By Kimberly Thompson
Sixty-eight percent of hiring managers spend less than two minutes reviewing a job can- didate’s résumé. That’s not much time for
an applicant to make a good impression. Indeed,
17 percent of decision-makers devote a mere
30 seconds — at most — per perusal, according
to a recent national survey of some 2,200 employment gatekeepers at companies big and
small across industries. Harris Poll conducted
the questionnaire late last year for CareerBuilder,
which provides human capital solutions.
Even one-half minute seems like an exhaustive background check compared to the infinitesimal six seconds recruiters allocate to a curriculum vitae, found TheLadders, a job-matching
service for member professionals. Its 2012 report, “Keeping an Eye on Recruiter Behavior,”
tracked ocular movement of 30 human resources
personnel for 10 weeks and discovered, among
other things, that they literally and barely
glanced at a résumé to determine “fit” or “no
fit” for the post.
Since officials give aspirants little more than a
look-see, it’s crucial that a résumé sparkle, especially for entry-level seekers because there usually are many competitors to factor and few real-world assignments to tout. Students scheduled to
graduate from the academy after the fall semester need to get started on making their summations shine (as do counterparts slated to earn a
degree in the winter or next spring). But how to
stand out? Here are three principles to follow.
No. 1: Since attention spans have diminished, encapsulate your credentials.
As the above trends indicate, brevity is the byword in today’s fast-paced digital era of social
media and smartphones. This abridgement extends to résumés. They once amassed extensive
delineations of experience, education, awards,
service and the like to such an extent that the
compilation sometimes came off as a booklet
about why an employer should be interested in
the hopeful. Even student résumés, by definition
short on credits, went long on explication and
padding. Contemporary accounts impart the inverse: succinctly emphasizing strengths that benefit the company. So list your skills in a compressed way tailored to your audience.
No. 2: Be precise in both diction and
“With so little time to capture interest, even a
candidate’s word choice can make a difference,”
declares the March 13 press release from Career-
Builder about its research on the scant scanning
of résumés by hiring managers. The firm’s vice
president of human resources recommends me-
ticulous language to pinpoint desirable attri-
butes. She adds, “Subjective terms and clichés
are seen as negative because they don’t convey
real information.” The top-five verbs employers
prefer: “achieved” (52 percent of respondents),
“improved” (48 percent), “trained/mentored”
(47 percent), “managed” (44 percent), and “cre-
ated” (43 percent). The five phrasings most
off-putting: “best of breed” ( 38 percent),
“go-getter” ( 27 percent), “think outside of the
box” ( 26 percent), “synergy” ( 22 percent), and
“go-to person” ( 22 percent).
Quantifying your qualities — backing them
up with numbers, statistics, percentages, examples — also generates positive buzz. For instance, many college and graduate students try
to make the shortlist without any previous exposure to the demands of the opening. These pupils often work at retail stores or in food services
during school. One underused strategy is to incorporate into these duties issues employers
stress such as increased revenues, decreased expenses, goals reached, and improvements made.
Take the same tack with internships: concrete
roles and tangible results. Similarly, prove, don’t
merely state, that you solve problems, meet
deadlines, take direction, or show initiative; cite
instances that demonstrate these characteristics.
Some types of pedigree don’t require elaboration: degrees, scholarships and honors. Other
kinds of capabilities do.
The layout of a résumé (and an online profile)
also matters. “Keeping an Eye on Recruiter Be-
havior” argues that a visual hierarchy emerges in
the location and duration of the gaze. Recruiters
concentrated almost 80 percent of their cursory
efforts (a few blinks) on a consistent path of six
data points: name, current title/company, previ-
ous title/company, previous position start and
end dates, current position start and end dates,
and education. “Because decisions were based
mostly on the six pieces of data listed above, an
individual résumé’s detail and explanatory copy
became filler and had little to no impact on the
initial decision-making,” the investigation states,
arguing that the design of a résumé should privi-
lege these half-dozen components.
No. 3: Social media affects your résumé and
even doubles as one.
When you fill out a profile on sites like Face-book and LinkedIn (or even host a blog or tweet
on Twitter), you reveal aspects of yourself intentionally and unintentionally. Viewers tap into
more than the basics of talents, occupation, education, outreach, and citations. Beholders also
glean (if you let them) your values, opinions,
pastimes and proclivities, your work ethic, religious beliefs and spending habits, your sense of
responsibility and sense of humor, your family
and friends, perhaps your sex life, too, and more.
Indeed, employers often read your social media
pages before or with your résumé. It’s important
you align these personas.
Thirty-nine percent of companies surf networking sites to investigate applicants, and
43 percent of those hiring managers uncovered
material that led to the “no” pile, up 9 percent
from the previous year, explains a CareerBuilder
press release from June 2013 about a national
canvass on social media of almost 2,200 representatives, via Harris Interactive. The main red
flags: provocative/inappropriate photos/infor-mation (50 percent), allusion to alcohol or drugs
(48 percent), bad-mouthing a previous employer
( 33 percent), poor communication skills ( 30 percent), and discriminatory remarks ( 28 percent).
Only 19 percent located something so worthwhile it caused the candidate to be hired. The
most pluses were professional image (57 percent), discernible personality (50 percent), seeming well-rounded (50 percent), viable background
(49 percent), and being creative (46 percent).
Think of a résumé or social media as your
brand, as personal advertisement, a commercial
about you. Make such a brief pitch count.
Kimberly Thompson, a National
Board Certified Counselor and Licensed
Professional Counselor based in Houston,
has provided career transition workshops
and career counseling for almost 25 years.
She has coached all levels of management
in both the public and private sectors
and developed numerous career transition and career services
programs. Thompson contributes a weekly column and blog
called “Career Rescue” for the “Jobs” section of the Houston
Chronicle; go online to blogs.chron.com/careerrescue/. Email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org; put Phi Kappa Phi Forum in the
Student Résumés: Who Are You?