be too creative. Our clients don't like us to be too creative, either. They want us to find the perfect person.
And the easier you make it for us to see why you have what it takes to be the perfect person, the faster you get onto the short list.
Here are some tips for how your resume can make a strong impression in 15 or 20 seconds:
1. Always include a cover note.
Make it short and sweet (cover letters get even less time than resumes), but a couple of sentences on why your background fits the requirements can set a positive expectation before I even see your resume. Don't use cut-and-paste cover notes. They're boring and overworked.
2. Design your resume with white space and consistent formatting.
Recruiters are scanning, not reading, and that means you need to use formatting to make it easier for the eye to pick out key information. You could put company names in all caps, job titles in bold, and accomplishments in bullets, for instance. The more attractive it is, and the easier to read it is, the better.
3. Always put a positioning statement or job title at the top.
I don't want to have to figure out what you're looking for, and I might get it wrong. So just tell me. You're selling your expertise, remember, so put that first. Your employment history is just evidence of how you use your expertise.
4. Speak English.
Dense resumes filled with buzzwords, acronyms and corporate-speak are boring. You want to hold attention, not lose it, so just use plain English.
5. Check your spelling and punctuation.
The further you are from the perfect candidate profile, the more likely that a typo or punctuation error will put you out of contention.
6. Tell your story.
Don't just recite your responsibilities. Tell me what your employers did. Tell me something about the situation you worked in, and what you learned and accomplished. Give it some life.
7. Only apply to jobs you're qualified for.
That shot in the dark is not going to land you a great job, and it wastes the time you should be spending preparing to apply to the jobs you're actually going to get. Focusing on the right jobs will show in how you present yourself.
8. Customize your resume for every job.
A job posting or description tells you what we're looking for, so take a few minutes and revise your resume so it's easy to see that you fit the description. Every job has key words that describe it and the experience you need, so put those into your resume so it's easy to find it. Don't parrot the words exactly, but echo it and show us what we need to see.
I can't guarantee you'll always get the interview, but I can guarantee that if you do these things, you're much more likely to at least get more than fifteen seconds of the recruiter's time.