Today’s resumes need to be less about lists of job responsibilities and more about telling your story so that it demonstrates how your skills add value to the organization. Additionally, you have to use a tone that resonates with the reader and makes you memorable.
You only have about six seconds to grab their attention. That is right – six seconds.
This was confirmed in a 2012 study using hiring professionals. Investigators used eye-tracking technology to record where they focused and how long they reviewed each resume. The results showed an average of six seconds for each resume.
The study’s “gaze tracking” technology showed that recruiters spent almost 80% of their resume review time on:
Beyond these points, recruiters scanned for keywords that matched the job responsibilities of the open position.
Six Recommendations for Grabbing the Readers Attention
0. Use readily available templates to find formats that best suit your situation:
1. Use a recognized resume format.
A common mistake people make in an effort to make their resumes a bit flashier is to get creative with the formatting. And while this is sometimes okay in artistic or graphic design professions, in general you really don’t want to mix up the standard resume formatting too much. You want to make it as easy as possible for the recruiters to find what they’re looking for.
Resumes are like the trailer for a movie. They should leave the reader wanting to meet you. As such, it’s important to decide format best tells your story. Depending on the type of job you are applying to, different resume formats may apply. The four standard types of resumes include 1) chronological, 2) functional, 3) combination, or 4) targeted.
Whichever format you use, make sure your skills are seen, not tucked them away somewhere unexpected. Keep your name and contact information at the top, make your section headings stand out through bolding, underlining, or all-caps text, and have your achievements written out as bulleted statements.
It’s all about making it easy to find the right information to convince them to move you on in the recruiting process—not to win a graphic design contest. (Unless, well, you’re going for a graphic design job.)
2. Include the link to your on-line professional profile.
All recent graduates should have at least one on-line profile established for their professional brand. Those who plan to work in a more creative field should develop an online portfolio and list the link to that site on your resume as part of their contact information. There are several free online platforms that you can use to manage your professional profile. One of the most used platforms is LinkedIn. In addition to establishing a professional profile, LinkedIn is also used by recruiters for job openings and can serve as an electronic rolodex.
If you're concerned about employers finding your personal profiles, increase the security settings or consider changing the account name on your personal accounts to your first and middle name, so they won't be associated with your professional brand.
3. If you are still in school or a recent college graduate you should include your GPA.
The general rule of thumb is that if your GPA is above a 3.0, then you should include it in your internship or recent-graduate resume. If the GPA in your major is higher than your overall GPA, use that instead. Anything below a 3.0 should not be included on your resume. However, be aware that recruiters know why you didn't include the GPA and you may be asked about it.
4. Make sure your resume includes examples of accomplishments using baseline skills.
What are Baseline Skills?
Baseline skills are often referred to as foundational or soft skills. In fact, a recent study by Burning Glass revealed that on average, one in three skills requested in job postings is a “baseline skill.” Even the most technical of occupations such as IT and Engineering show that more than a quarter of the skill descriptions are baseline skills. In fact, baseline skills make up to between 25-50 percent of the job responsibilities depending on the occupation.
What does this mean to you?
It is important that you look at all of your experience; this includes education, volunteer opportunities, internships and any work experience to develop examples of success using baseline skills.
When appropriate, include a list of relevant courses you've taken and a description of projects or activities where you used specific baseline skills. But, only include those courses that directly relate to the job or internship you are applying for. Remember that different occupations demand different baseline skills.
IT jobs emphasize writing, organizational and planning; but place less emphasis on being a self-starter, critical thinking, a positive disposition or having strong typing skills. By contrast, sales occupations are more likely to need employees that have strong time management skills, are effective at building relationships and have strong typing skills.
Interestingly, the study also shows that in every occupational area, the top baseline skills needed are:
For more information about the top baseline skills by career area check out “The Human Factor, The Hard Time Employers Have Finding Soft Skills,” by Burning Glass Technologies. This report highlights those skills which are more commonly requested, and considered more valuable in each occupational area.
5. Professional summaries should highlight accomplishment and provide examples of how you add value.
While it can be tempting to throw a few buzzwords such as "proactive" and "motivated" into a professional summary, recruiters recognize these words and they are not impactful. Don't tell employers that you're a great team player; explain how your team was able to improve a process, increase alumni donations, or received acknowledgment from the school for their exemplary volunteer work.
If you believe that you are a strong writer, provide examples of the types of writing, if it was published or how it is being used.
Don’t include a list of tasks you were responsible for. Instead, focus on what you have accomplished and how you contributed to an end result, increasing revenue, or cut costs. Use action verbs, like 'created,' 'led,' 'managed,' 'improved,' 'developed,' and 'built' to describe your activities.
Accomplishments are examples of how you contributed to your employer, or it's an achievement that reflects the kind of worker you are. The most convincing accomplishments are measurable.
An office administrator relays her dedication to quality: “Achieved a record of zero errors in the bi-annual audit.”
A human resources professional explains his skills as a thought leader: “Developed a multi-day new employee orientation program that on boarded over 150 workers over six years and is still in use.”
A computer engineer shows how he contributed to the bottom line: “Drove $1.2 million revenue increase by deploying 200-plus software suites for company's leading product line.”
Someone in marketing demonstrates how she increased readership: “Helped grow subscriptions in regional territory from 175 to 249 in one year through two recruitment projects.”
6. Don’t include a list of references.
Cut "References available upon request" from your resume. References are usually requested after you have been called in for a face-to-face interview. At that time it is appropriate to provide three to four references that can speak to your skillset and how it complements the position you are applying for.
Make sure that you have contacted your references prior to providing their contact information. You will receive a stronger reference if you provide them with copies of your resume, cover letter and a copy of the job description. Additionally, it is also helpful if you remind them of an achievement, accomplishment or success story that you thought they might be able to address if they receive a call.
Example: A student to her professor, “I thought you would be a great reference because I had to do the group marketing project for your class. Because we had to create a campaign using both traditional and social media you can attest to my knowledge level. The position I’m applying for, requires social media experience.”
Great Resume’s Open Doors
A little effort on your part can go a long way in making your resume stand out from the rest. Make those six seconds work for you. Give the reader a clear roadmap that easily highlights accomplishments, skillsets, including baseline skills and tells a story of how you add value to the prospective employer.
Lastly, make sure you proof read and correct all errors. You don’t want something simple to take away from the story you want the reader to focus on.
About the Authors:
Jenny Jones has Master's of Science in Mathematics and an MBA. Her writing stems from her research as a TAACCCT grant data analyst and her passion for empowering individuals to greater intellectual heights through life-long learning.
Teri Grier is a part-time instructor at Southwestern Oregon Community College and a nationally recognized Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She has over 15 years’ experience onboarding, training and managing teams. She is a graduate from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies where she received a graduate certificate in Leadership Coaching. In addition to her coaching credentials, she has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BS in Communications from Northern Arizona University.