I spent many years as a hiring manager and resume screener. I’ve also reviewed lots of resumes for coaching clients. And the thing that stands out to me more often than you might imagine is that job seekers — even the most potentially marketable ones –make basic resume mistakes that can really hurt their chances.
For example, I recently worked with a talented client who has state-of-the-art job skills, impressive achievements, and a great personality. But his resume looks like it doesn’t want to be picked. “Please don’t notice me,” it says to the potential employer!
What message is your resume really sending an employer?
Are you thinking that your resume is way too chock full of good stuff to get ignored? Well, don’t be so sure. There’s more than one way that a seemingly good resume fails to get noticed. Yet many job seekers just can’t see their own resume the way others do.
Some things a screener notices right away:
- How clean and professional does it look?
- Is it filled with typos or poor grammar?
- Have you made it easy for the screener to find the match?
Resumes present a picture of you. Are you focused? Are you aware of others, including the needs of the person reading your resume? Do you make an effort to clearly communicate? Do you understand the job? Do you know who you are as it relates to THIS job, not the past.
Believe it or not, a resume sends a message that helps someone make a judgment in about 6 – 8 seconds — and that’s often how much time a resume gets before making it to the yes, maybe, or no pile!
How your resume might be losing you the interview
The resume from my talented client had everything glommed together, with almost no use of bolds or fonts / italics to help a screener’s eye focus easily and differentiate important points. You don’t want to overdo the use of these visual aids, but they can be a big help.
Many job seekers, including my client, have heard that human and automated screeners prefer one page. In some cases that’s true, especially early on in your career. But if you sacrifice presentation quality just to squeeze it all in, you may be hurting yourself far more than helping.
My client’s resume had a ton of great achievements, but it was lost to the human reader. Eyes can usually only take in so much at once without glossing over key info. And that’s a big mistake you can’t afford to make.
And even if an automated screening system loves your keywords (skills and accomplishments that match the job description), and that gets you to an interview, a weak resume creates an impression in and of itself. And there’s no reason to put yourself at a disadvantage to human eyeballs when it’s so easy to create a resume that stands out.
Some tips for your resume
Even simple things like the use of space (to help the eye focus on each area / section) and visual aids like formatting, fonts, bold, and italics can make a huge difference. Essentially, how you present your information can shape the reader’s opinion of you as a person and as a potential employee.
So how does the opinion take shape? Upon initial screening, the reader usually spends a few seconds at the top of page one (a key area), and then their eye travels down (often quickly looking for anything that pops out at them) and often stops at the bottom, where they may spend an extra second or two out to the total 6 – 8 seconds.
Then if they do go on to the next page, a few extra tasty tidbits can help cement a positive impression. But don’t save the things that show a strong match for page two or beyond. Your resume’s job is to impress them quickly, and then offer enough substantive achievements to match the job — and hopefully seal the deal.