Have you ever wondered how much time does a recruiter spend reviewing your resume? Place your bets… three minutes? Two maybe?
The actual time you have to make an impact is around 6 seconds (according to an eye-tracking quantitative study of recruiters by TheLadders, in 2012).
Bang! 6 seconds for a quick first scan and initial YES/NO decision. Tough, isn’t it? (For the recruiter as well!)
I’ve been a recruiter for over 13 years now, recruiting for all kinds of industries and roles, and the last eight of those have been at Cisco, hiring talent for our sales, services, engineering and corporate functions teams across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia.
That’s enough time to realize there are cultural differences around the world that mean you may write a resume differently in Spain (where I’m based) than say in the US.
We could talk about the length. For example, while in Europe a two- to three-page resume is commonly accepted, in the US a single-page document would be more appropriate. We could also discuss including personal information, which is acceptable in Europe but including it in the US would be considered a no-no.
But there are some things a resume should always have, no matter if you’re in the North Pole or an island in the Pacific:
1. An organized and easy-to-read layout.
This may seem obvious, but it definitely helps recruiters scan and locate the information they are looking for right where they expect it. According to the study I mentioned above, data points like name, current title/company, current position start and end dates, previous title/company, previous start and end dates, and education are the things capturing the recruiters’ attention during that very short span of time.
2. Use your skills, work experience and achievements to tell your story!
Prioritizing the information you want to share is essential; you have a great chance to make your professional history an interesting read! So make sure your resume includes (ideally in this order):
- Clear contact information. Don’t hide it!
- Core competencies or transferrable skills you have developed. This is getting more and more important as many of the jobs we will need to fill in the near future haven’t been invented yet!
- Responsibilities and key achievements of each role. Also, be sure to quantify wherever possible to back them up and to clearly show progression. Example, if you say you increased sales, how much in what time? Be specific!
- Education and technical skills, keep it short and simple, no need to include that 2-hour Excel course you took back in 2001!
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Keywords.
Chances are the employer is using a resume scanning system to help them go through all the resumes they get. So taking the necessary time to customize your resume to the job and using the same keywords as the employer does in the job description is key if you want your resume to stand out from the crowd and be among the ones the recruiter actually reviews (at least for 6 seconds!).
This applies as well for passive candidates, who aren’t formally looking or applying, but want to come up in recruiter searches. (See this article on how to use keywords in your LinkedIn profile.)
Your resume is your first introduction to a recruiter, so make sure it has these items included and you should be set!
Want to work for Cisco? Use that shiny new resume and apply!
Thanks Eduardo! I know that the rules to resume writing change over time. I am seldom aware of those changes, so it is nice to receive periodic tips on keeping my resume up to date–even when I am not seeking a job. I have never thought about the 3rd tip you provided, around search engine optimization, but it makes a lot of sense to me. I’ll be sure to incorporate your tips the next time I update my resume.
Many thansk Jeffrey, glad to know you found it useful 😉
Very useful article Jeffrey! The big issue for the majority of job applicants is knowing the critical 5% information you provided. Any chance you’d like to offer a ‘template’ that reflects your article?
USeful information. I am not sure others have found this a challenge, but keywords are usually not easily identifiable. Any thoughts on how to identify those?
While I’m not as knowledgable as Eduardo, I am pretty good on this topic.
When you apply for a specific job, look at the job description. Does it list specific skills? Specific words that describe the job? Those are the same words that you should mirror in your resume. Each resume should be re-written to have keywords for each job you apply for.
Also, if you’re on LinkedIn, consider searching for your peers. What keywords do you use to find them? What keywords do they use? How are they ranked. It will give you a good idea where to start.
Spot on. Given many recruiters don’t even see resumes that haven’t passed an automated filtering system. Those systems will scan the resume and only pass through those that reach a certain percentage threshold of relevance. If you mirror the job description in your resume, it has a much better chance of being seen by a human.
Great answer Carmen.
Wow now 6sec is really short – this information makes me really thinking of a good structure to be key success factor. You can have the best skills they still will remain unrecognised if hidden behind a busy structure. Thanks for sharing these insights!
You’re welcome Darya! Glad that you liked it. You’re right your resume can be really powerful if it’s structured properly so deserves some extra time to make it shine!
Although I am not actively seeking a position elsewhere, I would prefer to be a Cisco Blue Badge employee versus a contractor. Toward that goal, I routinely check the Cisco Career site for permanent positions. Since most online profiles use one’s resume to build on, any advice on resume tips is greatly appreciated. — MP
Funny you mention that, Mary. 🙂 Keep reading, we have a New Year’s Resume Resolutions post coming very soon!
very useful and a great reminder to keep updating our resume…
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