We have all been told the same thing, “A recruiter or hiring manager only spends about 10 seconds reviewing a candidate’s résumé before deciding his or her fate.” Knowing this, it’s critical that a job seeker’s résumé effectively catches the eye of the recruiter in very short order and that it’s compelling enough to inspire the recruiter or hiring manager to pick-up the phone to engage the candidate in an initial conversation.
But what does a recruiter want to see in those first 10 seconds?
As a former headhunter who worked with a national staffing firm in San Francisco, I can tell you what I wanted to see when I first reviewed a candidate’s résumé. In the initial review of a résumé, I wanted to be able to answer three questions about the job seekers:
- What did the candidate want to do next in his/her career?
- What were the key skills that the candidate was selling me?
- How successful has this candidate been in his/her career?
If I could answer these three questions about the job seeker and if the answers aligned with the position for which I was recruiting, I would print out the résumé and review it more carefully and ultimately conduct an initial phone screen. Does your résumé answer these questions?
1. What do you want to do next in your career?
Although objective statements have now become passé, your résumé should be written in such a way that your career objective is clear to the reader. Using the target job title as a heading for the résumé followed by a well-written Professional Summary which highlights your qualifications for the role, is a very good way of presenting your career objective to the potential employer.
2. What skills are you selling me?
Most job descriptions will define the essential job functions or primary responsibilities and duties entailed in the job for which you are applying. To be considered for the position, it is critical that your résumé shows how your knowledge, skills, and abilities align with the essential job functions.
I like to see a summary of core competencies near the top of the résumé. This summary helps the recruiter very easily identify what you consider to be your best skills for meeting the job requirements.
It’s important, however, that the rest of the résumé provides the necessary supporting evidence to prove you actually have applied these skills in real-life situations.
3. How successful have you been in your career?
The best résumés are results-focused. At the end of the day, what sets you apart from the other candidates who are applying for the position is your record of accomplishments and your brilliant ideas, those ways in which you did the following:
- Increased revenues
- Improved efficiency
- Saved money
- Solved pressing problems to “save the day.”
When you can quantify an accomplishment by associating a number with the achievement, employers really take notice.
I like to see résumés that include a section of Selected Career Highlights near the top of the first page. Too often, candidates bury their best achievements in the body of the résumé where they are easily missed. Moving these key points to the top of the résumé along with the professional summary and core competencies creates a résumé that leverages the “prime real estate” on the page.
By applying this simple 10-second test to your résumé and rewriting the document so it easily passes the test, you will increase the odds of being included in the small batch of candidates with whom the recruiter is interested in speaking.