Most coaches and recruiters will tell you that they initially look at a resume for only 5-6 seconds, 15-20 if it’s really interesting.
In any case, they’re not reading it in that timeframe – it’s just a first glance to see if it’s worth reading. That’s where recruiters decide whether to read further later on. It has to grab their attention instantly.
So how do you get past that initial glance?
Here are a few ways to make your resume format is instantly eye-catching. And I’m not talking about colorful or fancy templates.
1. Use One of Only a few good resume formats
A common mistake people make in an effort to make their resumes more memorable is to get creative with formatting.
While this may be acceptable in the arts circle, or even some marketing roles, in general you don’t want to clutter up the resume formatting too much, because it makes it harder for recruiters, not easier, to find what they’re looking for.
In addition, your resume is likely to be obliterated by any scanning applicant tracking system you upload your file into. Recruiters don’t A-List a resume because it’s pretty to look at, they A-List them because a candidate is qualified for the position.
I had a client in Marketing who had stylized their resume quite a bit; side columns, their name at the top left in ¾” type and all marbled. It looked like an art project.
Atop that, they crammed their entire resume onto one page – in 8 point type. Despite my advice, they kept the formatting. As of this writing, I don’t believe they have found work yet.
Be sure your core skills are seen clearly and not buried in the jobs text. They can be placed at the top under your introduction as to call them out first. First things are typically read first so get the impact then.
Place your name and contact information in the header at the top so that it shows on each page, maximum of two pages.
Left justify and bold and perhaps ALL-CAPS YOUR SECTION HEADINGS so they stand out. Never underline anything in your resume, or use Italics.
It’s all about making it easy to find the right information to convince them to move down your resume and move you on in the recruiting process.
2. Make the Best Stuff Loud and Clear
While you don’t want to change up the formatting too much, you do want to make sure your most relevant experiences are as close to the top as practical.
With only a glance, you know the recruiter is looking at the very top of your resume—not halfway down the page, and definitely not somewhere near the bottom.
(However, recruiters will often read your resume from the bottom up to see career progression.)
So what do you do?
You can’t rearrange your work history so we’re talking about skills, program languages, attributes that are core to your abilities.
These things can be modified to address specific job requirements from the job posting.
Education typically goes at the top of you’re a recent grad with 5-7 years of your work history.
After two or three jobs, education goes at the bottom of the resume. Recruiters tell me they skip over education altogether looking only had work history that’s present.
If you’re an undergrad interested in a marketing position, put your education section up top, and make sure your GPA is front and center. (GPA only counts initially to show you succeeded in education, which really was a job for most of you.)
If you’re an experienced marketing manager, you’ll want to have relevant skills up at the top of your resume in a “summary of qualifications” section.
If your last job or two isn’t the most relevant to the job you’re seeking, then be sure to edit the qualifications section to bring out your skills in the area you want to go into.
The key here, again, is to make sure whoever is reading your resume gets the message about what you have to offer—instantly.
3. Use Emphasis Strategically
Aside from making sure everything is where it’s expected and moving your strengths to the top, you also want to be thoughtful about what else is highlighted throughout your resume.
In other words, think about what you want to showcase, then use bolding to emphasize those things. Use of underlining and italicizing creates difficult to read text that may make your reader stop reading and perhaps go to another resume.
Since your resume only gets a quick glance, it’s likely that whatever is bolded is going to be what’s looked at.
Make sure it makes an impact.
While your resume might be memorable because you printed it on marbled grey paper, trust me—that’s not what’s going to get you noticed. If you know you’re qualified for a position, your goal is to make it easy for a recruiter to find evidence of this on your resume.
To ensure your resume passes the 5-6 second test and goes on to the full read:
- Keep everything listed logically and where it’s expected to be,
- Summarize your strengths and qualifications to the top,
- And don’t be afraid to speak boldly about your accomplishments in the rest of your resume.
CareerCOACH has experience working with clients from across the nation in many industries. A professional resume writer gives you unbiased, constructive feedback.
Besides gaining the perspective another brings to your personal presentation, you can benefit from all kinds of nuances that Career COACH’S resume writers are trained to identify and optimize.