Your resume has to sell in six seconds.
That’s the amount of time Ladders, the online job placement service, reports that recruiters spend with your resume. I don’t know how they reached that conclusion, but it sounds about right for the “average” recruiter.
If it’s six seconds, 60 seconds or six minutes, you don’t have a lot of time to grab the attention of recruiters—whether stellar or average.
This six-second fact was reported in the August 2012 issue of Real Simple magazine. The article also said that recruiters spend most of the six seconds scanning the candidate’s name, current and past titles, start and end dates of positions, employers, and education. Explanatory text, they say (such as job descriptions), is largely ignored.
I don’t exactly agree. My scan test was a little more detailed.
When I was a recruiter I spent a lot more than six seconds with resumes—and made an effort to find a fit—if, and only if, I quickly saw at least three of these four things:
1. A professional appearance. I was amazed at how many resumes looked like they had been created in 10 minutes. My theory: Anyone who slaps a resume together—one of the most important documents of your life—is probably going to be careless on the job. You don’t have to hire a graphic designer, just make sure there are ample right/left and top/bottom margins (so that your text doesn’t look too dense), all your headlines match in size and format, line spacing and indentation is consistent, and your contact information is centered at the top.
2. A summary statement. Even though you’ll find hundreds of “average” recruiters who say they don’t read the summary statements at the top of resumes, I believe that good recruiters do. A summary statement always told me that I was looking through the resume of a confident and self-aware candidate who really thought through her skills and experience and, specifically, what she could offer employers. What are the ingredients of a great summary statement? It should be one paragraph about 50 words or less and four or five sentences. State exactly who you are (marketing professional), what you specialize in (consumer branding), and what you have to offer (15 years of experience leading automotive accounts to more than X% annual growth). Use the other sentences to elaborate on these facts.
3. Longevity. I didn’t just scan the dates, I looked very carefully to see if there were at least one or two jobs that lasted more than two years. Because I know that there are extenuating circumstances that cause job moves (company relocation, spouse transfers, layoffs), I did my best to figure out why a job was short-lived. Bottom line: A good chunk of time at a company or two always attracted my attention.
4. Facts and figures. You can state any skill or accomplishment, but unless a recruiter has an understanding of “size and scope” (the fact that you managed a team of 50) and proof that you were successful (metrics like special awards or exceeding the sales goal by 25%), it all sounds like fancy gibberish. And an absence of metrics makes me think “worker” rather than “bottom-line contributor.”
A trained resume scanning eye can quickly see evidence of these four things, and a better than average recruiter will take the time to carefully read through your entire resume. I admit, however, when #1, #2 and #4 were missing, I too did the six second scan…and toss.