Ashley has spent the past 12 years as a Corporate Recruiter and knows all the do's and don'ts of job hunting to set you up for success.
Let’s face it, a resume is the platform that will showcase your talents to eyes that choose who will be considered for a job. A study released by Ladders.com, an online job-matching service, found that recruiters only spend an average of six seconds reviewing each resume in a job search.
They are looking for quick snap judgements that will determine (in their minds) wether or not your experience is “worthy” of the role they’re looking to fill.
Now, having spent the past 12 years of my professional career as a Corporate Recruiter, I will say that I like to think I spend more than 6 seconds on an individual resume review. However, I’ll be honest in that sometimes when you have hundreds of applications to review over a few days’ timeframe, being quick is a must.
How to Ensure That Your Resume Stands out in Six Seconds
First, you should understand what recruiters are really looking for.
Going off of my own experience as a recruiter, I call tell you the first thing I look for is titles and current experience. I’m looking to see what you’ve been doing most recently, and for how long.
Then I’m scanning the rest of your experience to get a good feel for one thing. Do you have at least the bare minimum requirements of the job I’m looking to fill? If that initial scan proves to answer this question yes, the next thing I’m scanning are things like:
- Gaps of employment
- Time spent at each job
- Minimum educational requirements
Long gaps in employment can be a red flag, as can too many jobs in a short amount of time. If your experience is great otherwise, most of the time we’ll pass you on, and then expect you to explain the gaps or job hops in a call. Often times, if we’re on the fence with whether or not to pass you through to a call, these things are the deal-breaker.
5 Tips to Capture Recruiters' Attention Quickly
1. Keep It Short and to the Point
Resumes should be no longer than two pages. Even if you have a lot of experience, you should generally leave off roles past 10 years, and make sure the role descriptions contain only 5 to 6 well-written bullets of your biggest achievements or responsibilities. Going any longer than two pages will ensure your entire resume isn’t reviewed and will also stand out as a red flag on efficiency.
Include information that is relevant to the job you’re applying to as well. If you’re searching for a management position, and have little to no management experience, make sure to include a bullet (likely at the top) highlighting a mentorship or coach aspect of your last role. It’s important to tailor a bit to the role you’re applying to, especially if you have a wealth of experience or have a bit of a broad background, having done lots of things.
2. Keep Personal Information Out
Ditch the photos, biography paragraphs, or hobbies in your skills section. No one cares that you like to ski on the weekends and have two golden doodles. You want your audience focused on your true skills and not your personal life or appearance.
3. Format, Format, Format
No need to get fancy here, but it’s imperative to ensure your resume is well-formatted and lacks mistakes of any sort.
- Make sure your experience and skills are at the top. That’s what is most important. Education and any certifications can follow.
- Include months in your dates of employment, as Recruiters will look for this when deciphering your time in each role.
- Lose the graphics and crazy formatting, unless you’re going for a graphic or product design type job where those skills are important.
- Include titles, companies, and dates. Locations are fine, but not required unless you’re trying to tell a story that might help explain a gap or short role.
- Bold titles so they stand out. Also, don’t get cute and break things up by type of experience. Recruiters want to see what you did in each role, at each company. Not everything you’ve done for three companies in Account Management, and everything you’ve done at another couple companies in Sales.
4. Showcase Your Achievements, Not Just Responsibilities
A lot of people tend to miss this part, but it can be what captures a Recruiter’s eye and creates that “spark” of interest. Always shoot for listing at least two to three achievements under each role. If you’re in sales, include things like “grew my book of business by 120% YoY,” or “consistently hit 110% to quota.”
If your role is in Operations, you could include accomplishments around increasing operational efficiencies. Accounting or Finance professionals could include stats involving cost savings or budget decreases. Given the world has become more and more data-focused, including data in your accomplishments gives a tangible, specific goal you met or something great you achieved. And it will stand out.
5. Review, and Then Review Again
This may be the most important document you will write in your life. Take the time to review your work and catch errors. Better yet, get another set of eyes on it. Have a spouse, friend, parent, or even better—professional, review it too. Utilize your resources. Ladders has a great Resume Guide that can be found here. Check it out for more tips and a more thorough walkthrough. There are also some great services out there including Resume Planet—who will review, or better yet, just write your entire resume for you. Take advantage if you’re unsure of your quality. It’s worth the money!
Be sure to check out my "How to Prepare for a Successful Job Search" article for more information on the entire process so you're set up for success!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.