Did you know that most hiring managers only spend 6 seconds reviewing a resume before they decide whether to keep reading or toss it into the reject pile? That might sound harsh, but as someone who used to review up to 100 resumes a day, I can tell you that it’s a matter of necessity. So if you’re applying for a job and you know you’re qualified, your challenge is: how do you get past the 6-second screen and get to the interview stage? Here are my top tips for how to make your resume stand out:
1) Before you start writing your resume or hit send on an application, make sure that you’re sending the version of your resume that best positions you for the role you’re applying to. This concept of positioning is crucial. The idea is to think of yourself as a product and the hiring manager as your target audience, then follow the basic rules of advertising. What does my target market care about the most? How can I make it very clear to them that I provide exactly that value? This might require taking off some experience and expanding on others or rebranding your key skills to match what’s in the job description. A little bit of effort towards positioning yourself correctly can make all the difference.
2) Include an Executive Summary section at the top, and avoid the Objective section at all costs. An executive summary is key– it may be where your reader spends all or most of the 6 seconds. You can use the summary to include key pieces of information like your top skills, your years of experience, and an overview of your career trajectory. I don’t recommend an objective because if you’ve submitted your resume, your objective is already clear: you want to get a job. You don’t want to use limited space to say something that your interviewer already knows. You DO want to use your space to summarize your experience and present a clear personal brand.
3) Vary your format, but be sure to keep it focused on Accomplishments vs. tasks. The biggest mistake I see people making on resumes is they want to convey everything they did and were responsible for on their resume, and the result is that it ends up reading like a long list of tasks. This doesn’t do anything to set you apart from other applicants who have held the same role. In other words, it doesn’t give a clear sense of the unique value you will add to a company. Instead, consider using multiple formats or frameworks, and always be sure to quantify the scope and impact of your work whenever possible.