While phenomenal resume tips (and debates) abound, there’s one point everyone seems to miss -- which I believe explains why so many job searches flounder, and what it takes to launch a successful job search strategy:
You see evidence of the disadvantageous resume odds every time you apply for a position online.
For example, one of my clients this past week wanted to apply for an HR Generalist position in Chicago that had been live for three days and had already received 649 applications.
On top of this, we know that recruiters spend on average 6.25 seconds reviewing a resume (if at all), and 80% of that time is spent on your name, and the company name, position title and date range of your two most recent positions -- all things you cannot change.
The takeaway: spend less time on your resume
Think of The Hunger Games. Those in power offered contestants false hope with the phrase, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” While most of the contestants rehearsed their fighting skills to marginally increase their chances, Katniss’ winning approach was to ignore conventional wisdom -- she changed the rules of the game instead.
It’s not that you don’t need these resources; you still do (sorry!). But this week’s article shows you how to focus and complete your resume in the least amount of time so you can save the majority of your job search energy for higher value activities like strategic networking.
Seriously, no more than 30 minutes
The key is to invest just enough time to make your resume strong enough to keep you in the running once you’ve gotten your foot in the door.
At NSC, we compiled all of the available research and advice into what we’ve found to be the highest value, safest bet, 30-minute resume creation template [click here to download our free template now!] -- that still increases the odds of a recruiter or resume review software paying attention when you submit online.
Most importantly, your resume needs to accomplish two critical goals:
1. Your resume must clearly answer the question “Why should I hire you?”
If your resume doesn’t show that you have the skills, experiences, and results-orientation necessary for succeeding in this type of position, it makes it harder for your advocate to promote you internally, and easier for a recruiter or hiring manager to strike your name from the long list of candidates.
For this reason, the most important concepts to keep in mind when writing your resume include:
- Research the recurring keywords in job descriptions that interest you. Circle the keywords that apply to you -- you’ll want to include these in your resume.
- Write a 1-line summary (including those keywords) for the top of your resume that encapsulates how you want a recruiter or hiring manager to remember you. Why not make it easy for them?
- Fill in all professional experiences -- and recent professional accomplishments. List headlines and date ranges for all of your experiences. For all experiences within the past 10-15 years, add 3-5 bullets (max!) that speak to specific achievements (if possible, include a specific quantity or quality of responsibilities or results). For any experience more than 10-15 years ago, create a sub-header called “Early Career,” pop in your headlines and dates only, no bullets.
- Less is more. Choose 1-2 more sections max that significantly bolster your candidacy. Options include “Education,” “Education & Credentials,” “Skills,” “Awards,” “Community Leadership,” “Publications.” Unless customary in your industry, no long lists of coursework, volunteer engagements or publications -- ask yourself “What are the one or two things I want the hiring manager to remember from this section?” and stick with that.
Remember, 80% of reading time is spent on the information you can’t change, so keep your frame of mind focused on completion over perfection!
2. Your resume must demonstrate absolute professionalism:
The simplest justification to cast a resume aside (hence narrowing the list to a more manageable set of candidates) is still the most obvious: errors.
Proofread thoroughly to make sure your final draft:
- Has no typos, grammatical errors, or inconsistent formatting, punctuation and verb tenses (third-person past is your safest bet).
- Has no accidental gaps or inconsistencies in your date ranges. Don’t give them an unnecessary reason to doubt your track record.
- Doesn’t exaggerate your titles or include any dishonest information.
- Is saved as a PDF with a professional file name (i.e. “Emily Johnson Resume 2017”).
In essence, make sure that every one of those 6.25 seconds is spent reading simple, clean content that reinforces your candidacy -- not counting up typos and punctuation issues.
What about formatting, keeping it to one page, and the other big resume debates?
It’s not that these details don’t ever make an impact. But they’re not high value details worth fretting over. Choose a simple format that’s easy to read and easy to print. Keep your resume under two pages but don’t spend hours cutting content to make sure it’s less than one.
Mostly, focus on what counts: getting your foot in the door before submitting your resume.
Once your foot is in the door, and you know that someone is going to not only read your resume, but also pass it along to those with the power to make hiring decisions, then it’s worth turning back to your document. You’ll know more from your informational interview about the team’s specific interests, and have a clearer sense of opportunities to bump up or add content that proves your fit.