Recent studies have shown that the average time recruiters scan a resume is only for a maximum of 6 seconds before deciding if the applicant is a good fit for the position. To simply put it, to pass the resume test, your resume only has 6 seconds to make a good impression with a potential employer.
Therefore, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for the reader to skim and locate your most vital selling points. As a prime real estate, the top third of your resume should include everything the reader needs to know about your qualifications, skills, achievements, and how to reach out to you if they’re interested in your application.
Below, we’ve listed a number of critical elements every jobseeker should consider when developing their resume. These crucial elements can help pass the 6-second resume test.
Indicate your name at the very top of your resume, as it appears on your LinkedIn profile and other job-search materials. Whether you prefer to go by David or Dave, that’s your prerogative. Just ensure you’re consistent. Also, if you have a very common name, you may consider including your middle initial to help distinguish you from other candidates with the same name.
If you have a certifications or a degree that’s relevant in your career (for instance, RN, MBA or PMP), include it right after your name. For instance, a jobseeker applying for a Financial Analyst role may choose to include the post-nominal initials ‘BCom’ after his name to indicate his qualification. However, there’s no reason to include an acronym for your undergraduate degree or certification that has nothing to with your current job objectives.
You may be asking, why indicate this information at the top? Won’t the recruiter read about my qualifications in that section of my resume? Yes and no. While recruiters directly look for your credentials, they also tend to scan the resume very quickly. By starting off with the abbreviations at the top of the resume, you’re guaranteeing the recruiters don’t accidentally overlook one of your selling points.
Indicate your mobile number and an email address designated for your job search. Ensure to set up your phone to receive voicemails or record a voicemail greeting. In choosing an email address, create one on a platform like Gmail or Yahoo that includes your professional name and is dedicate to job search and networking activities. This will help you keep your job search organised and prevent any potential age discrimination that typically are associated with outdated emails like Comcast.net or optonline.net.
Next to the contact information in your header, include hyperlinks to websites to give employers a better sense of your personality. For example, it’s now typical to include the URL to your LinkedIn profile.
If you’re intending to apply to a position that involves working with social media, you may incorporate links to your personal social media too. This is also a great opportunity to share the link to your online portfolio (for those in the creative sectors) or your personal blog (for writers). A word of caution though: if you intend to include a link to these resources, make sure you’re regularly updating the information and that the content supports your current job goals. For instance, there’s no need to include a link to your blog about photography if you’re applying for an accountant role.
All the sections mentioned above should be included in the top portion of your resume. However, don’t create ‘header’ portion in the Word document and insert these information. This can get scrambled by the applicant tracking systems (ATS) and can cause confusion for the recruiters. Instead, decrease the top margin on your document to half an inch and place your name, contact information and hyperlinks at the top of the page.
If your resume has several pages, ensure to repeat your contact information at the top of each subsequent page. This is to prevent the recruiters from hunting your contact detail if they’re ready to get in touch with you.
Make your job targets crystal clear, starting with the top third of your resume. Indicate a professional title that mentions your goal. For example, you may put: “Senior Tax Accountant,” “International Marketing Executive,” or “Junior Software Developer” depending upon your level of experience and target position. Do note that these sample titles indicate the jobseeker’s goals without necessarily getting too specific. However, if your job targets are very precise, you can take it a step further by incorporating additional information. Below is an example for a client who works in Pharmaceutical Sales and specialised in particular sector of the market:
SENIOR PHARMACEUTICAL SALES REPRESENTATIVE
Cardiovascular • General Surgery • Endoscopy
Resume headline is a brief statement that showcases your value as a candidate. It is usually located at the top of the resume, directly under the Resume Title. Resume headline allows recruiters to identify quickly and concisely what makes you the right fit for the role.
A resume headline should be one brief phrase and should not even be a complete sentence. The objective is to briefly state your value as a candidate and anything longer than a phrase defeat the purpose of the headline. Also use keywords that show your skills and experience relevant to the job application. Using words directly from the job application will demonstrate you’re a good fit for the job.
Few examples of good resume headlines are found below. Notice how these are concise and attention grabbing, almost similar to a catchy title to an article that makes you want to read more:
- 10 Years’ Experience Leading Multiple Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) Implementations
- Specialising in New Product Launches & Sales Model Development
- Driving Achievement of Learning Outcomes through Student-Centred, Contemporary Learning Approaches
- Expert in Developing Productive Accounts with High Net Worth Individuals
After your headline, to pass the resume test, you need to back it up with supporting information. Consider the Profile section as the elevator pitch of your resume. In a short paragraph of up to 6 sentences, try to answer the following questions:
- Why are you qualified for this type of position?
- What about your experience, education and skills make you a good candidate for this type of role?
- Most importantly, how have you used these qualifications to provide value to your previous employers?
You’d assume the person evaluating your job application must have a sound understanding of your field and the role they’re trying to fill right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, the first few evaluations of your resume are likely conducted by an automated machine (known as ATS) or a junior-level sourcing specialist or HR coordinator. To get past these initial gatekeepers, it’s necessary for your resume to have a number of key phrases and terms that summarise your expertise. This is where the ‘core skills’ section becomes important.
Directly below your profile, include a few columns or rows of keywords (maximum of 15) that will give the reader a good sense of your core competencies. You can do this by reviewing job descriptions that interest you and listing the keywords on your resume that routinely pop up on these job listings.
Whether you’re a recent college graduate or an experienced professional, you may want to include a section that highlights your academic or work achievements. This segment is usually placed just below the core skills section and above your professional experience. In it, you can list your noteworthy achievements and those that are relevant to your target job in a bulleted list.
When you glance at the top third of your resume, are your objectives and qualifications clear? If you’re quite unsure, ask your friend to quickly scan your resume for no more than 30 seconds – this is longer than the average recruiter takes. If they can’t easily determine your job goals and qualifications, then you know it won’t pass the 6-second resume test and there’s still work to be done.
Remember, you don’t have to go at it alone. If you need assistance, or worried your resume might drag you down, consider working with a professional resume writer.
When you glance at the top of your resume, are your job goals and qualifications obvious? If you’re unsure, hand your resume over to a friend. It actually helps if this person is not in your line of work. Ask them to quickly scan your resume for no more than 30 seconds – this is longer than the average recruiter takes. If they can’t easily identify your job goals and qualifications, then you know it won’t pass a resume test and there’s still work to be done.
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. If you need help, or are worried your resume won’t pass the test, consider working with a professional resume writer.