Does Your Resume Pass the Skim Test?
According to a 2012 study from TheLadders, recruiters spend an average of six seconds on each resume they read. That’s right – all the time and effort you dedicated to your resume can be dismissed after a six-second skim. On the other hand, if your resume passes the ‘skim test’ you’ll be in good shape to land an interview or have your name passed-on by a recruitment agency. Here are some tips to make yours stand out at a glance.
Focus on the top third
When a recruiter or hiring manager picks up your resume, the first thing they’ll skim through is the top third of the first page. This is where all your highlights should reside: your name, your contact information, your professional title, the most recent position you held, and the core competencies that make you a great fit for the position. With all best assets easily visible, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds for the reader to understand that you’re a qualified, experienced candidate.
Layout and design
The layout and design of your resume are important to passing the skim test for two reasons. First, the reader should be able to easily find important information. Divide your resume into clearly defined sections with uncomplicated labels so the reader can quickly find your name, your most recent job title, and your highest level of education.
Second, the design of your resume can help you stand out from other applicants. However, design should never distract from the resume’s substance. Avoid unorthodox fonts, unnecessary illustrations, or confusing layouts. In other words, know your audience – a stylized resume might be appropriate for a creative position, but otherwise keep it straightforward and accessible.
Lean and mean
As a recruitment agency, we encounter a lot of long-winded resumes. The logic behind them makes sense: the more experience you have, the more qualified you will appear for the job. But in the world of the six-second skim, every unnecessary word distracts from the message that counts. Cut irrelevant job experience, outdated community service and volunteering experience, and everything except your highest level of education. Omit generic soft skills such as being a ‘hard worker’ or a ‘team player.’ Review your job descriptions and edit them down or convert them to bullet points. Try to fit everything a hiring manager should know on one-to-two pages.
Remember who you’re talking to
Understanding the job and company you’re applying to is crucial to crafting a skim-resistant resume. For example, if you’re applying through an HR department in a large company, it may be necessary to include a mission statement or brief biography. If you’re applying directly to a department head or the CEO of a small company, a mission statement may not be necessary.
If you’re responding to a job post, tailor your resume to include the skills and experiences it mentions. Try also to incorporate as many keywords or phrases from the post as possible – whoever reads your resume will be looking for them.
Making a good impression on a hiring manager or recruitment agency in six seconds or less is challenging. Prioritizing important information and communicating it through a clear, well-structured layout can help your resume stand out from the crowd and put you on the inside track for an interview.